Fixing Joey Gallo and catching Isiah Kiner-Falefa more among Rangers' second-half projects

Fixing Joey Gallo and catching Isiah Kiner-Falefa more among Rangers' second-half projects

As the Rangers prepare for the second half of the season and kick their organizational overhaul into first gear, they approach it with 2020 vision.

Or 2021. Possibly 2022.

What’s clear is the rebuild won’t be completed by the trade deadline or by the coming offseason. This is a long-term project. And though it’s been clear since the first month of the season that this was the direction the team was headed, only now can it take the first big steps towards actually implementing changes.

The trade deadline may allow the Rangers to restructure the roster. It may allow for more experimentation with young players and more opportunities for them as well.

There is a laundry list of projects to tackle going forward. Here are five the Rangers can put to use over the final 65 games of the season

Fix Joey Gallo: Advanced metrics suggest Gallo has made marginal improvements in hitting the ball the opposite way, chasing pitches and hitting the ball hard. It has not translated to results. More egregious is this: Teams are taking away more hits with dramatic shifts and Gallo must combat that by being able to control his bat a bit more and lining the ball through the open left side. He can’t count on his career being rescued by an in-the-future rule; he has to take ownership of the situation himself. He made necessary adjustments last year at the All-Star break. He must do it again this year. It’s no longer OK to say he’s a “unique” player. Right now, his OPS makes him the antithesis of unique; it makes him extremely ordinary.

Exploit the system: The Rangers don’t have the trade chips who will, on merit alone, bring a haul to accelerate the rebuild of the farm system and the major league roster. They must use every avenue they can to maximize this window for acquisition. They did this recently by, in essence, buying right-hander Jason Bahr from San Francisco for taking on the remaining $4.5 million obligation on Austin Jackson. If they can “buy” other prospects by taking on some money for the remainder of this year, they should. If they can get a team to trade an international bonus slot or two in a deal, they should (especially if they make a trade with Atlanta, which is under penalty and can’t use its slots anyway). They should be particularly meticulous on waiver postings. There are no shortcuts to this rebuild, but there are windows that allowed for increased activity. The next six weeks are one of those windows.

Catch Isiah Kiner-Falefa more: For the last month, Kiner-Falefa has caught an average of once a series. The Rangers need to more equally split time with Robinson Chirinos and work Kiner-Falefa into the lineup in the infield once or twice a week, too. This would give him, on average four or five starts per week. He needs the reps and the more burdensome workload so the Rangers can get a picture of how this unique super utility possibility might work out. And Kiner-Falefa will make use of any fatigue or dropoff in his play as a baseline for how he must prepare going forward.

At-bats for Scott Heineman: It would be great if the Rangers got 150 at-bats each for Heineman and Willie Calhoun, but, with Joey Gallo, Delino DeShields and Nomar Mazara all in the outfield picture, that may be tough to do. If they must pick one, they should go with Heineman. Offensively, he’s been every bit as productive as Calhoun this season, but he’s also more athletic and more versatile. He’s also older – he’s going to be 26 in December. There is no reason to waste major league service time on Calhoun, who is only 23, before he’s truly the best choice for a callup. Teams must consider that they will only have players for six seasons of major league service. It’s best to save as much as possible to be used at a time when it might make a difference in the standings.

Do something about starting pitching: If you think the starting rotation was an issue this year, consider 2019. Right now, it might consist of Martin Perez, and, well, that could be it. Cole Hamels could be traded; so could Mike Minor. More than likely the Rangers are going to be searching for at least three starting pitchers. It would be nice to have a couple emerge from the minors. The problem remains: There isn’t much there. Yohander Mendez, supposedly the most advanced prospect in the system, went backwards this year, was demoted all the way to Class A. He is currently at Double-A, will be out of minor league options in 2019, and has done nothing to earn a look. Ariel Jurado pitched just OK in his lone major league start. Pushing Jonathan Hernandez to the majors in September is possible, but should a guy who started the season at Class A be counted on as a piece for 2019? Whether Mendez or Jurado “deserve” long-term looks, the Rangers have to give them because they have no other choices. The other possibility: Maybe the Rangers experiment a little with some bullpen games the way other clubs have this year. The Rangers are in desperate straits when it comes to starting pitching.

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Hamels: Going from Rangers back to Philadelphia would be 'a blessing'

Hamels: Going from Rangers back to Philadelphia would be 'a blessing'

Texas Rangers left-hander Cole Hamels told Philly.com that returning to the Philadelphia Phillies would be “a blessing.”

