Remember all the talk about Texas and Cole Hamels?
Oh, the Rangers still could justify such a trade, even after getting thrashed by the Angels all weekend and falling below .500. Hamels is under control for three additional years and possibly four. The Rangers plan to contend during that period regardless of how this season turns out.
Thing is, the Rangers already have a potential surplus in their rotation, one that could compel them to trade left-hander Wandy Rodriguez before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, according to major-league sources.
They also have a dire need for a premium right-handed bat; their top right-handed hitter, third baseman Adrian Beltre, was showing signs of decline even before missing more than three weeks with a sprained left thumb.
The Rangers’ left-handed hitters include Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, Josh Hamilton, Mitch Moreland and Rougned Odor, not to mention top prospect Joey Gallo. Their top right-handed hitter, at least according to OPS, is rookie Delino DeShields Jr.
Somehow the Rangers must strike a better balance, particularly when they rank 13th in the AL in OPS against left-handed pitching. One way they could resolve the logjam, sources say, is by attempting to trade Choo.
Such a deal almost certainly would need to wait until the offseason, when teams are more flexible. Choo, who turns 33 on Monday, is owed $102 million over the next five seasons, and his contract includes a limited no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to 10 clubs.
To move him, the Rangers would need to be creative — they could include significant cash, attach prospects, take back expensive talent, all of the above. Choo is still potent against right-handed pitching (.854 OPS in 207 plate appearances) but helpless against lefties (.481 OPS in 120 PAs).
His .715 OPS in 1½ seasons with the Rangers probably is what the team thought it would get on the back end of his seven-year, $130 million free-agent contract; Choo had a combined .851 OPS in his five previous seasons.
Put it this way: It will be a heck of a lot easier for the Rangers to trade Rodriguez, whom the team signed for a pro-rated portion of the minimum salary with $1.8 million in performance bonuses based on games started.
HOWIE THE CUB?
Joe Maddon was the Angels’ bench coach when Howie Kendrick was a minor leaguer with the club. Now Maddon is the Cubs manager and Kendrick is the Dodgers second baseman, but it’s possible their paths will cross again.
Kendrick, who turns 32 on Sunday, is among the free agents that the Cubs are expected to consider this offseason, sources say.
True, the Cubs’ infield is stacked. But the team could trade Starlin Castro to make room for Addison Russell at shortstop. Javier Baez could play third if Kris Bryant moved to left, or fill a super-utility role.
The Cubs, of course, are not the only team expected to show interest in Kendrick. The Dodgers likely will attempt to re-sign him. The Yankees are a possible suitor. The Angels could try to bring Kendrick back. And other clubs surely will be involved.
The Athletics’ Ben Zobrist and Mets’ Daniel Murphy will be the other name second basemen on the market, but Zobrist is more of a super-utility man and Murphy is a below-average defender.
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis offers a fascinating take on super-utility man Kike Hernandez, who arrived from the Marlins in the Dee Gordon trade.
“He blows me away with his ability to play every position and take exciting at-bats,” Ellis said. “The ball jumps off his bat at a different speed. I take batting practice with him every day. Watching him hit makes me feel old.”
Ellis is 34, Hernandez 23. And while Gordon will start for the NL at second base in the All-Star Game, one Dodgers official describes the deal as “one of those rare trades that neither side would unwind.”
While the successes of Gordon and Dan Haren make the deal look good for the Marlins, the Dodgers also are happy with their return — Kendrick, whom they acquired for pitching prospect Andrew Heaney, plus Hernandez, right-hander Chris Hatcher and catcher/second baseman Austin Barnes.
Gordon has proven better defensively than the Dodgers’ new regime thought, perhaps due to his work with Marlins infield coach Perry Hill. He also might be benefiting from playing in a less pressurized environment. Still, the Dodgers can either re-sign Kendrick or make him a qualifying offer that would land them a draft pick.
They view Hernandez as a quality bench player, Hatcher as a long-term asset in the bullpen and Barnes as a legitimate prospect.
REDDICK TO ANGELS? NOT SO FAST
The Angels, according to major-league sources, not only made a trade inquiry to the Athletics about outfielder Josh Reddick, as first reported by MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez, but also about Zobrist.
The conversations took place before the resignation of GM Jerry Dipoto, and they did not gain traction. The A’s in fact, gave the Angels a flat “no” on Reddick — GM Billy Beane resisted trade offers for Reddick all last offseason, even as he dramatically reconfigured the club.
