With the All-Star break now firmly in the rear view mirror and regular season action returning tonight, the the joyous time of year for wild and rampant trade speculation is now finally upon us. Our beloved local nine has already had their name bandied about in the last few days, as the Brewers were linked to both the Marlins and Mets by way of potential interest in Jeremy Jeffress. We can add another two players to the pile of trade bait, as today SB Nation’s own Chris Cotillo reported that the Slingin’ Stearns and the Texas Rangers have been chatting:
Source: Brewers and Rangers have discussed both Jonathan Lucroy and Will Smith. Sides do not appear close to striking a deal.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) July 15, 2016
Lucroy-to-Texas rumors are nothing new, of course, as the Brewers’ lone All-Star was linked to the Rangers throughout the past offseason. Stearns gambled by holding on to Lucroy into this year rather than trade him off a down and injury-marred 2015 campaign. His bet has paid off handsomely so far as the 29 year old catcher been healthy all year while hitting .304/.361/.491 with 11 home runs though 81 games along with his typical brand of strong defense.
The Rangers could certainly use an upgrade behind the plate, as the quartet of Bryan Holaday, Brett Nicholas, Robinson Chirinos, and Bobby Wilson have combined to produce a meager 78 wRC+, though they have provided generally solid work behind the dish.
While Lucroy has been oft-connected to Texas, this is the first time that I can recall Will Smith’s name being mentioned in connection to the Rangers. Smith missed the first two months of the season after tearing his LCL in spring training while taking off his shoe, but has prevented runs at a solid rate since returning to active duty. In 17.0 innings covering 19 appearances, Smith has posted a 2.12 ERA, though a 4.00 FIP may be a bit concerning. Smith’s average fastball velocity is down to an average of 91.5 MPH after being over 93 in the two previous seasons, which is likely a contributing factor to his diminished strikeout rate (23.1% from 30%+ during 2014-15). Smith has cut his walk rates down by roughly 2%, though, and appears to have increased his fastball and curveball usage while decreasing the use of slider by some 13% according to Pitch F/X.
By ERA, the Rangers bullpen ranks 2nd-to-last in the majors with both a 5.10 ERA and 5.09 FIP this season. Texas does currently have a five game lead in the AL West but if Jon Daniels wants his team to go anywhere in the playoffs he’ll certainly need to make an upgrade in the bullpen.
Cotillo did add that there wasn’t anything imminent on the trade front with Texas at this point, though that doesn’t mean that a deal can’t or won’t occur within the next 17 days. Ken Rosenthal recently reported that the Brewers have been scouting the Rangers rookie league team in Arizona, and the Rangers do have a highly rated farm system.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs