Rangers’ bullpen upgrades may have cost them too much in the future

The trade deadline is always a time when teams scramble to cover glaring needs by trading away top-notch prospects. The Rangers may be happy with that they received in two separate trades at this time, but down the line they may have given up far too much. In the first trade, “boy wonder” GM Jon Daniels traded Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis for the lowly Orioles’ setup man, Kuji Uehara. Daniels then traded away two of the team’s top 5 pitching prospects to acquire the Padres’ elite setup man, Mike Adams.

1st Trade: Rangers get: 36 year old Koji Uehara

Orioles get: 25 year olds Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis

Analysis: This trade is a head scratcher. Although Uehara is an elite setup man, he was pitching in many meaningless games in Baltimore, is 36 years old, and has no MLB playoff experience. Japanese pitchers have found success in the MLB by using there elite control, and variety of off-speed pitches, and Uehara is no different. Uehara will allow the Rangers to have much flexibility when it comes to the final 3 innings of the ballgame. Uehara has shown his skills by possessing a 1.69 ERA, 64 K’s, a 0.69 WHIP, 8K/BB ratio, and miniscule .152 BAA. Hitters have not been able to solve the mystery of how to hit this guy since he came over from Japan. He reminds me very much of the Red Sox’s Hideki Okajima. Lets just hope his career does not decapitate itself like Okajima’s has. Hitters are bound to figure out his awkward delivery.

As much good as this trade provides, the negatives of this trade are omnipresent. Tommy Hunter was a fantastic young (25 years old) talent for the Rangers’ starting rotation last year, going 13-4. A former 1st-round sandwich pick, he was spurned to the bullpen this year and has not pitched very often, battling injuries instead. Unable to win a spot in the crowded Rangers’ rotation, Daniels took the risk and cut loose the young, injury-prone righty. 1B Chris Davis was great trade bait in this scenario, because he is a young hitter with very much power, and Baltimore had just cut loose their everyday 1B in Derek Lee. Davis strikes out far too much and has yet to develop the plate patience needed to gain walks that would counteract his aggressiveness. He should continue to hone his talents in a situation in Baltimore where his talents can be utilized on an more-often basis.

Grade: A- (today), C+ (future). The Rangers are certainly going into the second half of the season with a “win-now” mentality, but cutting Hunter loose is risky. The bullpen receives a huge upgrade, and, after all, doesn’t pitching win championships?

Note: Koji Uehara was a high school teammate of Yoshinori Tateyama.

2nd Trade: Rangers get: 33 year old setup-man Mike Adams

Padres get: Double-A pitchers Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland

Analysis: With this trade, the Rangers get another elite set-up man. With Adams, the Rangers can expect a steady reliever to further take the pressure off the formerly abysmal Rangers bullpen. He and Uehara should provide very much stability to the late innings (although that was not the case in Adams’s debut, in which he allowed a HR and lost the game to the Tigers). Over the past 2 seasons, Adams has served as the set-up man in San Diego for as elite of a closer that the National League has, Heath Bell. Although his numbers may be slightly altered by playing his home games in the pitcher friendly Petco Park, he has shown excellent ability (1.13 ERA, 9.2 K/9 in 38 innings pitched, .155 BAA). Adams is very tough on lefties, and features a good hard fastball, and a nice slider. Another huge standpoint of this trade is that Adams is signed through next season, allowing the Rangers to have the flexibility to move Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation. At 33 years old, Adams still has plenty left in his arm.

While getting a top-5 set-up man in a rather weak trade deadline class, the Rangers gave up immense talent to San Diego in this trade. Having seen both Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland pitch this season for the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders, I can fully support their status among the very best young arms in the minors. Both were drafted in the first four rounds by the Rangers in 2009, and have developed together in the system. Erlin had a 14-strikeout game earlier this season for Frisco, and Wieland is just coming off of a no-hitter. The two young guns given up in this trade are studs. Erlin is considered a top-35 talent in the minors, and following the no-hitter, Wieland is sure to climb the ranks. Erlin’s numbers this year in the minors are 8-4, 3.34 ERA, 10.25 K/BB, and an incredible 0.907 WHIP. Wieland’s numbers are very similar at 10-3, 1. 80 ERA, and a 0.987 WHIP.

Grade: A (now), C- (future). The Rangers gave up far too much in a trade for a guy who’s stock is at an all-time high, and the Padres will reap the benefits of this trade a few years from now.

Note: Watch out for the Padre’s rotation 3 years from now. They have stockpiled a crazy amount of talent via trades in the last 2 years.

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