Rangers Improve Without Giving Up MLB Youngsters

The Texas Rangers are still trying to win a World Series five years after twice coming within a strike of their first title.

With another non-waiver trade deadline looming, and the cost of acquiring another starting pitcher apparently too steep, general manager Jon Daniels and his group "audibled a little bit."

Instead of adding to the rotation led by Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, the AL West-leading Rangers traded Monday for someone to catch the two aces and another to relieve them, getting two-time All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy and closer Jeremy Jeffress from Milwaukee.

That was after Texas had already acquired All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran, the 39-year-old switch-hitter who had been the top offensive player for the New York Yankees.

"We as an organization, a front office, really believe in this team," Daniels said. "This is a rare opportunity with some of these players on the market where we wanted to back the club up and put us in a better position to win."

The Rangers, who have an AL-high 62 wins, on Monday traded away five prospects and a player to be named later — including four pitchers and three former first-round draft picks. Another former first-rounder, a minor-league infielder, was sent to Atlanta last week for right-hander Lucas Harrell and reliever Dario Alvarez.

But Daniels quickly dismissed the growing widespread notion that the Rangers went "all in" to win in 2016 by trading away so much young talent in a short period.

"All in, to me, means you push all your chips on the table and you've got nothing left for the next hand. I don't view it that way at all," the GM said. "A lot of young guys on this team are going to be here for a long time, and we have a lot of other young players in the system."

Even while adding two All-Stars to their lineup Tuesday night at Baltimore, the Rangers still have Jurickson Profar, Nomar Mazara and Rougned Odor — young 20-somethings who have been at the top of the order. They didn't have to give up young slugging prospect Joey Gallo either, though he went back to Triple-A in the roster shuffling necessitated by the trades.

Plus, the 30-year-old Lucroy has a contract with a $5.25 million team option for 2017 and Jeffress won't be eligible for free agency until 2020.

Beltran has been to the playoffs with Houston, the New York Mets, St. Louis and the Yankees. But he remains in search of his first World Series title, as do the Rangers — who lost in five games to the San Francisco Giants in 2010 before their seven-game series against the Cardinals in 2011.

"It's fun, honestly," Beltran said of joining Texas in a pennant chase. "Hopefully, this is the year. And if it's not, it might be the next one."

Beltran hit .304 with 22 homers and 64 RBIs in New York and is expected to hit in the middle of the Rangers lineup.

"These kind of players, they're difference-makers down the stretch, and hopefully beyond that," Daniels said.

Like All-Star lefty Hamels last season, Lucroy nixed a deadline deal to another team before being acquired by the Rangers.

The 30-year-old Lucroy, hitting .299 with 13 homers and 50 RBIs in 95 games, blocked a trade Sunday that would have sent him to AL Central-leading Cleveland.

On his Twitter account after Monday's deal to the Rangers, Lucroy wrote, "let's take this bad boy to the `ship! Really excited."

Hamels last year voided a proposed trade that would have sent him from Philadelphia to Houston. Hamels is since 19-3 with 3.15 ERA in 33 starts for the Rangers, and his three-hitter on the final day of the 2015 regular season clinched the division title.

Darvish is the scheduled starter for Lucroy's expected debut with Texas on Tuesday night, and Hamels starts Wednesday.

Harrell went six innings to beat Kansas City in his Rangers debut Sunday, Nick Martinez is coming his best start of the season, and A.J. Griffin (4-1) is regaining his form since coming off the disabled list in late June. The Rangers also anticipate the return in late August or early September of right-hander Colby Lewis (strained right lat) and lefty Derek Holland (shoulder inflammation).

"We were prepared to acquire a starter if the right deal was there, but didn't feel we had," Daniels said. "In part, because we've gotten good reports on those guys coming back."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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