- Rangers pitching prospect Yerry Rodriguez is done for the season because of a UCL sprain in his right elbow, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News relays. The club will shut Rodriguez down for six to eight weeks and then re-evaluate him. Rodriguez, who entered the season as FanGraphs’ 14th-ranked Rangers prospect, notched a brilliant 2.08 ERA/3.16 FIP with 10.38 K/9 against 2.57 BB/9 in 73 2/3 Single-A innings this season.
- Left-hander Zac Curtis has been released by the Rangers, according to the Pacific Coast League transactions log. Curtis, who just turned 27, went from the D-backs to the Mariner as a lower-profile piece in the Mitch Haniger/Jean Segura for Ketel Marte/Taijuan Walker swap. He’s bounced to the Phillies and the Rangers since that swap, appearing in the big leagues with each team along the way. Curtis re-signed with Texas after being outrighted this past winter, but he’s had a nightmare season in the hitter-friendly PCL. Despite racking up 40 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings, Curtis has been hammered for an 8.90 ERA due to 25 free passes, four hit batters and a whopping 10 home runs allowed. Prior to this season, Curtis had a solid Triple-A track record, although he’d also issued 35 walks in 38 MLB innings, so the alarming control issues aren’t exactly an out-of-the-blue development.
- Rangers prospect Anderson Tejeda will miss the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury, according to The Athletic’s Levi Weaver (Twitter link). Tejeda was ranked as the 93rd-best minor league in the sport by Baseball Prospectus prior to the season, though Tejeda’s year at high-A ball was halted on May 29 after he hurt his shoulder while sliding into a base. An international signing in 2014, the Dominican middle infielder has a .265/.332/.452 slash line and 45 home runs over 1672 professional plate appearances. MLB.com ranks Tejeda as the third-best prospect in the Rangers’ system, citing his good glovework at shortstop and a “plus-plus” throwing arm.
Solak, 24, has slugged 17 homers for Triple-A Durham so far this season, though his .266/.353/.485 line checks in just 11 percent above the league average in the rocket-powered International League. The utility man sits at #93 on FanGraphs’ latest update of the game’s top prospects, with the site especially lauding his makeup, versatility, and power/speed combo. An addition to the 40-man roster would have been necessary for the former Yankee farmhand this offseason, and with the club already possessing of Joey Wendle, rookie-of-the-year candidate Brandon Lowe, Christian Arroyo, Willy Adames, Daniel Robertson, Matt Duffy, Mike Brosseau, Yandy Diaz, and up-and-comer Vidal Brujan in roles that would mirror Solak’s eventual place on the roster, a move did seem prudent.
Fairbanks, 25, brought his super-charged fastball to Arlington for the first time this season. The 6’6 righty struggled big-time with command in his short Ranger stint, walking seven in just 8 2/3 IP, to go with four homers allowed, but did flash world-beating stuff over that span (15 K, 97.2 MPH average fastball velocity). The two-time Tommy John survivor has logged just 43 minor-league innings since a transition to the bullpen in 2017, a sample which hasn’t held back plaudits from evaluators around the game. FanGraphs describes the flame-thrower as an “impact relief piece,” grading his fastball/slider combo as one of the best for burgeoning relief prospects across the minors.
Fairbanks’ll head to Triple-A Durham, per Topkin, where he’ll bolster an already-staunch register of high-leverage pieces in the Tampa ’pen. Even without effective seasons from lynchpins Diego Castillo and Jose Alvarado, the Tampa ’pen reigns FIP-supreme in MLB this season, with an AL-best 45.5% grounder rate.
The assignment for Solak is as-yet unclear, but he’d seem to represent a perfect right-side complement to Nomar Mazara, Shin-Soo Choo, or Asdrubal Cabrera, all of whom have slumped badly against southpaws this season. Rougned Odor, he of the dreadful 63 wRC+, has actually been far better against same-side hurlers this season, so perhaps the club pans to slot in Solak full-time at the keystone in his place.
Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels indicated today that he is not willing to rule out a trade of top starter Mike Minor, as TR Sullivan of MLB.com was among those to cover on Twitter.
While Daniels also made clear he isn’t particularly inclined to move the organization’s best pitcher, it’s notable that he’s adopting such an open stance on the subject at this point of the season. With just over two weeks to go until the trade deadline, the Rangers are still sitting just 2.5 games out of Wild Card position. Though the eight-game gap in the division likely can’t be bridged, it’s not inconceivable that the Texas club will be in shouting distance by the end of the month.
All things considered, it’s a practical and realistic position to take for the Rangers’ top baseball decisionmaker. When he addressed the club’s deadline stance a month ago, Daniels said he intended to “stay true to our mind-set of trying to balance, continue to place a priority on the next few years.” He wouldn’t be swayed much by the standings, he further indicated, explaining: “overall we know which direction we’re going in.”
For an organization that hopes to reload with young talent while remaining competitive in the near-term, this has been a bit of a dream season. Not only has the club hit on several (but not all) free-agent investments, and seen strides from some (again, not all) key young players, it has put itself in position for a legitimate run at a playoff spot.
As for Minor … he fits somewhere in the middle on all fronts. Signed to a three-year deal before the 2018 season, he has outperformed all expectations. The $9.5MM salary he’s due this year and next seems to be a bargain now that Minor is through 117 innings of 2.54 ERA ball on the season. While the Rangers would like to continue enjoying Minor’s presence atop a rotation that still has quite a few questions, the chance of cashing in obviously tantalizes as well.
There’s one other possibility, of course: an extension. But Minor is 31 years of age and has a worrying history of arm maladies. Whether or not he’d be amenable to sorting out a new deal isn’t clear, but the Rangers would no doubt need to tread carefully for a contract to present a clear value proposition. At this point, it seems hard to view the possibility of an extension as a significant factor.
