The Texas Rangers won 95 games in 2016 before losing in the ALDS to the Toronto Blue Jays.
In 2018, the Rangers lost 95 games and their manager, Jeff Banister, was fired. Their “ace” Cole Hamels was dealt to the Cubs while their most popular player, Adrian Beltre, announced his retirement. And with all of that in mind, the Rangers have embarked on a rebuild and as Braves fans can attest, you never really know when the rebuild will come to a close. In the mean time, the Rangers have a cadre of young position players who could pass through arbitration and reach free agency before their young pitching talent – much of which is concentrated in Double-A or below – is ready to contribute and turn the tide.
As a result, the Braves would make an interesting team to talk to this offseason for our friends from Texas. Guys like Jurickson Profar, Nomar Mazara, and Joey Gallo represent intriguing choices for the Braves as they look to find an outfielder and deepen their roster. Meanwhile, the Braves have a litany of arms to trade from to interest the Rangers. Could a deal be made?
There is a bit of smoke here, though obviously not from the tight-lipped Braves’ side. TR Sullivan, a MLB.com beat writer for Texas, indicated that the Braves, along with the Mets, are interested in the Rangers’ outfielders. Profar isn’t exactly an outfielder, though he has played some left field throughout his career (about 210 innings) and held up pretty well. He’s currently expected to take over for Beltre at third base, but could be traded before then. Gallo, who was forecasted to be a third baseman at once himself, has looked like a better fit in the outfield – even playing some center field last year. And Mazara is a typical outfielder, though carries some bad defensive metrics.
One thing all three of these players have in common is something I spoke of yesterday – they aren’t tied down to long-term contracts. In fact, none of them have a contract for 2019 yet. Profar will be in the third year of arbitration with a fourth year to follow in 2020 as a Super 2 player. Mazara is hitting arbitration for the first time this year while Gallo is a year away.
Where would these players fit? Profar is a fun mix of a guy who can play all over and likely would have an opportunity to compete, with Johan Camargo, Charlie Culberson, and Adam Duvall, for the primary job in left field with superstud Ronald Acuña Jr. moving over to right field. The Braves wouldn’t really need an everyday guy to come forward from the group and could play whomever is hitting the ball well at the time. Profar would also be able to provide even more depth around the infield. Since finally getting a clean bill of health last year, Profar hit .254/.335/.458 with 20 homers and 10 steals. The switch-hitter had an identical 108 wRC+ against both left-hand and right-hand pitching and turns just 25 in February.
Gallo and Mazara are both left-handed hitters, though Gallo would be more of an everyday option. While he does hold some worse walk and strikeout rates against left-handed arms, he still maintains a 102 career wRC+ against southpaws. Simply put – Gallo’s power holds up against any pitcher. Of course, the strikeouts and hyper-pull nature of Gallo’s game are typically the headliners, but he still has a .344 wOBA against major league pitching with back-to-back 40+ HR seasons. Not for nothing, but the 5.6 fWAR he has over the last two seasons is comparable to Marwin Gonzalez, David Peralta, Corey Dickerson, and Jose Abreu. And with Kevin Seitzer, could Gallo reach new levels of positive offensive production?
Mazara has, to this point, hit left-handers much worse than righties and likely would need a platoon partner (Duvall?). Despite his limitations, Mazara has hit 20 homers in each of the last three seasons and has a .335 wOBA against right-hand pitching. Again, the Braves hitting coach could make some big strides with the young power hitter.
Perhaps the Braves could think blockbuster here and also look to add reliever Jose Leclerc. After struggling to throw strikes in 2017, Leclerc found the strikezone a good deal more in 2018 and was one of baseball’s best relievers. Like Gallo, he’s a year away from arbitration.
Personally, my dream package is Profar, Mazara, and Leclerc. Mazara has options and could be kept for depth or used in a deal for a starter. Of course, the cost for such a package would be significant. Something along the lines of Austin Riley and Ian Anderson, probably. It would be a big hit, but for a team competing for a 2019 title, it makes a lot of sense. Further, the Braves would still have money left to go after a starting pitcher.
Meanwhile, the mix of players for left field should be sufficient enough to put up positive offensive production while Leclerc gives the Braves a shutdown arm at the end of games. And, as always, these players fit what Alex Anthopoulos is looking for: young and team-controlled. While diving into the roster the Rangers have might lack the name value of a Craig Kimbrel or Bryce Harper, it appears like the better fit.