As future Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre creeps closer to becoming the 28th player in Major League Baseball history to reach 3,000 career hits, fans of the club in Arlington, Texas, have something to root for. It’s something they need now — a massive achievement to hang their hats on from a franchise legend like Beltre.
Beltre’s 3,000-hit milestone, from which he sits just four hits away, is perhaps the last proud fulfillment the Rangers can boast for a long time. This team, for lack of a better explanation, is no longer built for the long haul, like they were in and around the 2008 and 2009 MLB seasons.
The Rangers have completed a series of historic and impressive accomplishments over the past seven seasons: two American League pennants (2010, 2011), four AL West division titles, five postseason berths, and getting to “Game 163” in 2013 before losing to the Tampa Bay Rays. General manager Jon Daniels and crew have quite a bit to feel good about, but the real work has yet to be done.
Gone are the days where the Rangers pack the huge bats of Josh Hamilton, Mitch Moreland, Ian Kinsler, and Nelson Cruz into the lineup, and with every passing loss, the two-time reigning AL West winners see reality begin to set in: the Rangers are sellers, period. Otherwise, they’re only setting themselves up for further failure and mediocrity.
The Pacific Coast League (Round Rock Express), Texas League (Frisco RoughRiders), Carolina League (Down East Wood Ducks), and South Atlantic League (Hickory Crawdads) affiliates of the Rangers are all far below the .500 mark in terms of season records; the Texas farm system is depleted and in need of future MLB talent. The Rangers are not going anywhere soon with aging big league talent and zero support.
The only solution? Trade Yu Darvish, Jonathan Lucroy, Mike Napoli, Carlos Gomez, Andrew Cashner, and anyone else the club can scrape up for prospects, and a lot of them. With the American League West, aside from the Houston Astros, all being in basically the same situation with farm teams, the Rangers could hypothetically return to postseason contenders in a short few years if they follow along.
For this reason, every Rangers victory is a bad thing from this point on. With the non-waiver trade deadline looming (Monday, July 31 at 4:00pm EDT), Texas needs to fall further behind in the Wild Card race to accept their fate. If they fail to deal the aforementioned players such as Darvish and Lucroy, Daniels will only slide his team deeper down the pole.
While expectations for this season were high in Arlington, it’s safe to say the window has closed, but the good news is here: the Rangers’ in-state rivals perfected the modern franchise rebuild just 250 miles south. The Astros suffered through three consecutive 100+ loss seasons from 2011 to 2013 before emerging as playoff hopefuls and contenders.
The Astros stockpiled prospects and draft picks by selling and tanking; the experiment worked as today, Houston sits atop the AL and sent six players to the All-Star Game. If Texas wants to soon reverse their losing ways of this season, then following a similar blueprint is imperative.
The window is shut — the Rangers must rebuild and try again for the franchise’s first World Series title in a few years. Let’s hope the trade deadline goes according to plan for Texas, and their prospect system gains a head of steam; the Rangers will be back if so.