It might not sound like much, but if I told Rangers fans that, on June 29th, Texas would be losers in 7 of their last 8 and still be .500, most would take it.
As Jonah Kari writes (emphasis mine):
Rookie Chi Chi Gonzalez’s first four major league starts netted a sparkling 0.90 ERA. Nick Martinez, a lightly regarded second-year right-hander coming off an unimpressive rookie season, delivered a 2.65 ERA through his first 12 starts this year. Wandy Rodriguez, the 36-year-old lefty who looked like he might be done after six terrible starts with the Pirates last year, posted a 3.03 ERA through 10 starts in 2015. But all three of those unlikely contributors have been hammered over the past week and change, and given the relatively unimpressive peripheral stats of Gonzalez and Martinez in particular, it could be the start of some serious regression.
That can't be overstated. The Rangers are 38-38 and, away from Yovani Gallardo (2.72 ERA, 3.73 xFIP), don't have anything evenly remotely resembling a top of the rotation pitcher.
The offense, a modest 7th in the American League in runs scored (4.29 runs/game), has seen breakouts from Prince Fielder (.351/.418/.538, 160 wRC+) and Mitch Moreland (.298/.345/.507, 132 wRC+), but on the whole it can be described as incomplete, at best. The addition of Josh Hamilton at some point in Baltimore should help alleviate the nonexistent outfield offense at the moment, as none of Leonys Martin, Shin-Soo Choo or Joey Gallo have generated much of anything recently.
And yet, 38-38.
The next few weeks will be interesting for the Rangers, and will have a heavy impact on what the club decides to do around the trade deadline. Still only 5 games behind Houston, Texas has reinforcements on the way -- Matt Harrison likely before the All Star Break, Martin Perez and Derek Holland sometime after -- but is that enough?
Some local writer believes the Rangers need to bolster their bullpen, rather than shed prospects for a guy like Cole Hamels, because "Who pitches the seventh and eighth on the 95-degree nights when [Hamels] is gassed after six innings?" Logic.
The writer then goes on to say:
"But what if you trade multiple prospects for him and the Rangers end up as one of the two AL wild-card teams?
Hamels would have to pitch the one-game playoff. Would it be worth the price if you lose that one game?"
If you told the Rangers today that all they had to do was acquire Cole Hamels to be guaranteed a spot in Game 163, they would do it. Would that be worth, let's say, Nomar Mazara, Nick Martinez and Jake Thompson, plus another low-level piece, as Adam Morris spitballed last week?
Me, personally? I'd make that trade in a heartbeat. Which probably means it isn't nearly enough for the Phillies.
The point is, the question the Rangers have to be asking themselves, at least while they remain in postseason contention, isn't 'would it be worth the price if you lose that one game?' Instead, it's would Cole Hamels be enough to get us into that one game?
It's debatable. Up to this point, the season has had a very 2010-ish vibe to it, more in a sense that there is no dominant team in the American League West, and I could easily see Jon Daniels doing now what he did then, smelling the blood in the water before unloading at the trade deadline to acquire Cliff Lee.
On the other hand, with the Rangers teetering around the .500 mark, it won't take a whole lot going against them to plummet in the standings over the next month. This team has managed a .500 record on the next to last day of June largely from pitchers outperforming their peripherals and streaky performances from a couple hitters at a time. It's hard to build a playoff resume that way, but in 2015, at worst it's put Texas in a position to do something leading up to the deadline. Without Yu Darvish and Derek Holland and Martin Perez and Matt Harrison having even thrown one single pitch, that is a win for the organization.