The first Rangers trade of this year's deadline season has apparently come down, and it's an interesting, albeit unfulfilling, sort of a trade, as Texas has reportedly traded 24-year-old Double-A Frisco right-hander Jake Brigham to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for catcher Geovany Soto. The deal carries no 40-man roster implications for the Rangers, as Brigham already occupied a 40-man roster spot, and thus can simply be swapped out for Soto; as far as the active roster is concerned, the immediate scuttlebutt seems to be that the Rangers are going to cut Yorvit Torrealba loose, but that has not yet been confirmed.
Soto is a odd sort of player, in that he actually logged major league playing time during each of his age 22-24 seasons (spanning 2005-07), but didn't really get a legitimate shot at the big league level until 2008, when he delivered a huge .285/.364/.504, 23-homer campaign and netted National League Rookie of the Year honors; since then, however, he's been a fluctuating offensive quantity, and has actually done less from a park-adjusted offensive standpoint this year than even Torrealba (182 PA, .236/.302/.342, 70 wRC+), as evinced by his statistical line:
So, on the one hand, Soto isn't hitting this year; on the other hand; Soto actually is kind of hitting this year, as he does -- for whatever it's worth -- boast a sturdy 22.9 percent line drive rate, and, per ESPN Stats & Info, a "well-hit average" rate of .282. That latter mark ranks 11th in baseball out of 304 major league players who have amassed at least 150 plate appearances this season, which seems indicative of a fair amount of poor luck on Soto's end, and you wonder if the Rangers viewed Soto as a buy-low candidate -- somebody whose fortunes could change for the better in a new environment, and who has demonstrated the ability to hit for power and draw walks at the major league level. In that sense, Soto is an interesting, albeit uncertain, asset to bring into the fold.
The other big thing worth mentioning about Soto is his contractual situation -- his 2012 base salary is $4.3 million, which works out to a rest-of-season obligation of about $1.6 million, and while the Cubs are reportedly sending cash over to cover most or all of that commitment, his situation for 2013 remains up in the air. Soto is controllable through the end of next season, and that's attractive to an organization that has/had two catchers eligible for free agency after the end of this season, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could be a non-tender candidate. If he doesn't hit and/or doesn't perform up to snuff upon his arrival in Texas, I don't know that the Rangers are going to want to make a one-year, $4-5 million commitment to a subpar backstop.
Brigham, meanwhile, makes his exit from the Rangers organization after a six-year run in its minor league system; the 2006 sixth-round selection had battled his way all the way up through the ranks to Frisco, where he had compiled a 4.28 ERA and some decidedly mixed peripherals (8.4 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.4 HR/9) over 124 innings thus far this season. Jason Cole's pre-season scouting report characterized Brigham as an enticing, but not elite, power arm, with mid-90s velocity and two breaking balls that he could bust out in short bursts out of the bullpen; however, he moved back to the Frisco rotation in a full-time capacity this year, and I'm not entirely clear on whether the scouting report has materially changed, or whether the Cubs plan to continue grooming him as a starter as opposed to utilizing him as a potential late-inning power arm.
I'm cautiously optimistic about this deal, but I think we're talking about a pretty marginal upgrade in terms of impact on the rest-of-season standings, and, from that standpoint, this just isn't a very exciting trade. There's sizzle in the name coming back the Rangers' way, but not very much steak. Soto does have a nice pedigree and a history of being an impact player working in his favor, and I'm hopeful that his above-average hard-contact rates this season augur well for a bit of a career resurgence in Texas ... but I'm not going to spend too much time hoping on that possibility.
Update: Per MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan (and others), Torrealba will be formally designated for assignment tomorrow, and the prevailing belief seems to be that he will be traded as opposed to being released outright, which should at least net the Rangers a marginal prospect. Torrealba had struggled with the bat and, more recently, while his defense behind the plate, and while I felt he had been okay in a backup capacity (or at least okay enough to merit maintaining the status quo), the Rangers clearly felt that a change was in order. Torrealba had earned some praise and recognition from his pitching staff earlier in the season for his vastly improved game-calling, and I'll be interested to see how Soto ends up faring in that regard, given that he's been thrown into an entirely new situation.