So, let me see if I've got this sequence down pat: word filters down from some national baseball scribe that the Rangers are interested in big-name Player X, Nolan Ryan says that he can't imagine or doesn't believe or refuses to conceive a scenario where the Rangers would acquire Player X, and that is supposed to be the end of that ... operative word being "supposed."
This -- now referring to Ryan's downplaying of the Rangers' reported interest in Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez -- may prove to be on point, with the rumor itself fizzling out and vanishing into the ether and no trade actualizing, but there are a couple of things worth keeping in mind here: (a) team needs often prove fluid, such that what looks like a strength today looks like more of a weakness in 3-4 more weeks' time (and vice versa), (b) a lot of these public refutations turn out to be posturing, or at least a tactic out of the "nothing bad can come from us looking disinterested" playbook, and (c) something rings a little strange about Ryan's specific criticisms of Beltran and K-Rod * ... but before dealing with that, a few miscellaneous thoughts:
● The Padres are said to want to get out ahead of the market and consummate a quick-strike Heath Bell trade, presumably for the purpose of extracting greater value than what they would get in a month's time, and the Rangers continue to be mentioned on this particular trade front. Unfortunately, this has the feel of a classic overpay waiting to happen (in no small part because his next employer is destined to pay extra in terms of talent for the "proven closer" designation), and while the bulk of the dividends from a deal would be paid in the post-season, shutdown relievers don't always get the opportunity to have a material impact on a playoff series, and, like any other 2-3 month rental, Bell doesn't bring you any closer to figuring out next year's bullpen riddle. That's certainly true of K-Rod and his ilk as well, but the Padres' comparatively strong bargaining position here scares me.
● One tweet that made the rounds this morning, courtesy of FOXSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi: "Scout on Chris Davis: He’s got (Russell) Branyan written all over him. And he’s a better athlete." That sounds exciting and all on the surface, but let us not allow the passage of time to paint a flowery misrepresentation of what Branyan truly was in the grand scheme of things: a journeyman corner infielder with no meaningful defensive value who played for 10 different teams over 14 seasons and logged more than 80 percent of his lifetime plate appearances against opposite-handed pitchers because southpaws literally chewed him up and spat him back out for the duration of his career (.206/.287/.442).
Branyan furnished value through his power and ability to draw free passes, but the latter of those two attributes is still a substantial question where Davis is concerned, and, frankly, if we're talking about a Branyan-like career as being near the high end of what could be reasonably expected from Davis's career, I don't think you can harbor too much seller's regret over any trade that ultimately does include him.
● I'm intending to write about this more at a later date, but I've been coming around more and more on the notion that the greatest focus should be placed on bolstering not the bullpen, but the starting rotation -- and not so much in terms of back-end depth at this point as front-end quality. There's certainly reason to feel hopeful about the current front four of C.J. Wilson, Alexi Ogando, Colby Lewis, and Derek Hollland (or Matt Harrison, if you want to lean that way), but perhaps just as much, if not more, reason to be worried about how this collection of arms would fare in a post-season setting, as there are legitimate concerns attached to everyone here outside of Wilson.
I have my doubts that the Rangers will squeeze the acquire-a-No. 2-starter-or-better trigger again, and I don't expect everyone will agree with my viewpoint on this, but going this route may very well prove to be more beneficial on the risk/reward scale both before and after October 1st than trying to bolster the bullpen and trying to make the rest of the pieces fall into place.
[* - Ryan cited what he "saw on [Sunday]" out of K-Rod as reason to believe that he wouldn't be an upgrade in Texas, even though he's still pretty much the same high-strikeout, low-homer, iffy-control guy that he has always been and even though that was one of his 3-4 worst appearances of the season (I'm less than inclined to believe that Ryan would formulate an opinion of a guy on the basis of a single outing). He also talked about Beltran's salary and health as being very risky, and there's truth in that -- except that what we're talking about with Beltran's health is short-term risk, where it's easier to justify saddling yourself with that risk if you can be reasonably confident that his knees will function for three more months. That's not a terribly far-fetched proposition).
Call it wishful thinking if you like, but I'm not ready to write off the Rangers' possible involvement here.]