CHICAGO, August 6, 2013 — Major League Baseball finally handed down the remainder of the Biogenesis suspensions yesterday suspending 12 players for 50 games and attempting to suspend Alex Rodriguez for 211 games, although his appeal will likely consume the next month.
Many of the players suspended are on teams that are already out of the playoff race. Jhonny Peralta will hurt the Tigers as he was having a solid year with a .305/.361/.461 slash line, but Detroit attempted to address this at the deadline by adding Jose Iglesias.
The Texas Rangers, however, did not address the potential, and now very real, suspension of Nelson Cruz. Texas did add a starter in Matt Garza though. Cruz had been having a very good year with a slash line of .269/.330/.511, 27 HRs and 2.3 WAR while making his second all star team. Cruz has had a rather substantial injury history and the 108 games he already played this year are the fourth most of his career.
The question then becomes can the Rangers still make the playoffs without Nelson Cruz? According to Cool Standings, the Rangers currently have a 57% chance of making the playoffs. They are sitting two games behind the Oakland A’s in the American League West and hold a half game lead over the Indians for the final Wild Card spot.
For now, the Rangers will replace Cruz with David Murphy, who is performing below his career averages and has provided 0.0 WAR this year. He has been replacement level after providing 3.5 WAR last year. If Murphy were to approach last year’s production, there would be very little drop-off from Cruz, but if he continues at his current rate of production, the Rangers will lose roughly one win in replacing Cruz with Murphy. This win could be critical with both the races for the AL West and Wild Card being as close as they are.
The pitching staff in Texas is starting to get healthy. The subtraction of Justin Grimm’s 6.37 ERA and the addition of Matt Garza seem to have stabilized a rotation that already includes Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando, and Martin Perez. It would appear the days of using guys like Nick Tepesch and his 4.85 ERA are in the past.
In addition, the Rangers will likely get Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz back at various points in the next couple of months, which will further strengthen the rotation, and with the ability to move Ogando to a setup role, the bullpen as well. The run prevention side that GM Jon Daniels has accumulated, if healthy, may be so strong that even Manager Ron Washington will be hard pressed to mess it up.
Another possibility for the Rangers would be to acquire an outfielder that has cleared waivers before August 31. To obtain someone this way the player would need to pass through waivers unclaimed, in which case he can be traded to any team, or a team can win the waiver claim process by placing a claim on a player on waivers. Players who clear waivers are typically high salaried, under performing players.
Occasionally, there will be a big trade like last year’s Red Sox and Dodgers trade in this window, but more often it is players like Cody Ross in 2010. Some potential acquisitions would include Alex Rios, Josh Willingham and Nate Schierholtz, but it is almost impossible to predict who will make it through waivers, much less to the Rangers.
If the Rangers stand pat, it seems that their improvements in run prevention can make up for the drop off from Cruz to Murphy. If they were to acquire a better outfielder who has cleared waivers, it would only improve their position. The numbers say the Rangers have a good shot to still make the playoffs, but whether or not they do, well, that’s why they play the games.
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