Texas Rangers: David Price
Today's issue: Could Winter Meetings be where David Price's market heats up?
Since it's cold and icy out there, let's talk more Hot Stove. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported this week that the market for Tampa Bay Rays' ace David Price is expected to heat up. And as you might expect, he lists the Rangers among the teams interested.
The Rays, of course, don't have to trade Price, who won the Cy Young Award in 2012. They have another competitive team and could roll with Price and see what happens. But if the Rays want to get the full value of trading Price, now is the time to deal him. He's got two years remaining on his contract and should land a nice prospect haul, considering how thin the starting pitching market is now.
Price finished the regular season in Arlington for Game 163 and gave up two runs on seven hits in a complete-game win to send the Rays to the AL wild-card game in Cleveland.
Besides paying Price -- MLB Trade Rumors thinks he'll make around $13.1 million in 2014 -- he's going to cost plenty in terms of prospects. That's what you'd expect. The question is what kind of price the Rangers would be willing to pay and how it might compare with what other teams are offering the Rays.
Tampa Bay likely won't be picky about any specific positions of need. They'll want the best package they can get. If the Rangers put Jurickson Profar in the mix, that would put them on par with just about anything anybody else can offer. But does it make sense to put Profar in a deal now that Ian Kinsler has been dealt? The club has some young, middle-infield talent beyond Profar, but they made the Prince Fielder deal in part to free up the space to play Profar.
Could the Rangers make a deal for Price without Profar? Possibly. There's plenty of young talent in the system, but for a player like Price, you would think other teams will dangle their top prospect, so it would depend on the package. Texas has power-hitting prospects, middle infielders and pitching at various parts of the lower levels of the minor-league system (names like Rougned Odor, Luke Jackson, Joey Gallo, Luis Sardinas and others). The Rays will likely want some sort of major-league starter in addition to whatever prospect package comes their way, so it could mean parting with someone currently in the rotation.
As we've seen in the past, the Rangers won't hesitate to talk and try to get creative. And if Price is made available, especially as the general managers gather in Orlando next week, you can bet the Rangers will be exploring the possibility. It's tough not to imagine what a rotation fronted by Price and Yu Darvish could do, isn't it? The question is whether, at this point, it's now too much to give up for him (signing him to an extension, perhaps having 48 hours to do so for the trade to go through, would be critical).
With so many free agents already off the board and a few big trades already in the books, Price's name could be one that we hear often next week in Disney World.
You got a package you'd be willing to send the Rays for Price? Tell us in the comment section and we'll discuss.
Today's position: Starting pitching
For the first time in a long time in Texas, starting pitching is not the club's top priority. In fact, if you consider the team went into the Hot Stove season needing a catcher, power-hitting first baseman, left fielder and closer (though that's something that will likely come internally), starting pitching is way down on the list.
But there's a difference between being down on the list or not on the list at all. Daniels and the front office know all too well that pitching is always on the list.
Texas rolls into the 2014 season with a starting rotation set to go, barring injuries. And that last part is the biggest reason why starting pitching is still on the list. Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Martin Perez and Alexi Ogando are penciled in as of this moment. But the Rangers have to assume an injury will pop up. They just don't know which pitcher will experience it and when it might happen.
Last offseason, Harrison signed a long-term deal and ended up making two starts before troubles began. He had surgery to repair back troubles and also a procedure to relieve a thoracic outlet syndrome issue in his non-throwing shoulder. He should be fully ready by the start of the season and he has talked about how he's hungry to get back out there. But losing Harrison, an 18-game winner, for effectively the entire 2013 season was proof that pitching rarely goes according to plan. Colby Lewis was supposed to be back in June and never pitched in the big leagues last year. Injuries forced young starters to join the rotation sooner than expected.
