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June 28, 2005

ESPN Column

That sound you heard was the Rangers’ division-title hopes hitting the bottom of an abandoned quarry. At 7.5 games behind Los Angeles and barely above .500, Texas must reverse their free-fall immediately or begin consideration of the 2006 season. The schedule does them no favors, for in July the Rangers face the Yankees, Orioles, Red Sox, a respectable Blue Jays squad, and they have eight games against the suddenly vibrant Athletics. Within perhaps as little as one week, Texas must decide whether they will be buyers or sellers in the July street bazaar. Before the rumors become fruitful and multiply, let’s take a take at which Rangers might end 2005 in a different zip code.

Trade Candidates
No matter how Texas plays, HANK BLALOCK, MICHAEL YOUNG, CHRIS YOUNG, FRANCISCO CORDERO and MARK TEIXEIRA are going nowhere. Some seem confused about Teixeira’s status because his contract expires at season’s end, but the Rangers still own him for three arbitration-eligible years. Plenty of teams have inquired about KEVIN MENCH, but outfield is already a team weakness. Trading him, even as part of a package for an elite outfielder or DH, just doesn’t add enough value. Still, he has a slight chance of moving if Texas regains traction in the pennant race. Much more likely to be moved is fellow outfielder LAYNCE NIX, who is 24 and still screams “potential,? though the murmurs of “fourth outfielder? are increasing in volume.

If Texas collapses, trading ALFONSO SORIANO makes the most sense. He’ll earn $10 million or more in 2006, his last arbitration-eligible season, and prospect IAN KINSLER should be ready to helm second base by then. Likewise, Texas could move KENNY ROGERS (see below), who I don’t believe has a no-trade clause this time around and has said and done enough silly things to wear out his welcome. If Texas intends to fight for the division or wild card regardless of what happens in the next week or two, both will stay. CHAN HO PARK and RICHARD HIDALGO have negligible trade value and are more likely to be waived than traded. Should the Rangers trade to win now, most of the departing players will be minor-leaguers (John Danks, Edison Volquez, Joaquin Arias, etc.).

Rogers Works On Right Jab
KENNY ROGERS fought the water cooler, and the water cooler won. Rogers punched a cooler back on June 17 (a start he actually won), broke a bone in his non-pitching hand and apparently was able to pitch through it last week, albeit poorly. He will miss at least one start and might face a retroactive DL placement. Texas doesn’t expect him to miss much time, so just bench him. For the moment, JOHN WASDIN will take his place. Wasdin has a sparkly 1.38 ERA in 13 innings going into Tuesday but a leaden 5.38 ERA in his previous 668 innings. Just say no. Texas activated reliever JOAQUIN BENOIT Tuesday and might have to use him as a starter, a role that does not appear to suit him. He has a career 5.98 ERA as a starter and 3.95 as a reliever.

Outfield Situation (D)Evolves
Texas recalled catcher GERALD LAIRD for one game to cover for the temporarily injured ROD BARAJAS. Barajas is now fine and Laird has already been dispatched to AAA, but Texas also sent infielder MARSHALL MCDOUGALL to AAA to make room for Laird. Within these seemingly inconsequential moves is a kernel of useful information. McDougall’s departure forces Texas to use lefty-challenged DAVID DELLUCCI, Laynce Nix, or everybody-challenged MARK DEROSA against lefthanded starters. Against Jarrod Washburn on Tuesday, Texas used Nix, who has a career line of .170/.220/.277 against lefties. Barring a roster move, Dellucci might share these at-bats with Nix. Neither will gain much value with the extra playing time.

An Unsolicited Testimonial
If you’re a Ranger fan, you have to cringe when Texas offers C.J. Wilson against Bartolo Colon and John Wasdin against Jarrod Washburn to lead off what might be the most important series of the year. Do what I do, and stick a bottle of El Jimador tequila in the freezer. It'll be icy cold when Vlad hits a curveball into my parents' yard in north Arlington. El Jimador goes down smooth and easy, just like the Rangers in June.

Posted by Lucas at June 28, 2005 07:42 PM