Cole Hamels was the biggest name on the Texas Rangers to be on the move, but he was not the only pitcher to be shipped off before the trade deadline. Three relievers were also traded, including another veteran pitcher to the Chicago Cubs. Did the Rangers get enough in return? Here is a recap of the three “other” trades, in the order of when they occurred.
Jesse Chavez to the Chicago Cubs for LHP Tyler Thomas
This trade took place on July 19, and it was fairly mild considering Chavez has become more or less a journeyman in the MLB. I had to laugh to myself when I ventured up to Fluor Field in Greenville, SC, and noticed that Thomas was the only lefty pitcher on the Hickory Crawdads roster (and he had just arrived there). Surely the Rangers could use some more lefties in their farm system, which probably explains exchanging a veteran righty for a significantly younger southpaw.
This one probably will not hurt the Rangers that much. Chavez was decent with Texas, with an ERA a shade over 3.50 over 30 appearances. Even though he has gotten off to a great start with the Cubs, he has only had middle inning appearances. With three relievers, including closer Brandon Morrow, expected to return before the postseason, Chavez likely will not have a huge role for the Cubbies should they make the playoffs.
Although Thomas is not a top prospect, last year’s seventh round pick fared well in South Bend. He only had one bad start and finished with an ERA of 2.88, including holding Bowling Green hitless in an April 12 start through five innings. He currently has one blemish in Greensboro as a member of the Hickory Crawdads, but his two other starts went well. The Fresno State product will likely fall under the radar in the Texas system, but the 22-year-old still has time to make a significant impact with the Rangers.
While we are on the subject of Hickory, it is worth mentioning how much #22 prospect Sam Huff needs to play baseball in hitter friendly North Texas. His power stroke was outstanding in the Greenville doubleheader, as he hit three home runs, including one to the Rooftop at Fluor Field. In case you did not know, that deck is way above the ballpark’s left field Green Monster, so that ball would have went well over the Fenway billboards.
Jake Diekman to the Arizona Diamondbacks for RHP Wei-Chieh Huang and PTBNL
Diekman was the key setup man during Texas’s two recent playoffs appearances, but he became expendable once the Rangers started to show signs of being outcompeted. With an ERA of 3.69 in 47 appearances in 2018, Arizona gave up one of their underrated relievers in the minors to boost their bullpen for a thrilling NL West race.
Huang is also not on any top prospect list, but the 24-year-old from Taiwan did not seem phased by the hitter friendly California League. With Visalia, he had 81 strikeouts through 60.1 innings and an ERA of 2.59 (that is tiny in that league). Although his strikeout rate decreased in AA Jackson, his ERA was only 2.00 in 10 appearances. With the Rangers in desperate need for strong pitchers, Huang could be on the MLB roster as early as September. He could be a steal for a serviceable setup man.
Keone Kela to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Taylor Hearn and PTBNL
The closer situation has been a real shame for Texas. Sam Dyson was so bad last year that he was designated for assignment after two months. Matt Bush was not up to the task, either, and Kela had been the closer for a team that was out of the running early. Now he is a Pirate.
Despite not getting the standing ovation that Chris Archer got in Steel City, Kela should still have a valuable role in front of Felipe Vazquez in the bullpen as Pittsburgh hopes to shock the nation for the second time in this decade.
As for the Rangers, they took advantage of Kela’s emergence in the bullpen and got Pittsburgh’s seventh overall prospect from Oklahoma Baptist. For a team ravaged with average veteran starters, Hearn is a breath of fresh air. He has limited damage in 2018 and, more importantly, can go deep into outings. He cleared 100 innings in his final start with AA Altoona, and he got off to a great start in his return to his home state. In his first start in AA Frisco on August 3, he held Corpus Christi to just one run in 5.1 innings before the bullpen hang on to the one-run lead to give him the victory. Yes, Huang pitched two innings in the same game for the hold, and notable MLB villain Roberto Osuna also pitched for the opposing Hooks before his suspension expired, allowing him to join his new team (Houston) after being traded from Toronto.
While Hearn is not the most potent pitching prospect in the Texas system, he might be the first of the top group to reach the MLB. With Yohander Mendez starting to look like a bust, Hearn seems to be a better version of what the Rangers envisioned in Mendez. He should be ready to get some looks in 2019.
If you would like to receive an email each time a new Texas Rangers article is published, fill out our email notification form.