So don't be surprised if the Rangers look to shore up some depth. They could attempt to grab the biggest starting pitching prize -- David Price -- via trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. But that deal would likely have to start with Jurickson Profar, and at this point the Rangers have him manning second base in place of Ian Kinsler, who was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Prince Fielder. But there are others. What about Jeff Samardzija? He's got two more years of club control and while he's coming off a season where he didn't meet expectations, he's got the ability to do something. Perhaps his value would be such that a deal could be made. At this point, the Cubs, according to reports, still haven't given up on signing him to an extension. We'll see.
Masashiro Tanaka is still playing the waiting game to see how the posting system shakes out. According to the New York Post, MLB is proposing a cap of $20 million on bids. If that's the case, what if the Rangers jumped in at that price (as would other teams)? It hasn't been decided what happens if several teams each bid that amount, but it's possible that Tanaka would get to choose the team with which he would negotiate. The fact that Darvish is in Texas and that the Rangers are contenders couldn't hurt. It just makes me wonder. Stay tuned. He may still command more than the Rangers will want to pay.
Texas could look at some short-term options on the free-agent market, though it depends on whether they can find nice value. They've already signed Lewis to a minor league deal and hope that he can come back and provide some depth at some point in 2014. They aren't afraid to take some risks on injured pitchers, though Josh Johnson is already off the board. Trades are always a possibility, and as we saw with the Nationals last night in acquiring Doug Fister, even a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy can become available. Some of you have asked about Ervin Santana. Yes, he's available. And he's a middle-of-the-rotation guy. But at his price point and with his inconsistent history, he's likely too much of a risk, if you ask me?
For it to make sense for the Rangers to grab some starting pitching, they either sign some value arms that can provide depth at spring training and in the minors to guard against injuries to the rotation or they swing for the fences (yeah, if you're going to use a cliche, use one that's at least in the same sport) and go after a huge name.
We'll keep one eye on the starting pitching market next week. Price is intriguing in that he would make that entire rotation even deeper, allowing the club to have Ogando as the sixth guy, waiting when needed. And can you imagine Price and Darvish starting the first two games of a playoff series? Again, it would take a major deal to get Price, but the Rangers have the assets to do it. You never know.
Today's player: David Price
Look for Price to be a hot name circulated at Disney World in early December when the baseball spotlight shines on the Winter Meetings. And just because the Rangers have made one blockbuster trade doesn't mean they can't make another.
But the fact that the Rangers dealt Ian Kinsler, freeing up second base for Jurickson Profar, probably makes them less inclined to move Profar. It would take a special player to make the deal. And Price is one of those players.
Of course, dealing Profar would mean finding an alternative at second base (could they put up the big bucks for Robinson Cano, for instance?). But that's getting ahead of things. The Rangers have the ability to make a very attractive package to the Tampa Bay Rays. This wouldn't just be about Profar, though if he's in the package, a guy like Rougned Odor probably wouldn't be. But the club has names that would interest anybody, such as power-hitting Joey Gallo and pitcher Luke Jackson, among others.
The Rays would likely want a major-league ready pitcher if they give up Price. Perhaps Alexi Ogando could factor into the equation. Would the Rangers have to part with one of their long-term top-four starters, like a Derek Holland or Martin Perez? I don't know. That might make a deal tougher. But it's not out of the question.
No deal, though, with this kind of talent would make sense unless the Rangers had a 48-hour window to negotiate an extension to get the trade to go through. Just food for thought.
Why he makes sense: Picture the 2012 Cy Young Award winner joining the 2013 Cy Young runner-up. The Rangers' rotation would get even better than it is now with Price and Yu Darvish at the top of it. It would set up the club for a formidable rotation in the postseason, too.
Why he doesn't make sense: The Rangers would be having to trade a big chunk of their top-end talent to make this deal work. Do you exhaust that much minor-league currency to make it happen? Also, they just acquired a long-term, high-priced contract in Fielder, and Price is going to cost big bucks.
