With the trade deadline approaching, the Texas Rangers will most certainly spend the next month or so looking for ways to improve for their current roster.
Currently the Rangers sit at 45-33, deadlocked in a tie with the Oakland Athletics for first place in the American League West. Though the Rangers would be in the playoffs if they started today, they only hold a half-game advantage over the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees for both wild-card spots.
With eight teams currently within five-and-a-half games of the wild-card lead, the Rangers will be forced to look at the weaknesses on their roster and find ways to improve on them.
But what exactly are the Rangers' weak points? More importantly, who would be realistically available for the Rangers to acquire before the trade deadline?
At this point, the Rangers' biggest weakness stands in their starting rotation. At first glance, their collective 3.71 ERA is solid, but their inability to pitch deep in games has put a lot of strain on their bullpen early in the season. The Rangers rank in the bottom third of the league in quality starts with only 36, which is even more concerning if your remove the combined 19 quality starts from Yu Darvish and Derek Holland.
The Rangers can try to rely on the returns of starters Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz to help bolster the rotation. But with Ogando's history of injuries and Feliz recovering from an elbow injury, it would be pretty risky to expect both of them to be mainstays in the rotation for the rest of the 2013 season.
With that in mind, who is available for the Rangers to acquire in order to shore up their rotation?
Gallardo by name is the biggest fish in the pitching pond that should be available at the deadline. Gallardo hasn't been as dominant in 2013 as he has been in the past; he currently owns a 6-7 record with a 4.20 ERA and 80 strikeouts on the season.
Gallardo has been a workhorse for the Brewers ever since his debut in 2007 and has pitched at least 185 innings since the 2009 season. But with an early-season DUI arrest, coupled with the lackluster offensive performance from his own team, Gallardo is in the midst of a career-worst season.
In a way, that is a silver lining for the Rangers, as Gallardo's stock may never be lower. Acquiring the hard-throwing right-hander would most likely not cost the Rangers nearly as much as in years past. A package surrounding Mike Olt or Martin Perez may be enough for the Rangers to pry Gallardo's services away from Milwaukee.
In Texas, Gallardo would no longer have the pressure of being relied on as the ace, as he would slide nicely behind Darvish and Holland in the rotation. In fact, a potential rotation of Darvish, Holland and Gallardo would be able to go toe-to-toe with just about every team in baseball over a seven-game series. The biggest question with Gallardo in Texas would be whether or not he would be able to keep the ball down, as he has surrendered 95 home runs over the last four-and-a-half years.
If the Rangers can't acquire Gallardo from the Brewers, Ricky Nolasco of the Miami Marlins would be a solid backup option for Texas. The biggest questions with Nolasco would be Miami's asking price and whether or not the Rangers would be willing to absorb the majority of the $11.5 million salary he is owed over the 2013 season.
The Marlins have been pretty determined to make any team who wants Nolasco take his full contract, but seem to be softening on the idea as of late:
Mia surprisingly open to eating some of Nolasco's contract but only if prospect return significantly better than alternative deals— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) June 27, 2013
Nolasco has been one of the few bright spots for the Marlins this season, posting a 4-7 record with a 3.68 ERA and 77 strikeouts over 100.1 innings pitched. However, with the Marlins' enormous lack of major league talent, Miami could be asking for way too much in order to surrender the rights to Nolasco.
Much like Gallardo, Nolasco is a workhorse who averaged 190.1 IP from 2008 to 2012. Nolasco is also in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career, despite being surrounded with little-to-no major league talent in South Beach.
Many teams have been linked to Nolasco, including the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles and Colorado Rockies, but it would not be surprising if the Rangers were to jump in on the bidding as well.
Any Other "Big-Name" Pitcher
Realistically, the Rangers will most likely be in on every "big-name" pitcher that will be "available" on the market. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wrote last August, Texas could be a landing spot for a player like David Price, but Price would most likely be a pipe dream, especially give his injury problems this season.
As far back as March, Matt Mosley of FOX Sports speculated that the Rangers could also be in the market for Cliff Lee, but the type of package that the Rangers would have to give up in order to bring him back to Arlington would be astronomical.
Any package involving Lee would almost certainly have to include Jurickson Profar, and with the way the Rangers have been finding ways to keep him in the lineup recently, it seems very unlikely they would look to move him now.
So with that in mind, who do you think the Rangers should target this trade deadline?
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