Hamels said he has been impressed by the performance of the upstart Phillies, who begin Friday’s play leading the National League East by 1/2 game. 

Hamels has also maintained a home in Delaware County, outside Philadelphia. His children attend a private school in the area.

“If something like that does happen, I think it would be a blessing,” Hamels told Philly.com. “You do look back. And Philly has a great group of guys that they’re bringing up and the future of a world championship team. You just have to give it to them and give them their space.

“If it happens, it happens. But I can’t wish or long for something like that because I’m still trying to figure out how to pitch well in five days, six days.”

Hamels broke into the majors with the Phillies in 2006 and was a key figure on the 2008 club that won the World Series. 

The out-of-contention Phillies sent Hamels  to the Rangers in July 2015 for a package of prospects and injured veteran Matt Harrison. The Rangers reached the playoffs with Hamels at the front of the rotation in 2015-16.

Hamels’ contract includes a team option for 2019 at $20 million.  He would receive a $6 million buyout if the club does not pick up the option. 

Hamels, 34, is 5-8 with a 4.36 ERA in 19 starts. In his last nine starts, Hamels is 2-4 with a 5.51 ERA and 10 homers allowed in 50 2/3 innings. Hamels is scheduled to make his first start of the second half on Sunday against Cleveland at Globe Life Park.

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Rangers' Shin-Soo Choo makes most of All-Star Game debut, sparks rally in American League's 8-6 victory

Rangers' Shin-Soo Choo makes most of All-Star Game debut, sparks rally in American League's 8-6 victory

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Shin-Soo Choo, the Rangers’ offensive standout, made his long-awaited All-Star Game debut on Tuesday night. Choo did what he does best.

He hit, against about the toughest pitcher imaginable for him.

Pinch-hitting against nasty Milwaukee left-hander Josh Hader, Choo triggered a three-run rally by the American League in the eighth inning with a single. In the regular season, left-handed hitters are 3 for 53 with 34 strikeouts against Hader.

It was a rare single in a homer-fest. There were nine homers overall, including back-to-back blasts by Houston’s Alex Bregman and George Springer in the 10th inning against Ross Stripling of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Southlake Carroll to give the AL a 7-5 win at Nationals Park.

After the glamour of the All-Star experience, Choo goes back to the grind of the second half with the last-place Rangers on Friday against Cleveland. Choo has a simple goal.

“Stay healthy,” Choo said beforehand. “Play as many games as I can in the field. That’s my goal.”

Choo has not played the outfield since June 27 because of a sore right quadriceps muscle. That has put manager Jeff Banister in the difficult spot of squeezing two designated-hitter types in Choo and Adrian Beltre into one lineup spot.

Choo said he would like to continue his current on-base streak of 51 games, but that is not an obsession. Choo also understands that his name likely will pop up in trade conjecture.

“I can’t control that,” Choo said. “Honestly, I like the Rangers. I want to win a championship there. That’s my goal. That’s why I came here.

“On the other side, this game is a business. You never know what’s going to happen the next day. That’s why you just go out and play.”

It was suggested to Choo that his first All-Star appearance at age 36 served as overdue recognition of what has been a solid career. As is his nature, Choo declined the invitation to gloat.

“Think about it,” Choo said. “There are 30 teams with the best players in the whole world. Onlly a couple of players on each team make it. I just wished that once in my career I would make it.”

NL shortstop Trevor Story of Irving and Colorado joined in the power show by tying the game at 2 in the seventh with a lead-off homer off Houston’s Charlie Morton in the seventh to tie the game at 2.

Story, with Colorado, is a product of the North Texas amateur scene. That played a major role in making him a quality major-leaguer.

“Travelling around the country and playing against the best teams, that was big for me,” Story said. “It helped me when I got into the pro game, that’s for sure.”

There were others.

Bobby Witt Jr., of Colleyville Heritage, added to his standing as the top high-school player in the country for the 2019 draft by winning the prep Home Run Derby.

Max Muncy, of Keller and the Los Angeles Dodgers, made it to the semifinal round of the major-league Home Run Derby before losing to local favorite Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.

Right-hander Corey Kluber, of Cleveland and Coppell, was named to the original American League pitching staff but had to remove himself because of knee soreness that required an injection. The condition will cause Kluber to miss a series against the Rangers when play resumes on Friday.