Bottom line: Price is the kind of big-time arm that can alter this team not just this year, but future years. He's the type of player you give up Profar to get, as long as he's a Ranger long term. If Profar headlines the package, the Rangers wouldn't have to offer as many sweeteners, thus saving some of that talent. It's a big investment -- both in the pieces it takes to get him and the budget -- but Price is worth it. Texas has to explore the possibility.
Today's issue: What now for the Rangers?
This is the second time we've done a "What now for the Rangers?" post, and it won't be the last this offseason. But last week represented a seismic shift in the offseason landscape. Big names were exchanged. Top free agents went off the board prior to Thanksgiving, let alone the winter meetings.
So with Prince Fielder now a Ranger, Ian Kinsler a Tiger and Brian McCann a Yankee (among other moves), where do things sit now?
The Rangers have satisfied at least one major priority during this Hot Stove season: a power-hitting, left-handed batter. Fielder can now go in the middle of the lineup, either batting third or fifth, because manager Ron Washington says right now he wants to leave Adrian Beltre at cleanup (though things could certainly change once the skipper sees his entire team in February). He gives the club that "presence," as Washington says, that they need.
But the shopping list is still very active for general manager Jon Daniels & Co.
The club still needs a left fielder. And there are corner outfielders available. They've shown interest in Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and, of course, Nelson Cruz. Don't count out Nate McLouth, either. The club likes him and he's someone we'll profile on our "Hot Stove Talk" this week.
Because Ellsbury can play center field, I think his value will be too high to make sense. Leonys Martin can handle center, so I wonder if Ellsbury makes as much sense as the others.
Beltran could be attractive as a switch-hitter and someone who isn't looking for as long a deal as Ellsbury, Choo or Cruz, for that matter. He's risky in terms of his age, but his bat could help this lineup and give Washington options and his contract wouldn't break the bank.
I like Choo and I think he could help this team, but I wonder if the price is just going to be too high for the Rangers, especially in light of taking on Fielder's contract. But those are the kind of things that should play themselves out in the next few weeks.
I'll stick with my prediction on Cruz: I think someone gives him a deal that is more than the Rangers are willing to make. We'll see.
This club still needs a catcher to back up Geovany Soto. With McCann wearing pinstripes, the big bat option behind the plate isn't really there. As others have stated of late, Dioner Navarro makes sense or some other stopgap measure with Jorge Alfaro, one of the club's top prospects, a few years out from the big leagues. Maybe Ryan Hanigan becomes available from the Cincinnati Reds.
Even after the Fielder signing, Daniels said he wants another big bat. Does that have to be left field? Not necessarily. He could put that bat at designated hitter. But at this point, perhaps Fielder could slot in there at times if the club keeps Mitch Moreland.
Moreland is an interesting case. Texas could see what kind of value he has on the open market and decide where that may lead. But for a team that was short on power, he provided some measure of it. Perhaps his defense at first base and bat against right-handed hitters is enough to keep him in Texas, with Fielder being the DH when Moreland is in the lineup.
What about Robinson Cano? I still think it's unlikely, but that would certainly be a splash, wouldn't it? In that scenario, the Rangers could look to unload Jurickson Profar. David Price anybody? It seems far-fetched. But you can bet the Rangers are looking at every possibility. Nothing the Rangers have done so far should necessarily take them out of the Price sweepstakes. But they'll need to get creative do to it. You never know.
And get ready. There's still plenty of heat in the stove.
Today's player: Max Scherzer
It seems impossible that the Detroit Tigers would consider trading Max Scherzer, who beat out Rangers ace Yu Darvish for the American League Cy Young Award announced Wednesday night.
But the Tigers might be willing to listen to offers for a pitcher who went 21-3 to win his first Cy Young. Scherzer is a free agent at the end of the 2014 season. Detroit might be looking to cut payroll, and Scherzer has Scott Boras as an agent.
Basically, the Tigers have a decision to make.
Boras told ESPN.com's Jerry Craznick on Wednesday that Scherzer is open to talking about a contract extension. Clients of Boras have been more willing in the last two years when it comes to agreeing to extensions -- see Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus and his $120 millon deal.
