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8/02/2007 12:23:00 PM

AL West: All About Texas

By Gennaro Filice

Over the first four months of this AL West blog's existence, I haven't written a whole lot about the Rangers, and Lonestar State inhabitants have made sure that I'm aware of this. But in my own defense, outside of the team's unadulterated horrendousness (something I did cover), which captivating Rangers storylines have I overlooked? Their four-game winning streak in July? Michael Young's magnificent All-Star campaign (he's hitting an underwhelming .301 with four homers)? Brandon McCarthy's sparkling, rotation-leading 5.18 ERA?

Texas isn't exactly a beacon of arresting subject matter. As the worst team in the division (and one of the worst teams in baseball), the Rangers just haven't been too relevant. But that changed in a big way when Texas dealt the two most highly regarded players at the trade deadline. So Rangers faithful, here you go -- an entry devoted to the franchise from Arlington ...

The Rangers undoubtedly made the biggest splash at the deadline. On Tuesday, Texas formally announced a trade that sent first baseman Mark Teixeira and reliever Ron Mahay to Atlanta for catcher/first baseman Jarrod Saltalamacchia, minor-league shortstop Elvis Andrus and pitchers Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones. Later in the day, the Rangers flipped Eric Gagne for Red Sox pitcher Kason Gabbard and minor-league outfielders Engel Beltre and David Murphy. Touché, Jon Daniels -- I'm a big fan of the Texas GM's moves. Here are four big reasons why:

1. If it's broke, fix it: Eleven games below .500 and 14 1/2 games out of first place, it's clear that these Rangers just weren't built to succeed. Unlike a few other perennial losers (Washington and Baltimore come to mind), the Rangers actually recognized their ineptitude and shook things up. True, they gave up their best bat and best arm, but they received a pair of young major leaguers and -- more important -- stocked their farm system with some extremely high-ceiling talent (especially Andrus, Harrison and Beltre). This team's building for the future, which is more than can be said for a number of cellar-dwellers that stood pat at the deadline.

2. Everything with a grain of Salty: Saltalamacchia is undoubtedly the crown jewel of Texas' haul. Entering the season, Salty was Atlanta's No. 1 prospect, according to Baseball America. The dependable BA Prospect Handbook had this to say about him in its 2007 edition: "Saltalamacchia's calling card is his ability to hit and drive the ball from both sides of the plate. He has one of the sweetest swings in the game from the left side, displaying natural loft that should produce solid home run numbers." With Gerald Laird behind the plate, Saltalamacchia will spend most of his time at first base, at least for the time being. A talented, young first baseman in Texas with the ability to drive the ball from both sides of the plate -- sound familiar? While Saltalamacchia has huge shoes to fill (Teixeira hit at least 30 homers and 110 RBIs from 2004-06), there's just something about this kid that gives me a really good vibe.

3. Expanded role for C.J. Wilson: With the departure of Gagne, everyone in the bullpen takes on an increased responsibility. With Akinori Otsuka out until late August, Rangers manager Ron Washington has indicated that save opportunities will be split between Wilson, Joaquin Benoit and Frank Francisco. Personally, I think Texas should opt for Wilson. I'm a big fan of the 26-year-old south paw with a 2.44 ERA and .182 batting average against. He boasts nasty stuff that is tailor-made for the ninth inning. Since the All-Star break, he's been almost unhittable (2-0, 9 IP, 0 ERA, 0.33 WHIP, 12 K, 1 BB). Wilson has also nailed down the first two saves in the post-Gagne era.

4. Maybe Tom Hicks isn't dirt cheap: In the aftermath of the Teixeira trade, the Rangers owner publicly stated that he offered Tex an eight-year, $140 million deal (something which Teixeira has confirmed). In a surprise to many, Hicks showed that he's willing to shell out a large chunk of dough, which is great news for the Rangers heading into free agency this winter. This money could go to one of the premier center fielders (Andruw Jones, Torii Hunter) on the market.

  • After their thrilling 12-inning win over Los Angeles, the Mariners announced that they are calling up No. 1 prospect Adam Jones. Seattle Times columnist Geoff Baker reports that a number of veterans are upset about the promotion, including fiery Jose Guillen, who is legitimately "pissed off."

  • The A's didn't make a single move at the deadline, and Catfish Stew has two good reasons why.

  • Like Oakland, Los Angeles didn't do anything before Tuesday's deadline. This is nothing new for Angels GM Bill Stoneman, who annually fails to land promised upgrades. Joe Florkowski at Big A Baseball provides a priceless mock press release from deadline day.


    posted by SI.com | View comments |  
  • Comments:

    Posted: August 2, 2007 4:50 PM   by Anonymous
    Posted: August 3, 2007 9:01 AM   by Anonymous
    Hicks a cheapskate? Hmmm... Does 252,000,000.00 or so ring a bell? Perhaps you meant he is willing to spend money more wisely rather than merely willing to spend, something for which he certainly has a demonstrated penchant.
    Posted: August 3, 2007 12:15 PM   by Anonymous
    They should use Josh Rupe in the pen more often, I know they are trying to stretch him into a starter in the future, but get him working in the pen, he has some lightning stuff.
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