The Texas Rangers have done it again.
They landed a big arm at the trade deadline in the hopes of making a playoff push, and a deep run into the postseason. They acquired Cubs’ ace righty Ryan Dempster, sending two minor leaguers – Christian Villaneuva and Kyle Hendricks – to the Cubbies. Dempster’s numbers have been fantastic this season: 2.25 ERA; an ERA+ of 177, most in the majors; 7.2 K/9; and only 26 earned runs given up to date.
Everyone is calling this a huge move for the Rangers. Claims have been made that the Rangers have fortified their rotation for the stretch run. Maybe they have. But I think the downside here is very possible. This is a great move on paper, but could easily backfire.
Why? Because NL pitchers don’t usually translate well into the AL. Look at Javier Vazquez, for example. He seems to always fare better in the National League, being a star with the Expos, Braves, and Marlins, but not effective as a Yankee or White Sox. And that’s wherre Dempster comes in. No one really knows how effective he can be against 9 true hitters every outing. Whereas the NL has 8 true hitters and a hitting pitcher, the AL uses a DH, and so 9 veritable hitters will face Dempster every night.
Also take into consideration the division that Dempster played in. His Cubs are horrible, as are the Astros, owners of the worst record in the majors, and the Brewers. The Cardinals are struggling to keep their head above water, and while the Pirates have been competitive this year, until they prove they are for real, well, they’re still just the Pirates. So while his numbers are good, it came against less than stellar competition. Certainly not the competition the AL affords.
By contrast, the AL West has 3 teams in playoff positioning, with Texas leading the division, LosAngeles close on their heels by 3 games, and Oakland the owner of the second Wild Card. No one seems to be hitting right now for the Rangers, and with 8 games left vs the Angels, 4 vs the A’s, and road series in New York, Boston, and Tampa,, and a home series vs Detroit, the rest of the schedule looks tough for the Rangers. How will Dempster handle facing some of the toughest teams int he AL, with virtually no experience against those teams?
Finally, consider his age. Dempster is 35, and will begin his natural decline sooner rather than later. There is no guarantee he is going to hold up beyond this year, or even for the rest of this year. The texas heat couldeasily take its toll on Dempster, as could many other factors.
However, there are many positives for the Rangers in this trade too, most notably the fact that this might give them the push they need to make the postseason. No other team in the AL can boast the kind of rotation that the Rangers have right now, with the exception of Los Angeles. Acquiring Greinke, whodoeshave experience in the AL, has made the Angels much more dangerous than they already are. Clearly the acquisition of Dempster was the Rangers way of responding to the Angels, but I still think Greinke was the better acquisition.
Ultimately, is this move enough to put the Rangers over the hump? That remains to be seen, but things could go very right with this move, or very wrong. For Dempster and the Rangers, they both hope it goes right. And Geovany Soto, also acquired by the Rangers from the Cubs at the deadline, will be there to see it unfold.