Still, if Scherzer is in fact available, don't the Rangers have to at least make a pitch? The Tigers will want a big haul of prospects, but the price for Scherzer may be less than say Tampa Bay's David Price, who the Rays are expected to try to deal this winter, with the Rangers considered to be among the favorites.
Scherzer could be a nice alternative.
Why he makes sense: If the Rangers are going to add pitching, acquiring a No. 1 or 2 starter via a trade is the way to go. The free agent market leans heavily to hitters. Scherzer would have to be right there with Price as the guy to go after -- if he's available. Scherzer, 29, has several great seasons left in him after a breakout campaign that saw him go 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA.
Why he doesn't make sense: Because the price will be high and it would be a shock if the Tigers dealt him. Scherzer would fit perfectly in the Rangers' rotation. It's just a question of whether Detroit really wants to trade him.
Bottom line: Acquiring Scherzer at first glance seems like a long shot. But if the Tigers truly want to listen, the Rangers have to inquire.
Honestly, I don't think the answers have changed much from last year. There may be chatter that Profar's value has gone down a bit because of his numbers in 2013. But I'm not buying it. The scouts I've talked to don't seem to believe his value has been hugely altered, and they point to the role he had as a utility guy who didn't really have a regular position.
They still see a high ceiling with the bat and a player who has solid staying power at the big league level at shortstop or second base. But he's young and still needs some time, preferably at one position on a consistent basis. The Rangers feel that way, too.
"We feel as strongly now as we did a year ago," general manager Jon Daniels said. "The multifaceted role was challenging for him and had an impact on how he can prepare and ultimately somewhat on his production. I feel as we did about him 12 months ago and I sense the industry does, too."
But the reality is the Rangers have three middle infielders and two infield spots. They have a few more highly regarded prospects a few years behind them, too, in Roughned Odor and Luis Sardinas. The other reality: You may hear plenty about Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus and their potential trade markets. But what GM doesn't want a young shortstop under club control for a while at an expensive price? And that's Profar.
So if that's the case, do the Rangers consider parting with Profar as one way to alleviate the logjam and help the club now and in the future? For a trade piece that big, it has to be the right deal. Those who have read this blog know that I'd be willing to include Profar (and have been for a year now) in a deal for Giancarlo Stanton. But the Marlins continue to stress they aren't dealing him (at least not this offseason).
Amid all this talk about St. Louis' interest in a shortstop is this tweet from ESPN.com's Jim Bowden:
Rangers &Cardinals remain strong potential trade partners with STL wanting Profar or Andrus & TX wanting Miller and/or Taveras and/or Adams— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) November 11, 2013
Bowden has talked before about how a Profar-for-Taveras trade would work for both teams. And perhaps with an outfield need now, the Rangers might at least discuss it. But there's a bigger fish in the pond that the Rangers would have to chase, at least in my mind, if available: David Price.
I know, I know. You're thinking the Rangers have other holes -- like a power bat and outfield -- that need filling now. That's true. But close your eyes and picture this rotation for just a second: Price, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Martin Perez. Yes, the Rangers' offense didn't do its job during the 2013 season. Still, pitching wins championships. And that rotation could be the best in the American League, when healthy.
You can't get Price without Profar, it seems. He has to front the package. And it will likely take another young pitcher or two and/or a power hitter at the lower levels to get this done. And there's a caveat: The Rangers would have to make the deal contingent on coming to an agreement with Price on a long-term deal (maybe they get 48 hours to do so or the deal is off). If the Rangers could get that extension, they'd have their rotation locked up for years to come with Alexi Ogando waiting in the wings if an injury pops up.
Profar has a bright future. I remain convinced of that in spite of how things went in 2013. You don't trade him unless it's a special deal. Price is that special deal.
When would you trade Profar and for whom?
The results from Crasnick's question on the landing spot for Price -- 17 of the 21 respondents think Price will be traded: Texas Rangers 9; Los Angeles Dodgers 4; Washington Nationals 1; St. Louis Cardinals 1; Los Angeles Angels 1; Houston Astros 1.
