The Texas Rangers just can’t stop making trades. After acquiring Mike Adams and Koji Uehera (yes, another Oriole) at the trade deadline, the Rangers went out yesterday and traded for pitcher Mike Gonzalez from the Orioles for a PTBNL.
On the surface, this is a relatively minor move. Ooo, the Rangers add another veteran arm to help them shore up their bullpen down the stretch — not such a big deal, right? For some reason, though, this move has sparked off about 10 different simultaneous thoughts in my head. So if you’re looking for gratuitous, over-the-top coverage of relatively small baseball moves, you’ve come to the right spot today.
I’ll run through this team by team, to help keep my thoughts from becoming too chaotic. First the Rangers, then the Orioles, and then…the Angels?
Before making this trade, the Rangers only had one left-handed pitcher in their bullpen: Darren Oliver. While Oliver is great and all — 2.23 ERA, 2.83 FIP on the year — he’s also 40 years old and a typical Left-Handed One Out Guy (LOOGY). He’s not built for long outings, and although he’s been equally effective against both righties and lefties this season, having another left-handed pitcher will allow the Rangers to make more effective bullpen matchups.
And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Mike Gonzalez is a good reliever. That might seem like an overstatement, considering he has a 4.27 ERA and 4.28 FIP this season, but the majority of Gonzalez’s struggles have occurred against right-handed hitters. He’s struck out 27% of the lefties he has faced while only walking 4% of them, giving him a 2.55 FIP against them. He’s also been quite effective over the last month, striking out 15 batters in 10 innings, so it’s possible that he’s started to regain some of his form that made him a shutdown closer for the Braves in 2009.
Why is it that the Orioles seem to break every pitcher that they touch? Brian Matusz has taken steps back this season, and hasn’t developed into the pitcher many thought he’d become. Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman have been disappointments since making their major-league debuts. Kevin Gregg all of a sudden imploded since coming to the Orioles this season. Brad Bergesen had a good rookie year, but has struggled since then.
And of course, Mike Gonzalez was a major disappointment last season, posting a 4.01 ERA and getting injured for the majority of the season. I’ll never forget his first appearance as an Oriole, when he allowed three hits and one walk to blow a 3-2 lead and hand the Rays a win on a silver platter. Talk about a great beginning to a 2 year, $12 million deal.
It’s tempting to draw a thread through all these disappointments and to come to the conclusion that the O’s should fire their pitching coach, but I don’t know if it’s that simple. Many of these struggles were the result of injuries, so how much blame do you put on the coaching staff, and how much do you blame rotten luck? Should the Orioles work to improve their medical team, so they can be better about getting more from their pitchers?
But then I look at a pitcher like Kevin Gregg, who has all of a sudden lost all command of the strikezone with no discernible injury. I don’t know what’s the cause of all these struggles, but something needs to be done.
I know, the Angels weren’t involved in this trade in any way, so why are they being mentioned? It comes down to this: the Angels are only 3.5 games behind the Rangers for first place in the AL West, but they’ve done nothing to improve their team down the stretch. They didn’t acquire anyone at the trade deadline and they haven’t acquired anyone since then, meaning the only thing they have done recently to augment their team was promote Mike Trout to the majors. Exciting move? Oh yes. A game-changer? Not really.
By sitting tight, the Angels are essentially handing the division to the Rangers. They started off with a weaker team than the Rangers — BPro has their playoff odds at 10% right now — and the Rangers keep making small moves to improve their team here and there. The Angels have a chance to make the division race close, and to possibly even make the playoffs, but their front office isn’t even giving off the impression that they’re trying at the moment.
Of course, anything can happen down the stretch; the Angels could get hot or the Rangers could fall off a cliff. But the Angels aren’t doing themselves any favors by sitting tight.