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Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Texas deals speed, defense for power, upside

By Richard Durrett

If my Twitter account in the past hour is any indication, trading Craig Gentry is not something the Texas Rangers' fan base wanted or expected. I'll be honest: I didn't expect it, either.

Essentially, the Rangers are trading the speed and defense of Gentry, who just turned 30 (admit it, you didn't think he was that old), for the power and upside that a raw Michael Choice possesses. The Oakland A's add a player who, frankly, could annoy the Rangers the next few years like so many A's do. Gentry has hit for a decent average, albeit in a platoon role, and once he gets on base, he makes things happen. He's scrappy and aggressive and a good clubhouse guy. It makes the A's better.

The Rangers are betting on Choice for the short and long term. They see a player who can be honed and become a valuable -- and affordable -- piece for a while. After all, he was drafted a few years ago and made his big league debut this past September. It's a risk in that he's an unknown quantity, but the fact that he's hit and shown power throughout his minor league run has the Rangers thinking it can translate to the big leagues.

The play of Leonys Martin also makes Gentry expendable. He was not an everyday player in Texas, and the Rangers believe Martin has shown that he can be. Without feeling that way about Martin, perhaps the club is more hesitant to part with Gentry. Engel Beltre also factors into this deal. He is out of options and can now be on the roster as that guy who can go in for defensive purposes or give you some speed on the bases. And Beltre is 24.

This deal does not mean the Rangers will simply head off to Disney World next week and ride some rides rather than talk to teams and agents at the winter meetings. This doesn't have to take them out of the market for a proven outfield bat. But it also buys them some time. They have a hitter they can insert in left field and see how it goes, if they want to. They can also survey the market and not feel rushed about making a deal. If they want to go after a big name, they can. But as general manager Jon Daniels said, they don't have to.

Does Choice answer all of the Rangers' questions in the outfield? No. But they are closer to an answer now than they were 24 hours ago. Texas likes to give young players who it feels are ready for big league duty a chance to do that. Choice will have to earn his spot, but he'll be given every opportunity to do so. This isn't someone the club acquired to be a fourth outfielder in the years to come. If the Rangers get a Shin-Soo Choo, for instance, then Choice might spend this season platooning if he makes the club out of spring training. But he might get a chance to play every day in 2014. In other words: The trade gives Texas some options.

I see where both teams are coming from on this one. The A's get speed, defense and a player motivated to show he deserves more playing time. The Rangers get someone with power potential at the upper levels, something they have in the lower levels of the minors, but not close enough to push for a big league spot.

I'm not forgetting about Josh Lindblom or Chris Bostick. But this deal is more about what the two outfielders do for each club. It should be interesting to watch.

It's another indicator that Daniels doesn't mind dealing within the division. He was asked about that on a conference call Tuesday and said he's a little more hesitant as opposed to a trade that isn't in the AL West, but he won't let that stop him.

"I think you always try to understand what the other team is trying to accomplish, but biggest thing is getting what you feel fits with your club," Daniels said.

The Rangers feel that they did that. I'm sure the A's do, too. We'll see what happens and how it all plays out.