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Carlos Beltran Rumors Heating Up

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The Rangers pulverized every pitcher they saw on Monday night and ran up 20 runs against the Twins in a huge win to open deadline week.

That would seem to quiet any concerns about their offense's ability to hold up over the long run, but appearances can be deceiving. Sunday's shutout loss might loom larger in their minds or they could be overly concerned about outfielder Michael Cuddyer's ability to shut them down late on Monday night, but there's definitely something causing the Rangers to look in that direction with the deadline right around the corner.

How else can you explain the team being widely recognized as the front-runners in the race to land Carlos Beltran in a trade with the Mets? Various sources agree that the Rangers are hot on the trail of the outfielder, even though there's some debate about how much they're willing to pay to acquire a rental player who can be a free agent after the season. The Mets did have scouts watching Jon Weiland's Double-A start on Sunday night, although it is unclear if he would be enough to get them to pull the trigger. 

Acquiring Beltran could be a counter-intuitive way to bolster weakness in the pitching staff. While the team is believed to be in on trade talks for any of the big pitchers on the market, Beltran seems to have moved to the front of the list of priorities. Putting him in the middle of an already strong lineup could make the Rangers offensively potent enough to cover for any frailties in the bullpen.

That kind of approach has proven successful in the past when it comes to making the playoffs, but it hasn't been as fruitful once October gets underway. Run prevention becomes more of a necessity than burning out light bulbs on scoreboards, especially as you face a steady diet of strong pitching from other teams.

That's why the Rangers remain interested in Heath Bell, Tyler Clippard and other high-profile relievers that could be on the market. The question there becomes if the incremental gain provided by Bell, for example, is greater than the one Beltran would provide. It's a tough equation to figure out, but it certainly seems plausible that adding Beltran and a lesser reliever might be worth more to the team in the long run.

As for starting pitching, it doesn't seem like there's much there for the Rangers. Ubaldo Jimenez is still being dangled by Colorado with a massive price tag that offers a lesser guaranteed return than Cliff Lee did last year. Hiroki Kuroda's name comes up a lot, but is taking a National League pitcher of some note into the American League really going to leave you with a better rotation than you have right now?

He might be, but only if Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison break down under the largest workload of their careers. That's a total question mark, although it would certainly behoove the Rangers to be prepared for such a development. No one should envy Jon Daniels's task of quantifying that need against the cost of a pitcher like Kuroda.

It's only Tuesday so there's plenty more where this came from to keep us busy this week. Just remember to keep it separate from NFL free agency. You don't want to harangue your friends about the need to re-sign Doug Free when the conversation is about Beltran's impact on the lineup.

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