Beane’s position is not likely to change even after Reddick’s comments alleging that the front office dictates manager Bob Melvin’s lineups. Reddick has spoken out before, and Beane rarely acts out of emotion.
Yes, Beane repeatedly has demonstrated that for the right return, he will trade any player to any team, even one in his own division. Reddick, though, is earning $4.1 million this season and will be affordable for the A’s next season as well in his final year of arbitration before free agency.
A STIRRING COMEBACK IN BALTIMORE
Last September, before a FOX broadcast at Camden Yards, Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez threw what appeared to be a meaningless simulated game.
After he was finished, I recall saying something inappropriate to pitching coach Dave Wallace, something along the lines of, "Why even bother?"
Jimenez, then in the first year of a four-year, $50 million free-agent contract, turned out to be a surprise inclusion on the Division Series roster, though he was left off the ALCS roster.
Why did Wallace bother? Why do coaches continually work with players who look like lost causes, even those who are guaranteed a lot less than $50 million?
Because the coaches are professionals. And because you never know.
Jimenez, 31, has emerged as a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year this season, producing a 2.96 ERA and career-best 3.21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his first 16 starts.
His resurgence is partly due to his work with the Orioles’ new special assignment pitching instructor, former major leaguer and fellow Dominican Ramon Martinez.
Jimenez also appears to have come back stronger after throwing only 125 1/3 innings last season due to a sprained right ankle and time that he spent in the bullpen.
One other thing: Jimenez believed in himself, allowing Wallace, manager Buck Showalter and others to believe in him.
“He didn’t give in at all,” Wallace said. “He looked at us and said, ‘I have more faith and trust in myself than anybody. I’m going to be OK.’ He continually said that no matter how bad things were. And they got pretty bad.”
I always try to be respectful of struggling players — one of the first lessons I learned from Tim Kurkjian as a young writer in Baltimore was that the game is extremely difficult to play.
Well, I slipped that day in Baltimore. And I’m happy to apologize to all involved!
YOU CAN’T MEASURE IT, BUT …
Some sabermetricians — I’m talking to you, Brian Kenny — dismiss the significance of intangibles, contending they are impossible to quantify and insignificant to winning.
Well, I wish Kenny could have heard Mets manager Terry Collins talk about the lift that David Wright gave his teammates upon meeting them at Dodger Stadium on Friday afternoon.
Wright had been away from the club while rehabilitating from spinal stenosis in Los Angeles. But he remains the Mets’ biggest star, the face of the organization, and his absence has left the team with more than just a void on the field.
Collins described the mood as “completely different” with Wright in the room, saying the players were laughing more, talking louder. No one would suggest that Wright’s presence is the reason the Mets won two of three from the Dodgers. But these things matter, more than some people think.
For all their difficulties this season, the Indians entered Monday’s play only 4½ games out in the wild-card race, and their rotation was among the best in the game.
If they eventually sell, sources say the players most likely to be traded would be veterans such as David Murphy and Ryan Raburn, both of whom are under affordable club options for 2016.
The team continues to draw inquiries about first baseman Carlos Santana, but is reluctant to move a switch-hitter who is earning $6 million this season and $8.25 million next season with a $12 million club option for 2017.
Those salaries are decidedly club-friendly. So while Santana, 29, is showing diminished power for the second straight season, the Indians are inclined to stay with him, given his track record and how difficult it is to find offense.
If the Indians buy, they could seek to add a late-inning reliever and possibly a hitter, depending upon the performances of their young players and the health of their veterans, sources say.
AROUND THE HORN
● The Mets might want to take another look at Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who has batted .383 with three homers and a 1.115 OPS in his last 53 plate appearances.
At this point, the Mets cannot count on Wright returning as a significant contributor, or even returning at all. Smart, aggressive teams seek even marginal upgrades, and the Brewers likely would part with Ramirez for a price that the Mets could absorb even if Wright came back strong.
What is the problem?
● Shortly after trading right-hander Touki Toussaint, Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart said, “Guys are mentioning that he throws 96 mph. He hasn’t thrown 96 mph since he’s been here. We haven’t seen 96 once.”
Well, Toussaint touched 98 in his most recent start for the Braves’ Class-A Rome affiliate on Saturday night, pitching five scoreless innings.