From the story:
"Tampa sells high on guys," the official said, "and they can't have one player making a quarter of their payroll. It's more a matter of where than if. I would look at the Garza and Shields deals as a blueprint and add to the return, because those guys weren't left-handed and they didn't win the Cy Young."
Said an AL scout: "That's Tampa's M.O. to keep their operation sustainable and competitive with their budget. Those guys haven't drafted very well in the past 5-6 years, so these trades are the way they replenish their system."
The Rangers and Dodgers lead the pack of Price's potential suitors. Texas is coming off a disappointing season and has enough talent on the farm to assemble an attractive package. "They finally find the right deal to put Jurickson Profar in," predicted an AL scouting director.
It's not surprising that the Rangers would considered the favorites on this. It's rare to see a guy of Price's caliber come on the market and it would likely take a package fronted by Profar to get it done. Who knows? Maybe the GM meetings this week are a time when the Rays take the pulse of the league to see where teams sit on it. The Rangers have the farm system to get this done. It just depends on how big a package the Rays would need and if the Rangers are willing to pay that price.
The Rangers' 2013 season, one that was accompanied with some huge highs and some major lows, came to a screeching halt in the American League wild-card tiebreaker game on Sept. 30 in Arlington.
One swing of the bat by Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria doomed Texas.
Longoria, who always seems to produce big moments late in the season, did it again against the Rangers, belting a long two-run home run to right-center field in the top of the third inning to give the Rays and ace David Price a 3-0 lead. Price stymied Texas from there, throwing a complete game for a 5-2 victory as the Rays finally won a big game against the Rangers after being eliminated by them in the 2010 and 2011 AL Divisional Series.
Longoria's home run off rookie Martin Perez was a towering one. From the crack of the bat, it looked to be out of the park, even though Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin appeared to have a chance at a miracle catch, only to have the baseball travel over his glove.
Longoria also had a one-out double in the top of the sixth and scored on pinch hitter David DeJesus's RBI single to give the Rays a 4-1 lead. Longoria, who had three hits in the game, has been a terror in the final game of the regular season. He is hitting .579 (11 for 19) in those finales with seven homers and 10 RBIs.
"I wish I could explain it," Longoria said. "I wish I could bottle it up and take it through 161 games and not have it be on the last day."
For the Rangers, it was one final disappointment in 2013. They gave away the AL West lead with a horrid stretch in September, only to rally and win seven straight games to close out the season and force the one-game playoff with the Rays.
A win would have given the Rangers their fourth consecutive postseason appearance. But it wasn't meant to be, even though the Rangers got suspended outfielder Nelson Cruz back after missing 50 games. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout as Price picked off two runners, ending a brutal season for the Rangers as far as baserunning goes.
"I'm disappointed. We didn't get it done," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I've got no excuse for that."
Today’s question: Do the Texas Rangers have enough rotation depth?
That's provided general manager Jon Daniels doesn't pull a stunner and trade either Holland and Perez -- that seems highly unlikely -- and that Harrison is 100 percent recovered from two back surgeries that limited him to only only two starts in 2013.
That leaves the Rangers needing a fifth starter. Is that guy Alexi Ogando? We've already discussed Ogando's situation in this series. The mere fact that Ogando was on the disabled list three times last season should make the Rangers pause and put the lanky right-hander back in the bullpen where he belongs.
Which means the Rangers are back to needing a fifth starter. Does that pitcher come from within the system, via trade or in free agency?
Let's start with the system. The Rangers are likely to bring back their own free agent, Colby Lewis, who spent all of last season trying to recover from elbow surgery and other ailments. Lewis is 34, the Rangers' best postseason pitcher of all time and deserves another chance with the team. But he can't be counted on in any way. If he makes it, that's a bonus.
Szymborski's proposed trade is missing one interesting piece: Jurickson Profar.
