After the Jonathan Lucroy deal between the Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland Indians fell apart, the Brewers had to find a team what wasn't on Lucroy's no-trade list. Luckily, the Texas Rangers needed a catching upgrade as they've had to piece the position together with Robinson Chirinos missing a lot of time with injuries. Lucroy and power-armed reliever Jeremy Jeffress head to the Rangers for outfielder Lewis Brinson and pitcher Luis Ortiz.
In addition, the Rangers picked up Carlos Beltran from the Yankees for Dillon Tate, last year's fourth overall pick who has struggled in Class A this year.
How do you like this lineup?
LF/RF Jurickson Profar/Shin-Soo Choo
RF/LF Nomar Mazara
CF Ian Desmond
DH Carlos Beltran
C Jonathan Lucroy
2B Rougned Odor
SS Elvis Andrus
The Rangers didn't get the starting pitcher they needed, but that lineup goes nine deep and gives Jeff Banister the flexibility to do a lot of mixing and matching once Choo returns from the disabled list. Profar can move all over the diamond, Beltran can play the outfield, Delino DeShields is available as a speed guy off the bench, and GM Jon Daniels managed to hold on to Joey Gallo.
If the Rangers hold on to win the AL West, they'll try to replicate the Royals' strategy in the postseason: Trust your bullpen. The big difference, however, is the Rangers have two top-of-the-rotation starters in Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish to help ease the burden on the relievers.
Lucroy should have no trouble adapting to a new staff. He's known as a smart guy and hard worker, one of the better pitch-framers in the game. He's hitting .300 and his bat should translate well to the hitting environment in Texas. Lucroy didn't end up getting anything, but he played his hand and maybe he figured he'd rather end up with the Rangers than the Indians. Texas is much more likely to sign him to a long-term extension given the team's financial resources.
As for Beltran, you can't deny his numbers as he’s hitting .304/.344/.546, although some of that is the result of the cozy dimensions at Yankee Stadium, where he is slugging .961 (compared to .817 on the road). The Rangers will slot him at DH, which means they didn't trust Gallo to do the job down the stretch on a regular basis. Beltran has a history of performing in the postseason, of course, with a career slugging mark above .600. That doesn't mean he'll perform in this year's postseason if the Rangers get there.
The Rangers needed to make a big splash because they've outperformed their talent level so far, with a 62-44 record even though they've outscored their opponents by just nine runs. The bullpen now includes Sam Dyson, Jeffress, Jake Diekman, Keone Kela (looking good again after a DL stint), Matt Bush and Tony Barnette. With Dyson, Jeffress and Bush, you have three relievers pushing 100 mph. Hello. With a six-game lead after the Astros -- who failed to make any additions -- the Rangers now have to rank as favorites to win the division.
I liked the return the Brewers would have received from the Indians better than this one. Brinson is a high-upside toolsy outfielder who has struggled in Double-A, hitting .237 with a .280 OBP. He's just 22, but he's had one of the most disappointing seasons in the minors among top prospects entering the season, although Keith Law still rated him No. 21 on his midseason top 50 list. Ortiz is a power righty who has reached Double-A and ranked 46th on Law's list. It's a good return, but Brinson is a boom-or-bust type and pitchers are always risky, so it's possible the Brewers get little out of this deal if things don't break right.