With work still left to do, the Rangers enter the Winter Meetings with a specific focus, writes Evan Grant. That focus? Prying away Andrew Cashner from the San Diego Padres.
With limited resources, which Grant speculates is "$15-17 million," Texas's front office are in the market for a MORP or an impact bat, though Justin Upton remains a long shot at this point. He and Nationals RHP Jordan Zimmerman are probably the two most attractive pieces worth acquiring from the Rangers' vantage point, but the downside is they are both playing on expiring contracts in 2015, are both expensive (Upton makes $14.5 million and Zimmerman $16.5 million), and both figure to demand a strong return in prospects.
There is no doubt they would immediately make Texas about four wins better, but it's difficult to ignore how un-Jon-Daniels-like a trade of that nature would be.
Cashner is more of a reasonable trade target since he is only projected to earn $4.3 million in 2015, per MLB Trade Rumors, and won't become a free agent until after the 2016 season. He would strengthen the 2015 roster and improve the Rangers' playoff chances in '16 as well, pitching in a formidable rotation featuring Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Martin Perez.
A high-strikeout pitcher in the minor leagues and early on in his big league career, Cashner has transformed into more of a control pitcher the last couple seasons, striking out only 18.1% and 18.4% of hitters in 2013 and '14, respectively, while walking 6.7% and 5.7%, also respectively. The added bonus he would bring to Texas is an excellent ground ball rate (career 50.9%), which figures to play pretty well in front of a defense featuring Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus on the left side of the infield.
One idea I'm not very fond of is Ken Rosenthal spitballing about the Rangers and Padres possibly aligning on a trade featuring Jurickson Profar. It's not even that I expect Cashner or RHP Tyson Ross or any number of Padres (Yusmani Grandal?) coming to the Rangers for free, it's that any trade involving Profar would be selling him on the super cheap. Last year the bright and shiny 20 year-old Rougned Odor came on the scene to play second base, and lost in translation many forgot that Jurickson was baseball's #1 prospect in 2013. That's number one. In all of MLB.
The fact that Profar was hurt during all of 2014, and didn't exactly set the world on fire when he was 19 and 20 (.231/.301/.343), doesn't play particularly well in memory, either. But make no mistake: albeit a wild card given his missed time last year, Profar's ceiling is still as an MVP candidate middle infielder. I'm as guilty as anybody for falling too in love with prospects, but moving Jurickson this winter screams of desperation in the most win-now sense imaginable. And I don't think the Rangers are in that position with the roster as it currently stands.
If anything -- and don't get me wrong, I don't think any of Texas's middle infielders will be traded this offseason -- Elvis Andrus is the player you move, not Profar or Odor, who combined will make under 7% of what Elvis is due in 2015. Even if Texas trade Andrus now, they are essentially just dumping his salary, and won't get a meaningful return. Rougned is the only one of this troika who the Rangers could cash in on this winter, and at this exact moment is the most valuable of three, what with Elvis coming off a down year and earning so much money, and Profar with injury concerns.
The key word to this offseason has always been creative. Jon Daniels has to be creative with how he improves the Rangers since he is so limited financially. Andrew Cashner is probably going to cost Nomar Mazara, which is going to sting, but not nearly as much as a guy like Jurickson Profar, who hasn't even scratched the surface of what he's capable of.