So, the Lance Berkman-to-Texas trade clearly failed to materialize, but the Rangers have swung two more trades today nevertheless -- one for a friendly face from the past, and the other for an interesting left-handed property who would seem to stand a considerable chance of cracking the post-season roster, should the Rangers clear the final necessary hurdles and put down the Angels for good in the next month.
As was reported by numerous sources (including MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan), the Rangers acquired catcher Matt Treanor from the Royals earlier today in exchange for either a player to be named later or cash considerations, and left-hander Mike Gonzalez from the Orioles in exchange for a player to be named later. To clear the required room on the 40-man roster, the Rangers designated Triple-A Round Rock right-hander Tim Wood for assignment, and transferred right-hander Wilmer Font -- who underwent Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery last October -- to the 60-day disabled list.
Due to a key modification several years ago to the rules governing post-season eligibility, the Rangers will be able to add one or both of Treanor and Gonzalez to their (hopeful) post-season roster if they are so inclined. Neither will be added to the active roster yet today, but because both are being acquired ahead of tonight's midnight deadline for post-season eligibility, the Rangers can leverage one or both of their currently disabled players -- say, Font, or Brandon Webb -- and substitute Treanor and/or Gonzalez in their place.
The Rangers had shipped Treanor out to the Royals at the end of spring training in exchange for cash considerations, in a deal which raised some eyebrows -- including mine, and especially Randy Galloway's -- because of a lack of public confidence in Mike Napoli being able to function as a capable backup catcher behind Yorvit Torrealba. Those concerns clearly proved unfounded, and the Rangers really haven't missed Treanor at all along the way, which is funny because he has actually been somewhat decent as a backup catcher in Kansas City this year (.226/.351/.306 in 230 plate appearances.
For the moment, at least, he'll function as the third catcher behind Torrealba and Napoli, probably draw some more praise for his handling of the Rangers' pitching irrespective of how much he actually plays, and stand a good chance of cracking the post-season roster, for two reasons: (a) the Rangers would likely carry 14 position players in the post-season, as there shouldn't be a need for more than four starting pitchers or seven relievers in October, and (b) carrying Treanor would allow Texas to play both Torrealba at catcher and Napoli at first base against left-handers in the post-season without Ron Washington having to fear for the lack of a true backup catcher.
Gonzalez, 33, strikes me as the more interesting component of this deal, which is to be expected with a left-handed reliever who has a history of throwing pretty hard and boasts a career ERA south of 3.00 and a career whiff rate north of 10 strikeouts per nine innings. He's no longer the slam-dunk bullpen asset that he was from 2004-07, which can probably be ascribed to the fact that he's undergone Tommy John surgery (May 2007) and been diagnosed with tears in his rotator cuff and a frayed labrum as recently as last April, but he has nevertheless held down left-handed hitters to a .211/.253/.322 showing at the plate this season (that's 26 strikeouts against four walks and just two home runs in 24.1 innings against lefty hitters in 2011), and has proven especially dominant over the last 40 days or so (note that the ERA column below is cumulative to a particular date in the season):
Gonzalez is in the final season of a two-year, $12 million commitment, and thus will cost the Rangers around $1 million for his month of work unless the Orioles have sent over some manner of salary relief; on the other hand, not taking back any salary relief theoretically enhances the likelihood of the Rangers giving up little of consequence. According to MASNSports.com's Roch Kubatko, however, the Yankees were also involved in the trade discussions on Gonzalez, but general manager Andy MacPhail "preferred the pitcher coming back from the Rangers." I haven't yet decided what to think of that.
But unless the Rangers were willing to roll with Derek Holland as a bullpen lefty for a second consecutive post-season, or hand those same keys over to a decidedly less established Michael Kirkman or Beau Jones, it seemed that they were in need of a legitimately decent second left-hander behind Darren Oliver -- and this deal seems to serve that purpose, bolstering a perceived lack of depth and giving the Rangers a red-hot LOOGY type who stands a pretty good chance of joining Oliver, Neftali Feliz, Koji Uehara, Mike Adams, and two more arms -- Mark Lowe? Yoshinori Tateyama? Scott Feldman? The fifth starter who misses out on the post-season rotation -- during the month of October.
[Update: According to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, the player to be named later in the Gonzalez deal is 26-year-old right-hander Pedro Strop, who will be out of minor league options after this season. In 47.2 innings pitched at Triple-A Round Rock this season, Strop posted up a 3.59 ERA and 55 strikeouts against 24 walks and two home runs. The book on Strop has always been that he boasts great, albeit inconsistent, stuff, and spotty command that caused him to fall out of favor with the major league coaching staff on three separate occasions over the last three seasons. I'm hopeful that he can yet figure it out at the major league level, but I'm also not going to hold my breath.]