There are roughly four approaches for a big-league team to take when approaching the MLB non-waiver trade deadline, which occurs on July 31 of every year.
Teams can be buyers or sellers — the two extremes — or they can stand pat. The fourth approach is what we'll call "fine-tuning" or tweaking the roster a bit when you're in a bit of baseball purgatory. That seems to be where the Rangers will be this year — maybe a small move here or there to shore up the bullpen or add a right-handed bat, and then possibly a big move for controllable pitching like Cole Hamels, Chris Sale or Sonny Gray, all of whom will be on the trading block.
Martin Perez's return to the Rangers' starting rotation on Friday in Houston will be huge for the Rangers moving forward for a couple of reasons. First, and most obvious, is that he'll add a quality arm with projectible No. 2 starter stuff on the high end. Second, he could open up options for the Rangers to move some of their veteran starting pitching to acquire something in another position of need.
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The Rangers' current rotation sets up like this: Perez, Colby Lewis and Yovani Gallardo, who are set in that order for the Houston series to begin the season's second half. After that, it's some combination of Wandy Rodriguez and Matt Harrison, who just returned from his own 14-month layoff with far inferior results to what we expect to see from Perez.
The hope is that Harrison can keep a rotation spot this year, but the chances of that seem 50-50, at best.
You have to remember, the Rangers have a couple of proven starters down in Triple-A, as well, in the form of Nick Martinez (16 starts this year, 5-5 with a 3.43 ERA) and Chi Chi Gonzalez (7 starts, 2-4, 3.74).
So, say Perez comes back and sets the world on fire, which isn't that far-fetched given the stuff he flashed on his rehab assignment. The Rangers could trade at least one of their veteran free-agent-to-be starters, most likely Wandy Rodriguez, and slide Martinez back into their big-league rotation. If Harrison sticks, they could do the same with Gallardo, who would bring a massive haul back in return given his all-star level pitching this year and the fact he's an innings eater. With Derek Holland set to return sometime in the next month, they could bring Gonzalez back to be a place-holder for Holland and send him back down when Holland returns.
Then, again, assuming Harrison can hold a spot, you're looking at a rotation of Holland, Perez, Lewis, Martinez/Gonzalez and Harrison, or even Gonzalez. That's a rotation you could feasibly win with and doesn't even consider the factor of a possible deal for one of those big names like Hamels, Gray or Sale. In the meantime, you've seemingly gotten a big bat and/or bullpen help in return for Rodriguez and Gallardo.
The Rangers might not seem like big players at the upcoming deadline, but they very well could be, and a lot of that hinges on an effective Perez return.
Got it? Now, buckle up and see what happens because it's going to be an interesting couple of weeks.