Honestly, I have a difficult time imagining the Rays making a deal without Profar in it. No, I don't think Profar's value has changed much at all based on 2013. That might sound odd, figuring he hit .234 with six homers and 26 RBIs in 85 games. But the reality is that scouts (at least the ones I've talked to) know that Profar is a middle infielder and if left at one position, figure he'll improve quickly. He was put in a difficult spot this past season, moving positions and adjusting to life in the big leagues as a utility player.
He's got a high ceiling and for the 2012 Cy Young Award winner and a guy that came on strong after a rough April and May, I would think Profar is on top of the Rays' list.
So is it possible to get this deal done without Profar? Maybe, but the price in terms of exhausting so much of the top part of the farm system makes it difficult. The Rangers would essentially have to hand over three or four of their best prospects not named Profar. That would probably include two names that Szymborski mentioned: middle infielder Rougned Odor and third baseman Joey Gallo. But they might also talk about Luke Jackson, Jorge Alfaro or Luis Sardinas, just to name a few. And the Rays would likely want a young, big-league ready pitcher if they're giving up an ace. It just seems odd that a deal like this even has a realistic chance to get done without Profar in it.
Don't forget: There's a financial angle to all of this too. Price made $10.1 million this season. He'll get another raise next season and the season after that in arbitration. Anyone who acquires him will also do everything they can to get a long-term deal in place. And that's why it's a good time for the Rays to part with him. His value is high and they aren't likely to be able to afford to keep him after the 2015 season. There's precedence too, with the trade of James Shields to Kansas City (with two years left on his deal).
Price is one of those "big fish" that could be available this offseason. What team doesn't want starting pitching? And imagine David Price fronting this rotation with Yu Darvish. To me, that kind of trade has to involve a big-time, young, up-and-coming player like Profar. But Price is certainly one to watch as the Rangers go about trying to improve their squad this offseason. No matter what the final deal is, it's going to be a big price to pay to get him. But Price is an impact pitcher that isn't available very often.
There's no shame in losing to a former Cy Young Award winner like the Tampa Bay Rays' David Price.
Perez gave up an early run, allowed a two-run home run to Evan Longoria and didn't make it out of the sixth inning. It probably wasn't what the 22-year-old Perez was looking for.
Just listen to veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski when asked about the pitch Perez made to Longoria in the third inning that catapulted the Rays to a 3-0 lead.
Perez got the ball where he wanted it -- down in the strike zone -- and Longoria, with a history of big hits late in the season, beat him.
"It wasn't a bad pitch," Pierzynski said. "[Longoria] just got his barrel on it. Martin made some good pitches in the first inning. The kid should be proud. I thought he pitched really well given the situation and given what he was facing for him being young.
"He's got a bright, bright future, and [I] hope that nobody looks at this game and gets down on him because that kid has a really good future. He's special, and he's only going to get better."
Perez was obviously disappointed after the game, regretting two walks in the early innings, both of which ended up as runs. The first inning was a mess in which he allowed three hits to go with the walk, but he got out of it allowing only the one run on Delmon Young's sacrifice fly.
Perez will also look back on the season proud that he overcame his injury and became a candidate for the American League rookie of the year award after carrying the Rangers' rotation in August with five victories.
"They did give me an opportunity to pitch at this level, and I think I did a great job this year," Perez said. "I want to work hard to be a good pitcher in the future."
Perez needs only to look at Price for what going through a little adversity with a late-season loss can end up producing in future seasons.
Price beat the Rangers for just the second time in 12 starts. This wasn't a postseason game, but it felt like one, and Price's 0-3 record against the Rangers in the playoffs doesn't feel nearly as bad now.
Price was clearly emotional after the game. He took advantage of a pitcher-friendly strike zone and pitched the fifth complete game in the history of the tiebreaker game.
Price adjusted his pitching style by going more with his breaking pitches than his fastball, which was actually up around 96 miles per hour after being around 94 mph in his past few starts. The Rangers managed just six hits.
