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What will the Texas Rangers do as trade deadline approaches?

At 42-48, the Texas Rangers are six games out in the AL West and 7.5 games behind the third American League wild-card spot. They've lost 31 of their last 51 games -- that's even after sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays this past weekend -- and SportsLine puts their postseason odds at a mere 12.2%. FanGraphs has a similar number: 10.7%.

It is hardly unprecedented for the defending World Series champion to miss the postseason, even with the supersized playoff field we have today -- the Washington Nationals missed the 16-team postseason in 2020 after winning the 2019 World Series -- but that certainly isn't a group the Rangers want to join. They entered 2024 with designs on back-to-back titles.

"I believe in this team," GM Chris Young said last week (via the Dallas Morning News). "I believe they are capable of a run. We just have to put ourselves in a better position so that nothing is insurmountable. This team had a 40-20 run last year. It's in there."

The 2023 Rangers ran very hot and cold and are a reminder things can change quickly in this game. That said, the trade deadline is only three weeks away, so decision time is approaching. Do the Rangers buy and try to climb back into postseason position? Or sell and try to put the roster in better position for 2025? That's the question Young will have to answer reasonably soon.

According to The Athletic, the Rangers are currently planning both buy and sell scenarios, and if they do sell, they would not necessarily limit their selling to rentals. They could move players with control beyond 2024. That would be a difficult pill to swallow, but if it is the best thing for the organization, Young is obligated to consider it and act on whatever makes sense.

Who could the defending World Series champions sell at the deadline, if it does come to that? Here's a look at their top trade chips.

The Rangers have an awful lot of rental veteran pitchers to peddle at the trade deadline. Closer Kirby Yates is an All-Star and setup man David Robertson is still humming along and getting high leverage outs as efficiently as ever. Max Scherzer has pitched well in three starts since returning from back surgery, plus the New York Mets are paying the majority of his salary.

Lefty Andrew Heaney is a competent back-end innings guy, ditto Michael Lorenzen, and José Leclerc was the club's closer last October. He's not having the best year, but Leclerc has struck out 51 batters in 38 1/3 innings, and he's postseason battle-tested. There would surely be a market for him. The Rangers could control the rental pitching market if they do sell. They have starters, relievers, lefties, righties, whatever.

The first name that jumps to mind is Nathan Eovaldi, one of the great postseason pitchers of this generation. He needs to throw another 69 innings this year to trigger a $20 million player option for 2025. That's not a given -- Eovaldi has visited the injured list every year since 2021, including earlier this year with a groin issue -- but he is on pace to reach the option (which he may or may not exercise). Point is, trade for Eovaldi and there's a chance you get him for next season too, not just the rest of 2024.

Veteran righty Jon Gray is having a fine season and is owed $13 million next year, the final year of his contract. He would be a rotation upgrade for more than a few contenders. Would Texas part with reigning ALCS MVP Adolis García? He is having a down season and is under team control through 2026, though the Rangers could move forward with their three young outfielders (Evan Carter, Wyatt Langford, Leody Taveras) and use the DH spot another way. It's worth considering.

Others like righty Dane Dunning (under control through 2026), catcher Jonah Heim (2026), and first baseman Nathaniel Lowe (2026) fit into this category as well. Good players, all of them, but not necessarily difference-makers who will make or break the next few years for Texas. Heim would be the most difficult to replace as a switch-hitting catcher with good defensive chops and a solid bat. Clearly though, these players are not untouchable.

It's difficult to imagine the Rangers trading Marcus Semien (owed $98 million from 2025-28), Corey Seager ($218 million from 2025-31), or Jacob deGrom ($115 million from 2025-27). They're all owed significant money and big money trades are always unlikely, especially at the deadline. Semien does not have any no-trade protection, however, and Seager only has a limited no-trade clause (deGrom has a full no-trade clause). Hard to see them moving but I suppose not impossible.

Carter and Langford are surely off-limits as the future of the Rangers, but there's no reason not to listen to offers for Taveras. He is under team control through 2027. Lefty Cody Bradford, third baseman Josh Jung, and super utility man Josh Smith are all under team control through at least 2028. It would difficult to pry Jung loose. He's an important player for the Rangers. Bradford, who is currently out with a back injury, and Smith are less foundational.

I am 100% certain the Rangers prefer to turn their season around, get back into the postseason race, and defend their World Series title the proper way in October. Sometimes things don't go according to plan though, and if these next three weeks go poorly, Young and his staff have to consider selling. They're flush with rental pitchers and could use them to improve their talent base and depth, and put the club in better position to contend in 2025 and beyond.

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