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Burning Questions for the Second Half



    The Rangers might have picked the wrong time to become a powerhouse in the American League.

    It was a third straight National League win in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night and that means that the Rangers will have to go without home-field advantage again if they make it to a third straight World Series. That comes after a run of 12 straight AL wins, in games that were actually allowed to reach their conclusion anyway, that coincided with the Rangers rarely being in position to capitalize on those wins.

    Mid-July is a bit too early to worry about the potential impact of the NL victory, of course, but thinking about home field does make you wonder about what the Rangers are going to need to do to get to the Fall Classic once again. Such thoughts lead to questions and ruminations on them are as good a way as any to spend the deadest sports day of the year.

    The questions aren't going to be about whether Michael Young can turn it around or if Joe Nathan's strong first half can be replicated, but about things that are outside the control of the current members of the roster. And we might as well start with the most exciting potential trade acquisition.

    Will the Rangers get Cole Hamels?

    One of the things that happens when you make the leap into perennial contender status is that you wind up getting linked to just about every high-level player who may be hitting the market via a trade. Some of that is because the rich like to get richer and some of it is because big clubs can bring better offers from teams trying to catch them.

    Interest in Hamels makes all the sense in the world given the injuries that have struck the Rangers rotation, but the price will likely be high for a player that the Rangers probably won't re-sign after the season. They were willing to do it for Cliff Lee -- although they got draft picks in compensation when he signed in Philly that have been eliminated in the new CBA -- so it would be foolish to rule out a bid for another lefty ace.

    What else will Jon Daniels do before the deadline?

    If he doesn't make a splash for Hamels, Daniels could add a lesser pitcher to flesh out the rotation or he could beef up the bullpen if the starter prices are too high. The former makes more sense since the Rangers pen has been strong, although there's likely to be more relief help available. A trade isn't the likeliest way to upgrade the lineup (see below), but a righty bat to help out in the outfield and on the bench would be welcome.

    Will Mike Olt make it to the show?

    Olt was just named as the 11th-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America and there doesn't seem to be much for him to gain by remaining in Double-A with Frisco. He's still figuring out first base while also playing third, but upgrading Mitch Moreland is the most obvious improvement the big club can make and there's no one who thinks Olt's bat won't play in the majors right now.

    If they aren't ready to promote Olt, who turns 24 in August, the team could also consider dealing him for a pitcher. That's a risky idea, but if they don't see him as their first baseman of the future it could lead them to take advantage of the fact that he plays third and turn him into a piece with more immediate upside.