"He threw a lot of breaking pitches," Elvis Andrus said. "Before, he used to throw a lot of fastballs against us, and that's why we always hit well. Today, he made an adjustment and threw a ton of changeups and breaking balls when we were ahead. He was locating the pitches really good, too."
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers' charge to the playoffs at the end of the season was stopped by the team they eliminated from the postseason in 2010 and 2011, the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays outplayed the Rangers on Monday night in the American League wild-card tiebreaker game for a 5-2 victory at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Tampa Bay got the clutch home run, ran the bases better and played a flawless game in the field to move on to Wednesday's AL wild-card game against the Cleveland Indians.
Oh no, Longo: The Rays' Evan Longoria is at his best late in the season. He did it again Monday night, giving the Rays a 3-0 lead in the top of the third with a long two-run home run to right-center field that just got over the glove of Leonys Martin. Longoria also had a one-out double in the top of the sixth and scored on pinch hitter David DeJesus's RBI single to give the Rays a 4-1 lead.
Rangers get on board: Craig Gentry led off the bottom of the third with a single. With Gentry running, Martin grounded out to third base to give the Rangers a runner in scoring position. Ian Kinsler then lined a single into center field to cut the Rays' lead to 3-1.
Rios comes through: Alex Rios continued his torrid play late in the season, scolding a double off the left-field fence to score Elvis Andrus and cut the Rays' lead back to two runs at 4-2.
Baserunning mistakes: The Rangers upped their season total to a brutal 111 outs on the bases by getting picked off first base twice by David Price, who isn't known for having a great move. First, it was Andrus in the bottom of the first after drawing a one-out walk. After Kinsler drove in the Rangers' first run, he got picked off first base on a nice move by Price.
Perez's night: Rookie Martin Perez made his first postseason start, and while it wasn't the exact result he was looking for, he did keep the Rangers in the game for the first five innings. Perez allowed four runs in 5⅓ innings and was taken out after 74 pitches for Alexi Ogando, who gave up the single to DeJesus to give the Rays a three-run lead.
Leonys gets the call: The Rangers were the recipients of a very gracious call from left-field umpire Bruce Dreckman with two outs in the top of the seventh. With two runners on, Delmon Young sent a sinking line drive into center field that Martin made a diving attempt for in front of him. The ball actually one-hopped its way into Martin's glove, but Dreckman made the out call much to the chagrin of Rays manager Joe Maddon.
Cruz's night: Nelson Cruz played for the first time since his 50-game suspension and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Cruz almost changed the direction of the game in the second inning. With the Rangers trailing 1-0 and Adrian Beltre on second after a leadoff double, Cruz worked a 2-2 count and hit a screaming line drive that Rays first baseman James Loney snared. Cruz led off the bottom of the fifth with a grounder to third. He led off the seventh with a swinging strikeout on a full count.
Price goes nine: Price finally got over his curse of the Rangers. He worked a strong complete game and allowed two runs. Price came into the start with an 0-3 postseason record and a 10.26 ERA at Rangers Ballpark. But he had none of that on Monday night. Yes, he got a favorable strike zone from plate umpire Jeff Kellogg, who did have an impact on the game, but Price took advantage of it and allowed six hits and walked only one.
Perez (10-5, 3.55 ERA): The 22-year-old Perez makes the biggest start of his career. ... He allowed three earned runs in seven innings in his previous start against Houston. ... He was 2-2 with a 3.48 ERA in 31 innings in September. ... Perez had a six-game winning streak in August and September that carried the Rangers while other starters struggled to record wins. ... He is 3-3 with a 3.38 ERA at home in eight starts. ... Perez has faced the Rays once in relief, allowing two runs in five innings.