Ultimately, Daniels indicates more that he’s open to listening to offers than preparing to shop the veteran lefty. There’s a notable difference there, at least in theory. But the key question will arise at the point of decision. Will the Texas organization stand on a hefty asking price or will it ultimately take the best reasonable offer it’s able to procure?
Major League Baseball’s two Texas-based teams officially got the second half of the season underway Thursday. Led by another terrific performance from right-hander Lance Lynn, who struck out 11 in seven shutout innings, the Rangers coasted to a 5-0 victory over the Astros. Both teams’ rosters were missing some key components because of injuries. Here’s the latest on a handful of those players…
- Rangers designated hitter/outfielder Hunter Pence restarted a rehab assignment at the Double-A level Thursday, T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports. Pence played DH and will likely do the same Friday. After that, the Rangers hope to activate him over the weekend, per manager Chris Woodward. The 36-year-old Pence’s renaissance season came to a pause when he hit the IL on June 17 with a Grade 2 right groin strain. Pence then suffered a setback in his first rehab game July 1, causing the team to briefly shut him down.
- The Rangers announced that corner infielder Patrick Wisdom has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A Nashville. The 27-year-old went 4-for-26 with a double in a brief nine-game stint with Texas and has scuffled to a .199/.310/.389 slash in 259 plate appearances with Nashville this season. However, Wisdom mashed at a .288/.363/.480 clip in 421 PAs with the Cardinals’ top affiliate last season. The former supplemental-round pick has a generally solid track record in Triple-A and will stick around with the Texas org as a depth option in the event of further injuries at the MLB level.
The Astros will have a difficult decision to make after the All-Star break, when they will need to find a fifth starter to join the current group. As The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan writes (subscription required), Houston has gotten by with only four starters lately, thanks to a schedule that has afforded the team some well-timed off days. Corbin Martin would ideally be the guy to step up, but his season was cut short by an elbow injury. As Kaplan notes, the Astros are widely expected to target starting pitching at the trade deadline, so whoever is chosen will only need to hold down the fort for the next few weeks. With the addition of a fifth starter, of course, someone will lose their roster spot, and that may just be Tony Kemp. Kemp has seen his role diminish of late, receiving only sparing playing time while fellow bench bats Myles Straw and Tyler White fill more essential spots. Notably, Kemp is out of options, meaning that he will need to clear waivers if the Astros would like to demote him while keeping him in the organization.
- It doesn’t look like Rangers designated hitter Hunter Pence will be ready to return to game action immediately following the All-Star break, according to TR Sullivan of MLB.com. As Sullivan notes, Pence, who is recovering from a right groin strain, has yet to get to back to running full speed. Pence hasn’t appeared in a game for the Rangers since the middle of June, when he landed on the injured list. A minor-league signing last winter, Pence has been a revelation for Texas, emerging as a force in the middle of the lineup. His efforts earned him a spot on the All-Star roster, though he won’t be able to participate thanks to the injury.
- After the break, the Angels expect to welcome Matt Harvey back to the starting rotation, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group. On Sunday, he made a start for Triple-A Salt Lake, striking out seven batters in 3 1/3 innings of work. An upper back strain has prevented the veteran from pitching in the Majors since late May. When he has pitched for the Halos, though, the results have not been good: he’s worked to an unsightly 7.50 ERA in 10 starts and has thus far failed to live up to the $11MM contract he received in the offseason. Of course, he’ll have the rest of the season to reverse that, and he certainly has the talent to boost the playoff-hopeful Angels into the Wild Card conversation.
- Mariners right-handed pitcher Dan Altavilla will avoid Tommy John surgery after receiving the results from an MRI, tweets Greg Johns of MLB.com. That MRI showed no damage to Altavilla’s UCL, though he did endure a flexor strain in his elbow. To be sure, there’s nothing encouraging about elbow injuries, but the silver lining is that Altavilla won’t need to undergo Tommy John. Altavilla landed on the injured list after he “felt something in his forearm” while pitching on Friday.
The Rangers have selected the contract of right-hander Pedro Payano. Lefty Locke St. John has been optioned to Triple-A. Patrick Wisdom was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Payano.
New York native Payano will make his major league debut for the Rangers. He has primarily been a starter in the minors, 121 starts versus 27 appearances out of the pen, relying on deception and pitch diversity to make his living. In 15 appearances between Double-A and Triple-A this season, Payano, 24, went 5-3 with a 3.91 ERA, especially turning it on with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds (2-2 3.08 ERA). Payano isn’t a major innings eater, though he certainly could fill the role of a long man, if not taking a turn or two in the rotation.
St. John appeared in five games for the Rangers since June 25, largely holding his own until the Twins blew him up last night for three runs on four hits in an inning of work. In four appearances previous, St. John, 26, had surrendered just one run on two hits across 4 1/3 innings.
As for Wisdom, he’ll hit the waiver market after a disappointing tenure in Texas. The former first round pick of the Cardinals started the season playing more-or-less everyday between the infield corners in Texas, but a .154/.185/.192 line across those 9 games in April was all the Rangers needed to see. Back in Triple-A, Wisdom fared better, but not by much, hitting .199/.310/.399 across 259 plate appearances.
- The Rangers were within a week of summoning reliever Matt Bush back to the majors before he was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Bush had been rehabbing a prior UCL injury all season, but this week’s news means he’ll wind up missing the entire campaign and surely a large portion of 2020. The Rangers plan on sticking with in-house relievers to help fill Bush’s void in the immediate term, according to Wilson, though he suggests the injury will place a greater urgency on the club to acquire outside help before the July 31 trade deadline.