The Texas Rangers are with the rest of the American League West, sitting 13 games back of the division-leading Astros. Fortunately, they’re only a game and a half back of the second wild card spot. They received good news on Monday in the return of starting pitcher Cole Hamels.
Hamels had actually been on the DL since early May, and the oblique strain was originally supposed to sideline him for eight weeks. In his five starts before the injury, Hamels was 2-0 with a 3.03 ERA. The return didn’t go as great, though. Hamels was knocked around by the Cleveland Indians for seven runs in 4.1 innings. Of his 92 pitches, only 48 of them were for strikes, which lead to four walks on the night.
In the bigger picture, the Rangers are playing much better baseball as of late minus Monday’s game. They’ve won six of their last 10 games, and in the month of June, they’ve swept the Nationals and took two of three against the Astros, Mariners and Yankees.
Getting Hamels back is a definite boost to the teams pitching staff that currently has four pitchers on the DL. Their biggest problem is in the bullpen. The Nationals most likely have baseball’s worst bullpen, but the Rangers aren’t far behind them.
Closer Matt Bush hasn’t fared much better than his former teammate Sam Dyson. He’s nine of 13 in save opportunities, and he’s blown three of his last five save opportunities. Seeing as the Rangers are still in the Wild Card hunt they could go to the trade market to find bullpen help. Someone like David Robertson could be in play, but he’s also in play for a number of other teams, and the Rangers don’t have enough assets to be in a bidding war.
The biggest question for the Rangers is should they go out and find help? They’re a young team, but they have the 21st ranked farm system in baseball. This could be a chance to do what the Yankees did last season. Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy are on the final years of their deals, and there’s been no indication that the team will bring either of them back next season after Lucroy had his contract talks tabled in March.
Why not trade those guys especially when you have guys in the waiting like Robinson Chirinos? First baseman Mike Napoli has a club option for next season that the Rangers have to take a long look at. Joey Gallo is fully capable of playing first base as he’s played 18 games there, and hasn’t committed an error in the small sample size. The only question is whether the fans are willing to put up with his lack of hitting for average. Gallo has a total of 46 hits this season; 20 of them are home runs, and only 13 of them are singles. It’s the fewest number of singles any bodies hit at the time of their 20th home run since Barry Bonds had 7 in 2001.
The Rangers have a tough decision to make. Do they hold onto to what they have, and possibly even buy at the deadline to make a push at the Wild Card? Or, do they sell a few pieces and bolster their farm system for the future? Even if they do sell, they’re still good enough to make a push at the playoffs, as long as they don’t trade Yu Darvish.