Price (9-8, 3.39 ERA): Price allowed two runs in seven innings in an 8-3 victory over the New York Yankees on Wednesday. ... He is 1-2 with a 3.78 ERA in five starts in September. ... Price is 7-3 with a 3.21 ERA in 14 road starts. ... Price has not faced the Rangers this season, but historically he hasn't pitched well against them. ... Price is 1-4 with a 5.98 ERA in eight starts in the regular season against the Rangers. ... He's 1-2 with a 10.26 ERA at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, allowing four home runs in 16 2/3 innings. ... He is 0-3 with a 4.66 ERA against the Rangers in three postseason starts.
Hitters: Evan Longoria is 1-for-2 against Perez. Nelson Cruz, who returns Monday night, is 6-for-12 with two home runs and four RBIs against Price. Alex Rios is 10-for-23 with two homers and seven RBIs against the Rays lefty.
The 21-year-old allowed four runs in four innings in a 4-3 loss to Oakland in Game 160 of the season. The Rangers lost two more games and the division to the A's.
A year later, Perez is in a different place.
He finds himself pitching Monday night in Game 163, the American League wild-card tiebreaker game against former Cy Young winner David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays.
Perez is confident. He believes in himself. And he says he's ready to help the Rangers move into the postseason by winning Monday's elimination game.
"When you're on this level, you have to be ready for whatever decision they make, and I'm ready," Perez said. "That's why I'm here. They trust me, and I just have to do my job."
Perez is trusted because he carried the Rangers' rotation as a 22-year-old in August and September. While Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Matt Garza weren't winning consistently, Perez put together a six-game winning streak.
|Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
This is a different Perez from last year in Oakland.
"He's one of the reasons why we are getting this opportunity, and it's his turn," manager Ron Washington said. "He's well-rested. We have plenty of guys to back him up. If it gets out of control, we can stop it quickly. We have a lot of confidence in him."
Don't expect Perez to be intimidated by Price. He went up against some big-time starters during his winning streak, including fellow Venezuelan Felix Hernandez and also Chris Sale.
Perez beat his hero Hernandez, another former Cy Young winner, twice in the span of 11 days.
"I don't face David Price, because he doesn't hit," Perez said. "I'm just going to face the hitters and just want to my best. I know it's an important game for us. I just want to go to the mound and have the same focus and throw strikes, do what I have to do to win the game, because tomorrow's game is the most important game we have."
But just because the Rangers didn't get a bat doesn't make the trade deadline a failure. First, this team is better thanks to the acquisition of Matt Garza, who has pitched well in his two Texas starts. I disagree with the notion that Garza had to be the first step and that if the Rangers didn't acquire a bat, it was a pointless deal.
|Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the Rangers' walk-off wins and the trade deadline.
Want proof of that? Look at the names that didn't go anywhere. We heard whispers of Alex Rios, Hunter Pence, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and even Michael Young. Which GM swooped in with the right offer to grab one of those bats? Nobody. The Pirates could have used a hitter. They weren't willing to pay the price. The Red Sox certainly could have used Young. The right deal wasn't there.
With way more buyers than sellers, the sellers decided they could hike the price with limited inventory out there. That's fine. But if the inventory doesn't come close to the asking price, you just can't buy it. Daniels had to save his prospects for another time, perhaps this offseason. Imagine if he'd dealt a Luis Sardinas or Luke Jackson, two prospects you may not know, but two that would likely come up in discussions for someone like a Giancarlo Stanton and a David Price. Sure, everyone knows Jurickson Profar. But Profar alone doesn't get you either one of those two players. And if they're made available this offseason -- and you never know, they could be -- the Rangers are in better position than most teams to make a big run at them.
Besides, one bat wasn't going to cure an offense that was struggling and could be without Nelson Cruz, assuming that suspension comes down in the next few days and he doesn't appeal it. So the Rangers did the only thing they could -- they reluctantly stood pat. Come August, maybe there's something out there.
But don't say the Rangers failed at the deadline because they didn't overpay for a bat that wasn't of high impact. Blame part of it on the offseason, if you want. That's at least fair. But with no true impact bat available, cashing in your chips on a mid-level hitter would have been the bigger failure.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.