Why I like Rangers' deadline deals
July, 31, 2011
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com
The Rangers made two big moves on trade deadline weekend, sending INF Chris Davis and RHP Tommy Hunter to Baltimore for Koji Uehara and shipping Double-A prospects RHP Joe Wieland and LHP Robbie Erlin to San Diego for RHP Mike Adams.
Texas came into the deadline with one particularly glaring weakness: the bullpen. And by glaring, I mean glaring. They were 11th in ERA in the AL and you seemed to always have a feeling of doom when a starter didn't give them seven (or even eight) innings. Even closer Neftali Feliz hasn't really been himself. It left manager Ron Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux in a tough spot to work with what they had and try to mix and match to navigate a close game to the finish line.
These trades addressed that issue. Texas gets two of the most consistent relievers on the market, stabilizing the seventh and eighth inning and, by extension, making the entire relief corps better. Here are some of my thoughts on the deal and why I like it:
* Uehara and Adams both have good command, throw strikes and miss bats. Why is missing bats important? Because in a tight spot with men on base late in the game, you need strikeouts. Outside of Mark Lowe and Feliz -- when he's on -- the Rangers don't have a bunch of those guys in the pen. Now they do. Uehara and Adams don't walk people. They've combined for just 17 free passes this season to go along with 111 strikeouts. They have a combined 1.42 ERA. That's a vast improvement.
* Both are likely under club control through 2012. Adams is for sure. And Uehara just needs to make 11 more appearances to vest his contract through 2012 at $4 million. Adams is making $2.54 million this season and is arbitration-eligible for next season. So rather than ship major leaguers and prospects for rental players, the Rangers added to their bullpen for next season, too. That's very important.
* The Rangers paid a high price for the pickups. But I think it was also a fair price. You have to give up something to get something. Texas didn't see Hunter and Davis as long-term options. Whether you agree or disagree with that doesn't really matter. The club determined they weren't future pieces, so that made them expendable.
* Depth on the farm made the Adams deal possible. ESPN.com's Keith Law told me today that both Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland -- the two Double-A prospects sent to San Diego -- would be in the back end of the club's top-10 prospects in his mind. In other words: They are good ones. But Texas has a lot of good ones and could afford to deal them. It's a high price, certainly. But this is a playoff team and one that is trying to win now. They want to keep that winning window open as long as they can -- that's why trading Jurickson Profar or Leonys Martin or Martin Perez wasn't going to happen. But you've got to be willing to trade away some of your prospects to get help. That's why you build a deep system.
* Adams gives the club some options next season. If the Rangers choose, he could close next season and Neftali Feliz could shift to the rotation. Adams has the stuff to do it. Of course, the Rangers could also explore the closer market in the offseason and find another bullpen arm that way, too.
* For those of you worried about Petco Park inflating Adams' numbers, don't. Adams has a 1.50 ERA on the road this season in 24 innings pitched. Since joining the Padres in 2008, Adams has a 2.02 ERA on the road with 102 strikeouts to 28 walks and a .201 opponent batting average. Take 2008 out and Adams has a 1.31 ERA in his past three seasons. Solid.
* How good are Adams and Uehara compared to the rest of the relievers in the league? Well, one stat is telling. They don't let many runners that get on base to hurt them. Adams has a .197 opponent on-base percentage, third-lowest in the majors. Uehara is even better at .191 (second-lowest to San Francisco's Sergio Romo).
* Personally, I like Adams more than Bell. No, he doesn't have the same closing experience. But because he's signed through 2012 and has been consistent, that move makes more sense to me. Daniels indicated San Diego wanted Erlin and Wieland and the club's compromised to make the deal (both teams had to give up something they didn't want).
* Washington talked about wanting to see more fire from Feliz. Maybe this will light one. He's now got two consistent, solid relievers setting up games for him. And at the same time, he can consider it competition. Maybe they are the matches to light that fire. But having them there certainly can't hurt Feliz.
I understand some of you who are emailing me with concerns that the club gave up too much. Maybe they did. But if this stabilizes the bullpen and helps them nail down close games in October -- and let's face it, October baseball is all about close games -- then it was worth it. Daniels is not trying to simply make the postseason. He's trying to win a championship. That was the driving force behind the Cliff Lee deal in 2010. So he improved his club without giving away his very top prospects and has them better equipped for the stretch drive and a postseason run. That's exactly what he should have done. And it's why I like what the club did this weekend.