The Farm Report -- 9/1/2020

Trade Roundup

RHP Mike Minor and cash to Oakland for two players to be named later (reportedly OF Marcus Smith and CIF Dustin Harris) and international bonus money

Pandemic rules stipulate than only players on the active or alternate-site rosters can be traded immediately. Others can only be traded as players to be named later because their contracts are suspended, and they can’t officially be named yet, but in this case intrepid reporters found out.

The lefty-hitting Smith is Oakland’s 2019 third-rounder, selected between Texas picks RHP Justin Slaten and MIF Cody Freeman. He’s ranked as high as 13th in Oakland’s system (by The Athletic’s Keith Law) and as low as 27th by FanGraphs.com. Baseball America and MLB.com place him in the lower 20s. Per Fangraphs, he’ll slide down to #42 in the Texas system, which is lighter at the top but awash in depth. My semi-educated guess is Baseball America and MLB.com will place Smith barely within or outside the top 30.

As an 18-year-old in rookie ball last summer, Smith batted .361/.466/.443. He’s athletic, a strong defender and speedy, although that speed has yet to translate to baserunning success. The bat is much more oriented for contact than power. Smith took advantage of a league stocked with shaky pitching, drawing walks in a hefty 17% of his plate appearances. My guess is he’ll enter next season at low-A.

Harris was a junior college pick and turns 22 next July. Selected eight rounds after Smith, Harris also impressed in his pro debut, earning an August promotion to the short-season NY-Penn League and hitting .325/.400/.448 for the season. Like Smith, he’s contact-oriented. The differences are better power potential and a lack of defensive prowess. Third base is possible, first is probable, so the bat will determine his future. Given his age and the presumed demise of short-season ball potentially pushing some prospects upward quickly, Harris has a chance to skip low-A in 2021. As with Smith, Keith Law is highest on Harris, ranking him #19 in the Oakland system. Harris earned an honorable mention in the FanGraphs review and is outside the top 30 in the MLB.com and Baseball America rankings, although the latter publication called him a late-round sleeper. Harris will need to keep hitting and display some power against age-appropriate competition to move up.

Both players fit the profile of position players selected in Texas’s recent drafts. Harris doesn’t become a 40-man decision until after 2022, Smith the year after. The Rangers acquired the right to spend an additional $133,000 on international free agents.

Under these weird and trying circumstances, that’s a pretty good return, in my opinion. Oakland is getting all of five regular seasons starts of highly uncertain quality. At best, Minor stabilizes Oakland’s rotation. At worst, he isn’t even an inning-eater and never dons a uniform past September.

Certainly, the return pales in comparison to what could have been received at last year’s deadline. The Rangers peaked at 46-36 in late June but stood a game below .500 and eight games out of the postseason the morning of July 31, 2019. On a podcast a few days prior to then, I predicted that Minor wouldn’t be traded. My thought was Texas wanted to make as good a showing as possible in 2020, and doing so required Minor, barring a spectacular trade full of immediate Major League additions. That didn't work out. Very little has worked out.

C Robinson Chirinos and cash to the Mets for a player to be named
IF Todd Frazier to the Mets for a player to be named

Chirinos had been abysmal at the plate and wasn’t here for his defense. His departure gives Jose Trevino greater opportunity to show what role he may fulfill in the future. Frazier has cooled off greatly after a nice start, but on the whole he’s been as advertised. I assume he’ll spot at first, third, DH and PH for the Mets and can assume a larger role if a regular gets hurt. In combined 2020 salaries and buyouts of 2021 options, the trades save the Rangers about $3.6 million. Not a lot, but not insignificant given what we’ve learned about the team’s financial situation and forthcoming payroll reduction.

Entering Monday, the Mets were 15-19 but only 1.5 games removed from a playoff spot entering Monday. The Rangers will eventually receive a third PTBNL from the Mets, having traded righty Ariel Jurado to them earlier. As for the stature of those players, I’m not expecting much.

Who’s Left

Conspicuous in their continued presence: Lance Lynn, Shin-Soo Choo, Rougned Odor, even Joey Gallo. Let’s leave that for another day.

Who’s Up

Tonight, Eli White will make his Major League debut in left field, a position he’s never played professionally. He’s made 33 starts in CF in five minor league seasons including 22 last year, and Texas shifted him to the outfield full-time in February, so he’s no greenhorn. Indeed, he, Leody Taveras and Joey Gallo should constitute Texas’s best defensive trio. White was omitted from the 40-man roster last fall after a so-so AAA season but entered 2020 with a respectable shot at a call-up.

Also coming up per local reports are IF Anderson Tejeda (now) and LHP John King (soon). The former debuted a while back, showing immediately what he can do and what needs work. The 25-year-old King may join Kyle Cody in skipping AA and AAA on his way to the Majors. Texas’s 10th-round pick in 2017 didn’t pitch in a real game until the very end of 2018 because of elbow surgery, and last year he split 97 strong innings between low-A Hickory and high-A Down East. When I last observed King, admittedly a long while ago, he offered a fastball in the 91-95 range, two breakers and a change. He’d be Texas’s first 2017 pick to reach MLB.

2011 15th-round RHP Jerad Eickhoff is back on a minor league deal. He became a free agent last winter and signed with the Padres but was recently released without throwing a pitch for them. Eickhoff has a 4.15 ERA across five MLB seasons, with most of the quantity and quality coming earlier in his career.

Texas is also adding OF Bubba Thompson (2017’s top pick), IF David Wendzel (2019 supplemental 1st rounder) and OF Steele Walker (the return for Nomar Mazara) to the alternate site. I wouldn’t expect any to play for the Rangers in 2020, but I said the same about Anderson Tejeda.

Minor Matters

The unplayed regular season ends next Monday. The agreement between Minor League Baseball and MLB expires at the end of the month. Recently, the sides resumed discussions after a lengthy delay caused by the world falling apart. The interlude hasn’t changed what seems likely to be agreed upon (or insisted upon by MLB):

1) Exclusion of no fewer than 40 teams from the affiliated baseball framework, with perhaps additional teams kicked out and replaced by cherry-picked independent clubs.

2) Elimination of short-season ball (Spokane’s Northwest League and three others). The rookie leagues in Spring Training complexes would remain.

3) Elimination of the long-standing but messy affiliation system with its agreements of two to four years, replaced by much longer license agreements.

4) Much more MLB control over the minors, including management, media rights, merchandising, facilities, and financial ties between Major and minor league clubs.

Several reports indicate that the 2021 draft will move forward to the MLB All-Star break.


 
title_authors

Jamey Newberg

Dallas attorney Jamey Newberg has been commenting on Rangers from the big club down through the entire farm system since 1998.

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas was born in Arlington, Texas, to Richard and Becky Lucas. He lived mostly in Arlington before moving to Austin, where he graduated from The University of Texas. Scott works for Austin Valuation Consultants, Ltd., and has published several boring articles about real estate appraisal and environmental contamination. He makes a swell margarita and refuses to run longer than ten kilometres.

Eleanor Czajka

Eleanor grew up watching the AAA Mudhens in Toledo, Ohio. A loyal Ranger fan since 1979, she works "behind the scenes" at the Newberg Report.

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