Rangers focused on acquiring bullpen help
Padres' Bell, A's Bailey among impact relievers on club's radar
TORONTO -- General manager Jon Daniels was on the Rangers' charter to Toronto after Thursday's game. So were several of his lieutenants as the club is only two days away from the Trade Deadline."You know they are going to do something when you've got the whole brass on the plane," Rangers reliever Darren Oliver said. Daniels and his confidants weren't up here to tour the Hockey Hall of Fame. They are here primarily to do something about the Rangers' bullpen, whether it's by acquiring Heath Bell and/or Mike Adams from the Padres, Leo Nunez from the Marlins or do something with the Athletics for either Andrew Bailey or Grant Balfour.
The Rangers have made no secret of the fact that they are trying to upgrade their bullpen, and it's obvious that they have had multiple discussions with the Padres concerning Bell. He is not the only one they are looking at, for, as one club official said, "We don't have all our eggs in one basket."But the Rangers also don't have a deal for Bell, even though some suggest it's inevitable and others suggest talks have stalled.
What is clear is the Padres are obviously holding out for multiple prospects in exchange for their All-Star closer, who began Friday with a 2.34 ERA and 30 saves. The Rangers got three players back from the Marlins in 2003 in exchange for closer Ugueth Urbina, including first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. The Padres also know they could get two Draft picks as compensation if Bell signs elsewhere as a free agent this offseason.If they can't close a deal for Bell, the Rangers will look at alternatives. The Athletics may be willing to talk about Bailey, but they'll probably want as much or more than the Padres want for Bell. Nunez is another possibility. Opposing clubs are eager to talk to the Rangers because their farm system is deep in pitching. The Rangers are quite reluctant to part with Triple-A left-hander Martin Perez, but opposing teams have been looking hard at their Double-A team that includes left-hander Robbie Erlin and right-handers Joe Wieland, who threw a no-hitter on Friday against San Antonio, and Tanner Scheppers. But any player could be traded in the right deal. Among those who accompanied Daniels to Toronto were assistant general manager Thad Levine, player personnel director A.J. Preller, pro scouting director Josh Boyd, farm director Scott Servais and senior advisor Don Welke. They spent Friday holed up in their Toronto hotel discussing their various options as the 3 p.m. CT Sunday Deadline approaches. "Whatever they do is going to make the ballclub better, you know that," Oliver said. "You can never fault management for that." Rangers relievers had a combined ERA of 4.46, the fourth highest in the American League, going into Friday's game. Their 15 blown saves were tied for the third highest. But they had also allowed just 23.2 percent of inherited baserunners to score, the second lowest percentage in the league. That means their relievers were doing a good job of coming into games and shutting down rallies. "Whoever they bring in, they wouldn't do it unless it made the team better," reliever Mark Lowe said. "If that happens, we'd all be excited, but roles would be switched around. That's part of it." The Rangers are looking for a right-handed setup reliever, but Lowe began the day having allowed just four of 30 inherited runners to score, a 13.3 percentage that was the fourth lowest in the league. He also had a 2.19 ERA in his last 15 games. Yoshinori Tateyama had allowed just two of 17 inherited runners to score and had a 2.31 ERA in his last 13 games. "I feel like our bullpen has done a pretty good job," Lowe said. "We've had some ups and downs, but that goes with every bullpen. With what we have now, we could definitely win. We've done that all year." The Rangers want to do better and that's why the team charter overflowed on Thursday night.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.