June 16, 2024

The Texas Rangers celebrate after Game 7 of the baseball AL Championship Series against the Houston Astros Monday, Oct. 23, 2023, in Houston. The Rangers won 11-4 to win the series 4-3. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Trade Updates: Done Deal; Rangers have concluded the Contract with two players and put one for possible Sale

The Texas Rangers have optioned outfielder Dustin Harris to AAA Round Rock, the team announced today. In addition, non-roster invitees Matt Whatley, Liam Hicks, Abi Ortiz and Aaron Zavala have been re-assigned to the minor league camp.

None of these moves should be a surprise. Harris is the first player on the 40 man roster to be sent down, but he is, among the position players on the 40, the least likely player to be on the Opening Day roster. He was also scratched from the lineup due to an oblique issue a few days ago, and hasn’t played since.

As for the NRIs sent down, Whatley and Hicks are catchers who were likely in camp to just have some extra guys to catch pitchers early on. Neither were serious contenders to be on the major league roster.

Zavala was the Rangers’ second round pick in 2021, and followed up a terrific 2022 season with an injury in the AFL, a late start to 2023 as a result, and a bad overall 2023 season. An outfielder, Zavala is looking to get back on track this year, and will likely start the year at AA Frisco.

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Ortiz, in contrast, had a huge 2023 season that put him on the prospect map, slashing .294/.371/.619 with 33 home runs in 109 games between low-A and high-A. A first baseman, Ortiz would seem likely to start the year in AA Frisco, and like Zavala, wasn’t a candidate for the Opening Day roster.

Per the Texas Rangers PR account, there are now 64 players in the major league camp — 39 40 man roster guys and 25 NRIs.

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Former Rangers Pitcher Compared To deGrom

The Texas Rangers used pitcher Cole Ragans as part of a trade to acquire relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman last season. In the short term, that paid off. Chapman helped the Rangers win their first World Series title. But many trades have a long-term price that isn’t always obvious. The Rangers are down three starting pitchers due to major injuries to start this season — Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Tyler Mahle. All are expected to return at some point this summer. But the Rangers could use Ragans right about now.

Recently, ESPN wrote about 10 players that have scouts buzzing during spring training. Ragans, now a starter for the Kansas City Royals, came up. In fact, the reporter who wrote the piece quoted one scout who called Ragans “left-handed deGrom.

At one time, the Rangers saw Ragans as the future. He was their first-round pick in 2016. But after two Tommy John surgeries and the 2020 COVID shutdown of minor league baseball, no one was certain what Ragans would eventually become.

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He finally made his MLB debut in 2022, starting the final two months of the season. He started 2023 as a reliever but was sent down to Triple-A to stretch out to start games after deGrom was injured. With the Rangers, he went 2-6 with a 5.32 ERA. The Royals sent Ragans to their Triple-A affiliate after the trade. Within a month, he earned a promotion to the Royals and flourished, going 5-2 with a 2.64 ERA in 12 starts. He was named the American League Pitcher of the Month for August.

Well, look at Ragans’ first start this spring: His fastball averaged 99.2 mph. He threw one at 101 with 20 inches of induced vertical break. Not a single starter in MLB last season hit 101 with that sort of vert, which means the ball doesn’t drop nearly as much as an average fastball. Not only does Ragans have that vertical break, but he also has five different pitches to choose from. No one in Arlington is complaining about the price paid to win a World Series. But Ragans may come back to haunt the Rangers this season and for seasons to come.

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