THE DOG DAYS OF AUGUST: Two Days of Rangers Trades Give Way To Another Stretch Run
BY: Dic Humphrey
The dog days of August arrived and the Rangers have added a pitcher and a catcher. On Tuesday morning, just hours before the 3:00 PM (Central) non-waiver trade deadline, the trade for Geovany Soto was announced. It had been agreed the previous evening, but with cash involved in the transaction, it could not be officially announced until approved by Major League Baseball. The Rangers sent the Cubs AA pitcher Jake Brigham for Soto and cash to offset a good portion of the remainder of his $4.3 million salary. The Rangers are also to send a player to be named later, though cash considerations could eventually be substituted.
Then literally minutes before the Tuesday non-waiver trade deadline, the Rangers and Cubs agreed on another trade with the Rangers’ receiving Ryan Dempster in return for third baseman Christian Villanueva and starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, both of whom were playing for high A Myrtle Beach.
Dempster had a 5-5 record with Chicago, but with a pristine 2.25 ERA in 16 starts. He has a strikeout to walk ratio of 3:1 and an opponent’s batting average of .210 over 104 innings. He was originally drafted by the Rangers in the third round of the 1995 first year player draft. A year later, he was traded to the Marlins along with Rick Helling for John Burkett, who went on to win five games down the stretch to help the Rangers make the playoffs for the first time in team history. Burkett was the winning pitcher in the first playoff game in Ranger history, which was the ONLY Ranger playoff win until 2010.
Over the course of 15 seasons, Dempster has a 117-121 record with a 4.31 ERA. He was the Cubs’ closer in 2005, 2006 and 2007, recording save totals of 33, 24 and 28. He moves into Roy Oswalt’s spot in the rotation and will make his Ranger debut on Thursday at home against the Angels. When he takes the mound, he will become the 11th Ranger starting pitcher this season.
The Rangers lost Colby Lewis for the season last week and Neftali Feliz this week. Feliz was scratched last Sunday from his scheduled minor league re-hab start for AAA Round Rock and was subsequently examined by the Rangers’ team doctors, who determined that Feliz needed Tommy John surgery. Feliz will likely not pitch again for the Rangers until the 2014 season. Texas knew of Feliz’s prognosis no later than Monday, but made no announcement until after the trade deadline passed for fear of weakening their position in trade negotiations.
These two injuries coupled with Roy Oswalt’s continued ineffectiveness put pressure on Ranger management to obtain a starting pitcher before the trade deadline. They tried hard to land Zach Greinke from Milwaukee, who ultimately went to the Angels. There are acknowledged talks with Philadelphia for Cliff Lee, Miami for Josh Johnson, Tampa Bay for James Shields, as well as the Cubs for Matt Garza. In the end, they settled for Dempster.
The Rangers had made no secret of their desire to add a starting pitcher before the trade deadline, but the trade for Soto was a surprise. Texas has been disappointed both offensively and defensively in their catching tandem of Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba, in which they committed almost $13 million in salary this year.
Offensively, Napoli is hitting .226 going into Wednesday’s game, down from .320 a year ago. Torrealba, who was designated for assignment when the trade for Soto was completed, was hitting .235, but he had driven in just 12 runs.
Defensively, they both had problems. Napoli has been charged with eight passed balls; Torrealba six. Collectively, they have thrown out 11 base stealers in 71 attempts a wretched 15.5% ratio.
Soto broke into the Majors in 2008, winning the National League Rookie of the Year award after hitting .282 with 23 home runs and 86 RBI’s. He is a career .252 hitter, but has struggled this year at just .199. He was on the disabled list for a month, and has hit .242 since returning to the active roster. Defensively, he is expected to be an improvement. He has been charged with just one passed ball in 51 games, and has thrown out would be base-stealers at the rate of 37.8%.
Trades can still be made at this point in the season. The Major League players involved have to clear waivers prior to being traded, and not all of them will. However, the deal for Burkett was extremely beneficial to the 1996 playoff run and was made in August. Two years ago, the Rangers acquired Jeff Francoeur in an August trade, who made a significant contribution over the balance of the season and the playoffs.
GM Jon Daniels will continue to scour pitching possibilities, and admitted in an interview shortly after the trade deadline passed that he had tried to find a bat to bolster the Rangers’ bench, but had not seen anyone he liked. Rumors have surfaced that the Rangers were highly interested in Shane Victorino, but were unwilling to match the Dodgers’ offer. There was also supposedly talk of an expanded deal with Boston last weekend that would have included Josh Beckett and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
- Ryan Dempster will wear his preferred uniform number 46 with the Rangers, which has been Robbie Ross’s number. Ross was reassigned uniform number 28. Soto will wear uniform number 8 previously worn by Yorvit Torrealba.
- Scott Feldman was named Ranger player of the month for July. He was 3-0 with a 1.96 ERA in four appearances, three of which were starts. He was previously named player of the month in August of 2009.
- David Murphy was named the winner of the 2012 Heart and Hustle Award. The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association presented the award to Murphy prior to Wednesday’s game against the Angels.
- Texas was 9-14 in July, better than just Kansas City (7-19) in the American League, and the fewest wins in a month since May of 2007 (9-20). The Rangers averaged 3.52 runs per game, the lowest for any month since September of 1992.
Happy Birthday to Colby Lewis, who turns 33 on Thursday.