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2013 MLB Trade Deadline: Texas Rangers buying AND selling

Texas Rangers - MLB Trade Deadline
Texas Rangers - MLB Trade Deadline

Jul 28, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington (38) makes a call to the bullpen in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Rangers believe they have a strong chance to make the postseason. Sitting six games behind the division-leading Oakland Athletics, the club may not win the American League West. However, at only 1 ½ games out, the Wild Card remains well within their grasp.

To help make a final push to the playoffs, Texas recently added starting pitcher Matt Garza. The move cost them plenty including Justin Grimm and Mike Olt (two of their top prospects heading into 2013), and Class A flamethrower C.J. Edwards. However, the move has paid off thus far as Garza went 7 1/3 innings, giving up only a single run in his debut against the Yankees last week to earn the win.

The Rangers may not be done dealing. Texas has been rumored to acquire other players according to MLB Trade Rumors, including the highly-coveted Alex Rios, Hunter Pence, Kendrys Morales, Justin Ruggiano, and Michael Morse, among others.

Texas is looking for a bat and made a bit of a surprising move when they inked former All-Star Manny Ramirez to a minor-league deal earlier this summer. The former star has done reasonably well at the Rangers’ AAA affiliate (Round Rock) for a 41-year old, too. In 18 games and only 67 at bats, Man-Ram has 18 hits, three home runs, ten RBI, and is batting .269. Those aren’t superhuman numbers, but they’re proof that he could have something left in the tank.

The Rangers wouldn’t sign him if they didn’t hold out hope that he could help them down the stretch. If he isn’t able to do that, though, Texas will need to look elsewhere for a bat. The Rangers aren’t exactly struggling offensively, but ranking 14th in the majors in runs, they definitely have room for improvement. Having traded three of their better prospects away in the Garza deal, news broke recently that Texas is looking to an unlikely source as trade bait.

Closer Joe Nathan.

Now, we’ve seen contenders trade away baggage from their major league roster in order to swing a deal but Nathan doesn’t exactly qualify as dead weight.

The pitcher is making $8 million this season and earning every penny of it. The closer is 1-1 with 32 saves, 44 strikeouts in only 41 2/3 innings, and is sporting a 1.73 ERA. Nathan isn’t only one of the best relievers in his league, but in all of baseball. His 32 saves rank third in the American League and the veteran seems like the last player that would be on the trading block.

Talk about unconventional strategy. How many times do you see a contending team trade away a key piece? So what’s the deal?

Obviously the Rangers haven’t divulged their plans to the world, but if Nathan is on the block, you can be pretty sure that the target is to acquire some more offense. Not that the team couldn’t use another starting pitcher, but with the addition of Garza, the rotation is much more stable than it previously was.

CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler makes an interesting point, though. The teams interested in acquiring Nathan would be contenders, obviously. Those teams wouldn’t likely want to part with a big enough bat that would make the Rangers deal their star closer. There are contenders in need of a closer like the Pirates and Tigers. With the Jason Grilli injury, Pittsburgh could be interested in a player like Nathan, but they’re looking for bats themselves and can’t afford to give one away. Ranking first in the majors in offense, the Tigers do have the offense available, but why would they break up their team and deal a star to a team they could very well face in the first round of the playoffs?

In theory, the Rangers have other players that could step into the closer role so dealing Nathan might not be the worst thing they can do. However, there’s always a risk assuming other relievers can take on the role of closer in the middle of a season and with the difficulty of finding the right trade, a Nathan deal sounds like a long shot.

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