Texas Rangers could have a Surprise trade in the works

Do the Texas Rangers have an interest in Jonathan Lucroy?

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Maybe it will turn out to be nothing — most leads at this time of year are. But a scout I know was astonished to walk into Surprise Stadium in Arizona the other day and count 17 other scouts in attendance. That’s right, 18 scouts for a Class A Rookie League Game.

The scout reasoned that younger players are drawing more attention in trade discussions because so many teams are reluctant to part with prospects who are closer to the majors. He surmised that the home team, the Rangers, was involved in multiple trade discussions. And he noted that the Brewers had multiple scouts watching the Texas youngsters — an indication, perhaps, that the Rangers are plotting to acquire Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

Again, one plus one at this time of year does not necessarily add up to two; too many variables are in play. Obviously, the Rangers’ biggest need is pitching, starting and relief. But teams, increasingly frustrated with the lack of starting pitching available in trade, might seek other ways to outscore opponents.

I referenced that concept in my Full Count video Saturday, talking about the Blue Jays’ possible interest in Reds outfielder Jay Bruce. The Rangers’ pursuit of Lucroy, if it is indeed a pursuit, would fit the same mold. The four catchers used by the Rangers this season have combined for the 12th best OPS in the majors. Lucroy, though, clearly would represent an upgrade.

The Brewers, meanwhile, repeatedly have traded for 20-and-under prospects under David Stearns, who became GM last September. Stearns acquired infielder Javier Betancourt, 20, for closer Francisco Rodriguez; three teenage right-handers for first baseman Adam Lind and infielder Isan Diaz, 19, as part of the package for Jean Segura.

Outfielder Leody Taveras, 17, and shortstop Anderson Tejada, 18, are two of the Rangers’ prospects drawing attention in the Arizona League. The Brewers, seeking a high price for Lucroy, probably would want one of the Rangers’ top prospects, a Jurickson Profar, a Joey Gallo. But a youngster such as Taveras or Tejada could end up as part of a deal.

Again, I’m just musing — I cannot say for certain that the Rangers and Brewers are in talks. But 17 scouts at an Arizona Rookie League is unusual. The lack of quality starting pitching in the trade market is unusual. Some funky things might happen between now and Aug. 1.

Baseball people are trying to figure out which teams might be opportunistic and surprise the industry by shopping a starting pitcher who currently is thought to be unavailable.

A survey of scouts at the Futures Game produced two reasonably intriguing names: Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda and Angels righty Matt Shoemaker.

The Yankees, after winning three of four in Cleveland and entering the break at .500, might not be willing to talk about Pineda, who had a 2.75 ERA in June before a poor start to open July. But why not? Pineda, who will be a free agent after the 2017 season, might command a greater return than he actually is worth.

Michael Pineda.

The Angels, on the other hand, are out of contention, but they likely will be reluctant to part with Shoemaker, who is under club control for four more seasons. Left-hander Andrew Heaney recently underwent Tommy John surgery, and righty Garrett Richards remains a candidate for the procedure.

• I asked a scout what stood out most to him at the Futures Game and he responded immediately: "(Alex) Bregman is ready." Another said: "I thought what he did on both sides of the ball showed that he won’t be long."

Bregman, drafted No. 2 overall by the Astros in 2015, hit a triple, double and single in his first three at-bats. He started at third base, his likely position in Houston, then moved to his natural shortstop position in the sixth inning.

The surging Luis Valbuena currently is at third for the Astros but could move to first with A.J. Reed becoming the DH and Evan Gattis serving as a right-handed alternative to Reed and Jason Castro at catcher.

• Triple A right-hander Alex Reyes, who started for the World Team and touched 101 mph, looms as a viable option for the Cardinals’ bullpen in the second half — "he does it very easy for a power arm; seems like an ace if he can stay healthy," one scout said.

The Cardinals are trying to balance their current need in the bullpen with their desire for Reyes to start next season — they want to make sure he finishes the year with enough innings to build upon in 2017. Triple A righty Mike Mayers and Double A righty Luke Weaver also are options for their major-league ‘pen.

Luis Valbuena

• A rival scout made an interesting observation about Red Sox Double A outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who appears to be closing in on a major-league promotion.

The scout said that Benintendi "gets to his power in different ways," meaning that the left-handed hitter does not simply pull balls to right field; he also is capable of lofting them to left, doing any number of things.

Benintendi, the Red Sox’s first-round pick out of Arkansas a year ago, has only 177 at-bats at Double A. Some Sox officials are wary of rushing him, knowing that shortstop Xander Bogaerts and center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. reached the majors quickly, then regressed before becoming All-Stars.

• Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon is eligible to return from his 80-game suspension July 28, but keep in mind that players who serve penalties for performance-enhancing drugs are not eligible for the postseason.

Gordon’s replacement, Derek Dietrich, entered the break batting .303 with an .837 OPS. Clearly, manager Don Mattingly will face an interesting decision once Gordon returns. He cannot ignore Gordon, who won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards last season. But he cannot simply dismiss Dietrich, ether.

The Marlins are tied with the Mets for the second wild-card spot, six games behind the Nationals in the NL East. They want to add a fourth starter to replace left-hander Justin Nicolino, whose rate of 4.18 strikeouts per nine innings would be the lowest in the majors if he had enough innings to qualify for the league leaders.