Q: The Rangers struck big at the trade deadline by acquiring starting pitcher Matt Garza from the Cubs. What are your thoughts on this deal, and how do you see it affecting the rest of the Rangers' season?
A: The Rangers have won the first two games that Matt Garza has started for them, and they were both close, low-scoring games, so you can make a case that the Garza deal may have gotten them two wins already. After what happened last season, I think the Ranger front office is acutely aware that one or two wins can make the difference in the season. That said, I wasn't a huge fan of the deal...I didn't hate it, but I felt like the Rangers gave up a lot of talent for a mid-rotation starter. But if the Rangers make the playoffs by a game or two, that Garza deal will be huge.
Q: On the downside, it's starting to look like Nelson Cruz will be suspended for his role in the Biogenesis scandal. If he does indeed miss time, what will the Rangers do to replace him in the lineup?
A: The Rangers didn't make a move at the deadline, so if Nelson Cruz gets suspended, they are going to have to replace him internally. Manny Ramirez isn't hitting in AAA, and isn't going to be called up, and Lance Berkman looks unlikely to play again this season, so they aren't going to be realistic options. Really, if Cruz gets suspended, it likely means more playing time for Jurickson Profar, and for Engel Beltre, and for Jeff Baker. The Rangers will probably look at someone like Jason Kubel or Kendrys Morales or Alex Rios if they clear waivers in August, but at this point, it looks like the help is going to have to come from within.
Q: Jurickson Profar and Leonys Martin have received substantial playing time this year. What have been your thoughts on the performances of these two highly-touted rookies?
A: Profar has played like a 20 year old shortstop who is major league ready. He's had mental errors, he's made mistakes, but he's held his own and looks like he can be a starting major league middle infielder. He's not hit as well as some had hoped, but that may be the result of unrealistic expectations. As far as Leonys Martin, he's been solid this year...again, you see that he still has some things to learn and he's made some rookie mistakes, but the talent is there, and I think he'll be an average to above-average outfielder for a while for the Rangers.
Q: What's happened to Mitch Moreland? Last time I checked, he was wrecking the ball, and now his OPS+ and wRC+ are both below league-average. Was he just over his head in the first half of the season, or was that early success (.806 OPS in first half) a sign of things to come?
A: Mitch Moreland is an enigma. The Rangers have liked him enough to go with him as their regular first baseman the past three seasons, and he's never quite done enough to really seize the job. Texas chose Moreland over bringing Mike Napoli back to be their regular 1B this season, in the hope that Moreland would be ready to take that next step, and it hasn't really happened. Moreland started off the season poorly, then got red-hot, then got hurt, and has been terrible since coming back from the d.l. Depending on how the final two months shake out, Moreland could end up getting replaced at first base next season by Ian Kinsler, with Profar going to second base.
Q: How has Joakim Soria looked in his brief stint with Texas? Is he anything like the pitcher he used to be after having a second Tommy John surgery a couple years ago? And is he someone who Texas can rely on for important innings down the stretch?
A: Other than a rough outing earlier this week, in which he loaded the bases and then saw all three runners score when Robbie Ross allowed a bases-clearing double to Josh Hamilton, Soria has been outstanding. The Rangers were supposedly shopping Joe Nathan for a bat at the deadline, and I think Soria's presence was a big factor in that. At this point, he looks like a terrific reliever who, I'm betting, will be closing games for Texas in 2014.
Click here to read more about the Rangers at Lone Star Ball (but there is no companion piece for this one).
The series opens tonight at 7:05pm in Oakland. Alexi Ogando faces Tommy Milone; hopefully we see Vampire Home Milone tonight! There are fireworks after the game, if you're into that sort of thing. Garza starts Game 2 for Texas. Nelson Cruz is, at this moment, still eligible to play.