Texas Rangers: Alex Avila

Deadline talk: 5 things to watch

July, 19, 2012
We're less than two weeks away from the July 31 trade deadline and the Texas Rangers are in position to make some moves if they choose. But with any deadline, the club must prioritize, get prepared and decide what kind of value it places on the prospective pieces on the market. With an additional playoff team in the mix, things may go even more down to the wire than normal as certain clubs could decide very late that they are sellers or buyers. And with the changes in compensatory picks, it could alter the value of rental players.

So let's pretend that I'm general manager Jon Daniels (he's way smarter than I am, but I'm taller and better looking) and I'm trying to figure out which deals I should do and which ones I shouldn't. Here are five things to consider at the deadline:

[+] EnlargeCole Hamels
Denny Medley/US PresswireIf the Rangers decide to trade for a starter, it needs to be someone like Cole Hamels who will slot in at the top of the rotation in the postseason.
1. If the Rangers trade for a starting pitcher, make it an impact one. You'll hear the names of Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza this time of year. Maybe even Wandy Rodriguez. But it doesn't make sense for the Rangers to deal decent prospects for pitchers who aren't going to make the rotation appreciably better.

Should Texas decide to get a starter, it needs to be someone who slots in at the top come the postseason. The two biggest names that could be out there are Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels. Personally, I like Hamels more than Greinke. And we'll see if he even becomes available now that the Phillies and Hamels' agents are intensifying talks. But this is where things get interesting. It's going to take a big package of premium prospects (and maybe even some major league players) to get it done. That would likely mean Mike Olt. I'm normally a guy who advocates dealing prospects for sure things. After all, they are called prospects for a reason. They might pan out, they might not. But with no draft picks coming back to Texas if Hamels (or Greinke) leaves, I think Olt (notice I'm not even mentioning Jurickson Profar, someone I can't imagine the Rangers even considering trading for a rental) is too high a price to pay to be included in the deal. If I'm Texas, I want Hamels. And I'm willing to fork over some solid prospects (Martin Perez, Cody Buckel or Justin Grimm, maybe even a combination) and even some big league pieces (yes, I'd consider dealing Neftali Feliz). But you don't trade the entire farm for someone who is here for a few months.

This is different from the Cliff Lee trade of 2010. With Lee, the Rangers not only knew they would get compensation picks if he left, but they knew they had to have someone at the top of that rotation to help them get over the hump of never winning a playoff series. Texas does not beat the Tampa Bay Rays without Lee, so the trade was a success (no matter what Justin Smoak does in the future). But the Rangers got something in return, too. Hamels is not the Lee of 2010, either. But he's the closest facsimile, if he's available. I'll pay a high price, just not as high as Olt. If that's not good enough to get Hamels, I'm not "settling" for Garza or someone else who doesn't have a big impact. It's just not worth it. So get a pitcher that can win Game 1 in the playoffs or don't get one at all and go with this current rotation, which I still believe is good enough, especially with the Rangers' bullpen, to win a title.

2. Get a right-hander for the bench. The AL's loss in the All-Star Game only reinforces this need. It means that if the Rangers return to the World Series, they open on the road without a DH and could play the deciding game -- should it go the distance -- in the NL park. St. Louis' bench was a big difference in last year's World Series and manager Ron Washington didn't have enough weapons at his disposal. There are some names that are intriguing, but contract situations may make it unlikely. Josh Willingham seems like a good fit, but the contract calls for him to make $7 million next year and the year after. But there are other, cheaper options that could help the bench. Carlos Quentin's asking price is likely to be too much. What about Shane Victorino? It's the final year of his deal at $12.5 million this season and he's hitting .254 overall. But the 31-year-old switch-hitter is batting .322 against lefties.

There are some bats out there and the Rangers need to try to see if they can find one to help that bench down the stretch and into the postseason.

[+] EnlargeMike Napoli
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireCatcher Mike Napoli is doing a nice job with the pitching staff but hasn't been producing at the plate.
3. Keep an eye on the catching market. Honestly, I'm not sure there are reasonable upgrades to the club's catchers on the market, but the club has to at least do some digging. Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba have done a nice job with the pitching staff and that's the first priority. However, the position is giving the club nothing at the plate.