Stripling, of the Dodgers, made the NL club as a replacement for St. Louis’ Miles Mikolas, who pitched on Sunday.

“It says nothing but good things when you have those kind of players out of the area,” Stripling said before the game. “To have that many guys make an impact from out level is pretty special. It makes you proud to be from North Texas.”

Twitter: @gfraley

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'I'm just glad to be back there:' Ex-Ranger Jeremy Jeffress feels the love back in Milwaukee

'I'm just glad to be back there:' Ex-Ranger Jeremy Jeffress feels the love back in Milwaukee

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Right-hander Jeremy Jeffress has re-established his career after an inconsistent run with the Rangers during the 2016-17 seasons.

Jeffress was in the National League bullpen for the All-Star Game on Tuesday at Nationals Park. He went 6-1 with three saves, 14 holds and a 1.34 ERA in 47 innings during the first half with Milwaukee.

Jeffress was 2-2 with no saves, 10 holds and a 4.67 ERA in 54 innings during his time with the Rangers. They sent him back to the Brewers on July 31, 2017, for right-hander Tayler Scott, who has been at Triple-A Round Rock all season.

“It’s the comfort of being able to go out and pitch,” Jeffress said of the change “The manager puts me in some situations that I’m comfortable with, and I compete.

“The city of Milwaukee has always supported me from the first day. I appreciate that. I’m just glad to be back there. ”

Jeffress declined to go into what held him back during his time with the Rangers. He missed one month late in the 2016 season following a drunk-driving arrest in Dallas and stay in a rehabilitation center.

Twitter: @gfraley

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41-55 – Rangers make Orioles appear competent in 1-0 loss

41-55 – Rangers make Orioles appear competent in 1-0 loss

Martin Perez is back and tonight he was very Martin Perez-y as he produced a million ground balls, induced three double plays, struck out four in seven innings, and lost. If you include the free space, you just won Martin Perez Bingo!

Perhaps that was overly snarky at Marteen’s expense as Perez tonight was easily the best he’s been all season and still the Rangers lost 1-0 and committed three errors against a team that already has 69 losses before the All-Star break.

Indeed, Martin Perez deserved better.

Player of the Game: Shin-Soo Choo went 1-for-2 with two walks and his leadoff free bag swiftly extended his streak to 50 games. 50 is a cool round number and, shockingly, still 34 games from Ted Williams’ all-time record but the longest such streak in over ten years.

Up Next: The stupid first half of this dumb season comes to a close with Mike Minor on the mound against someone Baltimore has not yet announced. First pitch of the finale is scheduled for 12:05 pm CT and then you won’t have to even think about the Rangers for several days!

Why the Rangers decided pass on Denton's Austin Jackson

Why the Rangers decided pass on Denton's Austin Jackson

BOSTON – The Rangers designated Denton’s Austin Jackson for assignment Wednesday when it became clear they could not find a trade partner unwilling to take on any significant amount of the money still owed to him.

For the Rangers, it comes down to this: Little-used Ryan Rua and lesser-used Carlos Tocci offer more long-term value. Or at least still the faint possibility of long-term value. 

The Rangers right now are about looking toward the future. 

So, instead, they DFA’d the 31-year-old Jackson, giving them 10 days to trade, release or assign him to the minors. They will almost certainly grant him his release, giving Jackson the opportunity to sign elsewhere and allowing the Rangers to recoup some relative pennies on the $4.5 million he is still owed through next year. If Jackson signs a major league deal for this year and gets a major league deal for next year, the Rangers would save about $750,000 as the signing clubs would have to pay a pro-rated portion of the major league minimum.

“If we had brought him here, it probably only would have been for a short term and we didn’t think it was the right fit for the turnover of the club,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “There were a couple of guys we could have sent down for the short term, but that’s not what we are really trying to do.”

The Rangers will have to make a move on the roster this weekend when they activate Saturday starter Martin Perez. They could either send down a reliever such as Ricardo Rodriguez or somebody like Rua. Both players have been sent optioned previously this year; the Rangers would like to minimize the shuffling if it is unnecessary.

When the Rangers acquired Jackson from San Francisco, they knew they’d likely be on the hook for the majority of his remaining contract. Had the Giants been able to get somebody to take Jackson’s salary, they likely would have made that move and not given up pitching prospect Jason Bahr. For the Rangers, the $4.5 million investment in Jackson was essentially the cost of “buying ” Bahr.

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