As the winter stories about Miami’s brutal baseball situation and Giancarlo Stanton’s inevitable availability began gathering momentum, we all believed Texas would be in the mix for the slugging, for all kinds of reasons (need, age/control, capital, ammunition, match, aggressiveness).
It was fairly clear that the Marlins weren’t going to move Stanton then, and probably not this July, but in my mind I was convinced of two Rangers players who would be on the table, with the two clubs then negotiating on the remaining pieces.
On November 17, I included in a COFFEY report this throwaway thought: “For the heck of it and nothing more: Derek Holland, Mike Olt (whom the Marlins were apparently hot after in July), Cuban Leonys Martin, and Jordan Akins for Stanton and Justin Ruggiano.”
(The Holland part was with the thought that Texas was going to land a big rotation piece later in the off-season, perhaps Zack Greinke or James Shields.)
On December 25, I relayed Jayson Stark’s ESPN note that “a Texas offer for Stanton would probably require [Jurickson] Profar, Olt, Martin, ‘and more . . . [and] even then [I’m] not sure [the Marlins] do it.’”
On April 16, I dismissed a Los Angeles Times/Bleacher Report spitball from Jason Martinez suggesting that Texas move Profar, Olt, Lewis Brinson, and Ronald Guzman for Stanton, and wrote that “I keep coming back to a shortstop being involved, and Martin, and probably Luke Jackson. And more.”
It’s getting a little more difficult for me to imagine Texas trading Leonys Martin and Mike Olt in a deal for Stanton. Several reasons:
* From Miami’s standpoint, that pair would never prevail on the front of a deal. You’d think Profar would be too much for the Rangers to include with those two, and Luis Sardinas or Leury Garcia presumably wouldn’t be enough to put a Texas offer on top.
* The Marlins’ long-term situations in center field and third base look better now than they did half a year ago, as 22-year-old rookie center fielder Marcell Ozuna (more than two years younger than both Martin and Olt) has played well, and the club’s top two prospects, Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick, are healthy again and tearing it up in AA (both getting in work in center field), while the organization’s third base mess since trading Miguel Cabrera six years ago is poised to end with the drafting a couple weeks ago of Colin Moran (who hasn’t yet signed because his University of North Carolina club is still alive in Omaha) sixth overall.
* The Rangers – at least during the season – can’t afford to move Martin unless they’re prepared to go with Craig Gentry close to every day in center field since Ron Washington would never entrust the heavy end of a platoon to Engel Beltre (I suppose Chris Coghlan could theoretically come back in the deal – but he’s sidelined with a back injury troublesome enough that the Marlins had him checked out by a specialist this weekend . . . Rangers consultant Dr. Drew Dossett, who operated on Matt Harrison’s back in April).
* This last week of baseball.
Olt, whose brutal start (.139/.235/.236, 32 strikeouts in 81 AAA Round Rock plate appearances through the season’s first three weeks) led to vision tests and treatment, is a .323/.405/.806 hitter over his last eight games with the Express. He has four home runs in that stretch – including two in one inning on Sunday – and five walks to go along with seven strikeouts in 37 trips to the plate.
Same stretch for Martin, who has started each of the Rangers’ eight games: .400/.464/.640 with just four strikeouts in 28 plate appearances, four stolen bases in four attempts (he’s now up to nine straight without getting caught), a handful of big plays in center field with his glove and arm, and that slide last night, accounting for one of the seven runs he’s scored from the bottom of the order in this mostly ugly eight-game stretch of offense and results.
It’s getting hard to imagine anyone roaming center field here other than Martin, whose five-year, $15.5 million deal runs through 2015, after which Texas will have three years of remaining control.
I’m not sure where Olt fits, less because he lacks versatility than because he’s been asked to play nothing but third base so far this season – probably more an effort to get him right again at the plate without the pressure of a relatively unfamiliar defensive assignment than anything else – but with the way this offense has been going, it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see him getting in some left field work in Round Rock before long, as Profar gets his own pregame crash course in Arlington.
If you’d said after David Murphy’s impressive camp (.313/.348/.453) that he was poised, in his contract year, to give his club Josh Hamilton production in 2013, at a fraction of the cost, would you have taken it?
Murphy, even after last night’s three-hit effort out of the eight hole, is hitting .218/.275/.382.
Hamilton, who hit seventh for the Angels last night, sits at .210/.266/.384 after his two strikeouts and groundout to catcher.
They’ve been the same player at the plate, right down to the recent failed experiments at number two in the lineup.
Tack on the Biogenesis situation as it pertains to Nelson Cruz (even though it’s not likely to impact the 32-year-old anytime soon), and there’s obviously reason to think about what answers Texas visualizes if it needs to find other ways to get offense from the outfield corners.
Both now, and later on, with Murphy and Cruz hitting free agency this winter.
Maybe Stanton – who is a year younger than Olt – is part of that answer. If so, his arrival is more likely to happen in the off-season than next month.
And maybe that makes sense for Texas, anyway, as overpaying with multiple pieces from the big league offense during the season for one player, even one as special as Stanton, probably doesn’t make this roster, as it projects even once healthy, a World Series contender. In the winter, it’s easier to create holes with a concrete plan to address them.
(Then again, as one big league scout told Baseball Prospectus’s John Perrotto this week about Stanton: “There isn’t anyone who could command a bigger haul in a trade than this guy. I’d give up my whole farm system for him because you’re talking about a guy who is heading to the Hall of Fame, and his career is just getting started.”)
(Maybe the scout works for Miami.)
(Or the Wasserman Media Group.)
And maybe the Marlins would still be interested in Martin and Olt after all. Martin is from Cuba and lives 30 miles from Miami. Ozuna and Yelich and Marisnick are capable of playing on corners – as is Martin himself. Olt could hold things down at third base until Moran is ready, at which time the Marlins could flip Olt somewhere else. For that matter, they could flip Olt right away, getting a third team involved in trade talks along with Texas.
Maybe Martin and Olt help Texas to a much better second half offensively than its first, and a debate like this refuels in the winter. Maybe a December package that includes both is tough for another team to beat after all, especially if Sardinas and Jackson move from Myrtle Beach to Frisco this summer and manage to impress an added set of scouts.
Martin, Olt, Sardinas, and Jackson for Stanton and Coghlan?
At this point in time, it’s surely a deal that Miami declines.
Given the way things seem to be coming together for Martin and Olt, at this snapshot moment in time, I’d like to think that, five months from now, it’s one that the Rangers would lose sleep over, too.