The Rangers are one of the best teams in the league at checking on everything and leaving no stone unturned. That means at least seeing if there's anything worth pursuing on that front that can increase the offensive production at that spot.

4. See if there's a left-handed specialist for the bullpen. It might seem odd to do anything with one of the best bullpens in baseball, but let's not forget what Mike Gonzalez did for this club in the postseason last year. He got two very big outs -- one in the ALDS and the other in the ALCS -- that helped the Rangers win games in those series. He struck out Johnny Damon with two runners on in the eighth inning of Game 3 of the ALDS, a pivotal game in that series. The Rangers won that game by one run. He also came in late in Game 1 of the ALCS with the bases loaded and the Rangers up by a run and got Alex Avila to end the threat. Those two outs alone made the trade worth it. Texas has a strong left-handed pitcher in Robbie Ross, but he's someone they utilize for a full inning or two and is actually better against righties than lefties (though neither can hit the rookie these days). Still, the idea of having a veteran left-handed pitcher who can get a key out is appealing. It's worth noting that the Rangers picked up Gonzalez at the August trade deadline, so it's not something they have to do right now.

5. Keep an open mind for a trade no one expects. One thing this team does so well is that it stays prepared for anything and everything. That needs to be the case this year, too. Sure, it's unlikely that the Phillies would make Lee available or that the Seattle Mariners would put Felix Hernandez on the block (or want to deal him to Texas), but you never know. Maybe there's another impact player out there that Texas could get that no one expects right now. While we talked about not giving up Profar or Olt for a rental player, if there's a big-name pitcher with some years left on his contract, that's when those names might be discussed (still can't see Profar going unless it was something really big). Be ready to pull the trigger if that special opportunity (that Cliff Lee 2010-like chance) comes up.

What am I missing? What other deals would you try to make? What deals should the Rangers make?

Lineup: Yorvit Torrealba in at catcher

June, 26, 2012
ARLINGTON, Texas -- After dropping Game 1 of this three-game series against the Detroit Tigers, the Texas Rangers make a couple of changes in the lineup. The top of the lineup is the same, but Mike Napoli will handle first base with Yorvit Torrealba in at catcher. Brandon Snyder also draws a start.

Here are the lineups:

2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
CF Josh Hamilton (L)
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Michael Young
LF Nelson Cruz
1B Mike Napoli
C Yorvit Torrealba
RF Brandon Snyder

CF Austin Jackson
LF Quintin Berry (L)
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder (L)
DH Delmon Young
RF Brennan Boesch (L)
SS Jhonny Peralta
C Alex Avila (L)
2B Ramon Santiago (S)

Yu Darvish smiling and improving

April, 19, 2012

DETROIT -- Perhaps the best indication that Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish is getting more comfortable with each start was that his humor was in full force as he spoke with the media in an interview room just outside the visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park.

The 25-year-old, who allowed one run on two hits with five walks and five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings, joked that he could have pitched another full game despite throwing 121 pitches. He was asked what Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera said to him after he flied out in the sixth.

"He was asking me about a Japanese restaurant," Darvish said.

When Darvish's interpreter, Joe Furukawa, couldn't remember part of Darvish's answer, the pitcher laughed. Then, after the conference, he went straight into the manager's office and joked with GM Jon Daniels and skipper Ron Washington that he might need a new interpreter.

It was a relaxed Darvish, who has steadily improved since the season began. He went deeper into Thursday's game than he has all season -- 6 1/3 innings -- and produced his first quality start of 2012. He threw a season-high 121 pitches, the most for any Rangers starter this season. He kept a quality Tigers' lineup from doing much damage against him and he pitched out of what could have been a major jam in the fourth inning.

Darvish wiggled out of big trouble in the fourth after walking Prince Fielder and giving up a double off the bat of Delmon Young. With runners at second and third and no outs, Darvish struck out Alex Avila on a nasty curve. Don Kelly hit a ground ball to second that scored a run and Jhonny Peralta hit a fly ball to right field to end the inning.

"I thought about the worst-case scenarios," Darvish said. "I thought about things I can't do there, like a three-run homer. I can't walk anybody. I made sure that wasn't going to happen."

Fielder and Miguel Cabrera ended up 0-for-5 with a walk off Darvish.

