Could the Rangers bring back Lee before trade deadline?
MAY 28, 2013 1:29p ET
But anyone who believes the Rangers can make noise in the playoffs with this cast of characters is being incredibly naïve. We caught a glimpse of this over a Memorial Day Weekend that saw the Rangers suffer their first three-game losing streak of the season. The team wasted a decent effort from rookie Nick Tepesch in a walk-off loss to the Mariners on Sunday. It was a rare blown save for closer Joe Nathan, although he foreshadowed it with some recent shaky performances.
In the first of a day-night doubleheader Monday against the D-Backs, left-hander Martin Perez looked a lot like the skittish pitcher who made a few starts last season. Not even staff ace Yu Darvish could save the Rangers from being swept Monday, although he rung up 14 strikeouts in a no-decision. The Oakland A's have pulled to within three games of the Rangers, and even the deadbeat Angels are making some noise.
All of this highlights the fact that Rangers GM Jon Daniels has to make a deal before the July 31st trading deadline in order for the Rangers to be a legitimate threat in the playoffs. Even if Colby Lewis is able to return to form at some point this season, it won't be enough. If his rehab starts are any indication, this might not be the Lewis we remember.
The Rangers made a trade before the deadline in 2010 that forever changed the organization. Acquiring left-hander Cliff Lee gave the Rangers instant credibility and he helped carry them to their first World Series appearance. And since the trade worked so well the first time, perhaps it's time to think about going after him again. Lee's one of the only reasons the Phillies are within shouting distance of .500. He is 5-2 with the ninth-best ERA in the N.L. (2.48). The Phillies are 6 ½ games out of first place in the N.L. East, and they might be interested in dumping Lee's enormous salary. If the Phillies would accept an offer that doesn't include the top prospect in baseball, Jurickson Profar, then it's something the Rangers should definitely consider. Since the team elected not to re-sign Josh Hamilton and didn't win the Zack Greinke sweepstakes at the winter meetings, surely absorbing Lee's contract wouldn't be prohibitive.
Lee has a no-trade clause in his contract, but the Rangers are one of nine teams he's willing to waive it for. With Lee pitching behind Darvish, the Rangers could be a force in the playoffs. If you go with status quo, it's hard to imagine them going anywhere. Would the Rangers have suffered the same collapse last September had Greinke been acquired at the deadline? We'll never know.
An amazing thing that's happened to the Rangers fan base is an obsession with prospects. Fans have heard so much about Profar's immense potential that they've deemed him untouchable. I think that's a dangerous mindset for any organization. If Nolan Ryan and Daniels had decided that Justin Smoak was untouchable in 2010, the Rangers might still be waiting for their first World Series trip. It's hard to imagine now, but Smoak was once one of the top prospects in baseball. But even if Smoak had become an All-Star caliber player for the Mariners, it was still worth making the deal.
If the Rangers could land Lee with a package of, say, Mike Olt, Martin Perez and Justin Grimm, they should pull the trigger. Of course, it would help if Olt could recover from this mysterious vision issue. And I'd think about letting Perez hone his craft in Round Rock for a few weeks.
Any bitterness about how Lee and his agent handled the negotiations with the Rangers should be gone by now. Lee wanted to be part of a "dream-team" staff and it didn't pan out. At least he didn't choose the Yankees over the Rangers.
For now, the Rangers seem to have a lot of assets in terms of prospects. The problem is that too many of them are in the major-league rotation.
If Lee's there for the taking, the Rangers need to make a move. Think of it as a major discount on the deal they offered following the 2010 season.
+ SHOW COMMENTS +