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July 15, 2005

ESPN Column

Buyers or Sellers?
With last night’s loss to Oakland, Texas finds themselves six games behind Los Angeles and two games out of the wild-card spot (but behind three teams). Through the 24th, the Rangers play no one but the white-hot Athletics and Yankees, then they finish the month with the still-competitive Orioles and Jays. A week’s worth of bad baseball could effectively eliminate Texas from a playoff spot. Whether buyers or sellers, Texas has reason to be active at the trading deadline. If sellers, Texas could move ALFONSO SORIANO, due to earn about $10 million in 2006, his last year of arbitration. The Rangers might also consider KENNY ROGERS’ recent actions a breach of their “handshake? no-trade agreement.

Plenty of teams want outfielder KEVIN MENCH, but I believe he’ll stay. He’s young, inexpensive and, unlike his fellow outfielders, he can hit. If Texas decides to make a run for it, they’re in the awkward situation of not wanting to trade either major-leaguers or their top prospects. Among ML players, Texas is more likely to trade LAYNCE NIX than Mench, who is only 24 but is beginning to give the idea that he’s not going to evolve into a quality hitter. As for who to acquire, Texas could use a starter, reliever, and another bat. The last part sounds silly, but Nix and Hidalgo/Matthews have hit so poorly that the Rangers effectively have a seven-man lineup. Texas could recall outfielder JASON BOTTS if Nix departs, and IAN KINSLER probably would replace Soriano.

Rogers Gets To Play For Another Week
KENNY ROGERS will start tonight in Oakland and at home against the Yankees before he receives an appeal hearing. Assuming the suspension is upheld in full, he’ll disappear until the second week of August. With JOHN WASDIN already in the rotation, Texas may replace Rogers with EDISON VOLQUEZ. Volquez ought to be a dandy Major-League pitcher by 2007 but for now is a 22-year-old with 38 career innings above A ball. When Rogers returns he could start in Yankee Stadium, not exactly his favorite place on the planet.

Young Rocked Again
CHRIS YOUNG lasted only four innings and seemed to tire quickly against Toronto last Sunday. In front-loading Rogers’ starts, the Rangers also pushed Young back to give him two extra days of rest. Young is young (25) and has never pitched over 144 innings in a season, so perhaps throwing 100 in just over three months has worn on him. On the other hand, Texas has managed his pitch counts carefully all season. I’d stick with him for the time-being. He is still striking out batters at a healthy rate and could nab some wins even with a sub-par performance thanks to the Texas offense.

Starting Lineup Unchanged
Barring trades, don’t expect any fancy new lineups for the next few weeks. The infielders and Mench will play every day, and ROD BARAJAS will catch about three of every four games. DAVID DELLUCCI will start only against righties, Nix will start against all righties and some lefties, and GARY MATTHEWS will draw most of the starts in right in favor of RICHARD HIDALGO. I ought to amend what I said about Matthews; practically any regular has value in an AL-only league, so he is worth owning. Just don’t expect him to maintain his July line of .273/.351/.697. He’s good for a .260 average and a dinger about every ten games.

Posted by Lucas at July 15, 2005 11:35 PM