Catcher Yorvit Torrealba, Darvish's battery mate for the first time since spring training, said the plan was to establish Darvish's fastball early and then mix things up with the off-speed and breaking stuff the second and third time through the order. That's what Darvish did.

"He's still a power pitcher, even though he throws that secondary stuff," Torrealba said. "We wanted to get that fastball over for strikes and work off it."

Darvish said he was pleased with his fastball Thursday, but felt his cutter needed improvement, especially to left-handed hitters. Lefties were 1-for-10 off Darvish, who had struggled against them this season coming into the start (they were 14-for-38).

But he had four walks to left-handed batters and five overall. That's one area that he knows needs work. Darvish has 13 walks in 17 2/3 innings this season and has at least four per start.

After the stressful fourth, Darvish went to the stretch to start the fifth inning and stayed in it, even without men on base. He felt comfortable pitching that way and when asked about it, said it wasn't a big deal, comparing it to a ballpoint pen that he can click and just simply change colors.

Washington said he saw improvement once again and is pleased that Darvish keeps getting better and better.

"If we had turned that double play, he would have gone seven," Washington said. "He kept his fastball down and his breaking ball was effective on any count. I'm very pleased."

Darvish got his second win of the season and now every Rangers starter has at least one quality start. Darvish also continues to get good run support. He watched as Texas added to his lead as the game progressed.

"I know if I battle out there that this offense will score," Darvish said.

Martinez, Young Game 4 status uncertain

October, 12, 2011

DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland said designated hitter Victor Martinez and outfielder Delmon Young are receiving treatment and their status for this afternoon's Game 4 is uncertain.

"That's on hold," Leyland said.

Martinez injured his oblique on his home run swing in the fourth inning of Game 3 Tuesday night, gingerly jogging around the bases. Once in the duguot he slammed his helmet and immediately headed tot the trainer's room. He stayed in the game, drawing a walk in the fifth and flew out in the seventh.

Martinez hit cleanup in Game 3 with usual three-hole hitter Delmon Young out again with his own oblique injury suffered in Game 5 of the ALDS. Initially left off the ALCS roster, Young was added when Magglio Ordonez fractured his ankle and was removed from the roster after Game 2. Young played in Game 2, but was not effective at the plate and was held out of Game 3.

Other Tigers notes:

* Leyland acknowledged that ace Justin Verlander is "a little tired," and that's why the manager chose not to use the 24-game winner in Game 4 on short rest. Verlander will pitch Game 5 at Comerica Park on normal rest. Leyland said Verlander wanted to pitch today, and while he respects that, Leyland said the right decision for Verlander and the team is to give him another day.

"I think he's going to pitch great," Leyland said.

Rick Porcello will start today's game. He pitched to effective innings in relief in Game 1.

* As if the Tigers don't have enough injury woes, workhorse catcher Alex Avila has been struggling and Leyland said, "he's pretty well banged up." But, that won't keep Avila out of the lineup it appears for today's critical Game 4.

Gonzalez vs. lefties for NYY, Boston, Detroit

August, 31, 2011
Let's look ahead to possible October matchups for the Rangers. LHP Mike Gonzalez gives them a situational lefty that can come in and face the top left-handed hitters for the Yankees, Red Sox and Tigers. And all three teams have some good hitters that manager Ron Washington might want to utilize Gonzalez against.

Here are Gonzalez's numbers against some of those lefties in his career:

Curtis Granderson, NYY: 0-for-1
Robinson Cano, NYY: 3-for-6, 2 RBIs
Jacoby Ellsbury, Bos: 0-for-4, 1 BB, 2 Ks
David Ortiz, Bos: 1-for-6, 1 BB, 3 Ks
Adrian Gonzalez, Bos: 1-for-5, 2 Ks
Alex Avila, Det: 1-for-3, 1 RBI

He's never faced Brennan Boesch of Detroit.

One more scouting report on him:

He's got a sharp slider that is tough on lefties and his delivery is deceptive. It doesn't hurt that he's got some power.

Rapid Reaction: Tigers 6, Rangers 5

August, 2, 2011
DETROIT -- Colby Lewis struggled and the Rangers didn't execute the little things well -- errors on Lewis and Michael Young and an inability to get a big sacrifice bunt down by Elvis Andrus -- but kept fighting with a late comeback in a 6-5 loss to Detroit in wet conditions at Comerica Field. Some quick thoughts (more to come from the clubhouse):

* Mike Napoli's two-run homer in the eighth tied the score after the Rangers were behind 5-2 to start the inning (Nelson Cruz hit a solo homer earlier in the inning). Napoli was incredible in July, posting a .443 batting average, the highest in the majors in the month (minimum 50 at-bats). Apparently, turning the calendar to August hasn't stopped him. He now has 16 homers on the season and 41 RBIs.

* Mike Adams made his Rangers debut and gave up the go-ahead run. Brennan Boesch fell behind 0-2 and kept fouling pitches off before he drilled the eighth one he saw -- a changeup -- over the right-field wall to put the Tigers up 6-5. It was the first homer Adams has given up to a left-handed hitter since May 18, 2010 vs. San Francisco's Andres Torres and just the sixth in his career. It's also just the fourth hit in 51 at-bats he's allowed after getting ahead in a count 0-2. It took Adams 32 pitches to get out of the inning.

* Worth noting: Cliff Lee's debut wasn't so great last year (six runs, three homers, though he did pitch a complete game in Arlington in the loss). In other words, pitchers recover from rough debuts.

* In two outings against Detroit in 2011, Lewis has allowed 20 hits and 13 earned runs in 7 1/3 innings. That includes four earned runs (five total) on 10 hits with three walks and three strikeouts in four-plus innings (he faced three batters in the fifth and didn't retire any of them).

* The first time through the order, the Tigers put six men on base. Lewis tried to work out of the jams but ended up allowing a two-out single to Wilson Betemit, the No. 9 hitter, to drive in the first run of the game. Lewis was fortunate that despite the troubles in the first two innings it was just 1-0. Another double play in the second helped his cause.

* Andrus made a rare bunting mistake in the fifth. With runners at first and second and no outs (and Texas down 3-2), Andrus got ahead in the count, 2-0. Rather than force Max Scherzer to throw a strike before trying to bunt, Andrus went after a pitch that looked high. He popped up the bunt and it was caught at third by Betemit. It was a rally killer. Josh Hamilton followed with a fly ball to left and Young grounded out.

* Rangers manager Ron Washington left Lewis in for the fifth inning despite his struggles and the inning got off to a rough start when Young committed an error on a ground ball from Victor Martinez. That didn't help Lewis' ability to get out of the inning. He allowed a single to Jhonny Peralta and then walked Carlos Guillen despite being ahead in the count 0-2. That was it for Lewis. Yoshinori Tateyama came in and allowed a two-run single to give the Tigers a cushion.

* The Rangers put their first run on the board in the fourth when Cruz hit an RBI single. Hamilton motored around third and slid into home plate feet first for the run. Yes, that's feet first. Everyone remembers the last time Hamilton slid -- headfirst -- into home plate at Comerica Park and what happened. There was no issue this time.

* Young turned a well-timed double play to end the first inning. With runners on first and second and one out for Miguel Cabrera, Lewis was able to induce the ground ball to Young, who flipped to Ian Kinsler at second and then onto first to get out of the mini-jam.

* Kinsler was 0-for-3 with a walk and is now 1-for-25 in his last six games. He's 1-for-12 on this road trip.

* Cruz was a catalyst, returning to the lineup after missing two games with tightness in his left quad. He hit an RBI single in the fourth and added a solo shot, his 24th homer of the season, in the eighth and has driven in 71 runs. That means three Rangers now have at least 70 RBIs: Adrian Beltre (76), Young (73) and Cruz (71).

* Alex Avila's solo shot to lead off the fourth inning was the 27th homer allowed by Lewis this season, tops in the American League. Coming into the game, Jake Arrieta was second at 21.

* Yorvit Torrealba had an excellent at-bat in the fifth. With David Murphy at second base and no one out, Torrealba hit the ball to the right side as he should. It went into right field for a single that scored Murphy to make it 3-2. The at-bat included three foul balls and Torrealba went with the pitch to get it to right field.



Adrian Beltre
.324 19 77 79
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
WC. Lewis 10
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182