- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Only the St. Louis Cardinals have a greater run differential than the Texas Rangers, and the Rangers rank fourth in the majors in runs. It's not as if Ron Washington's lineup is like the Houston Astros north.
But cracks in that relentless offensive attack have appeared this season, which goes a long way to explain why Texas has built a moat around its two top position-player prospects, Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt.
The days when the Rangers will need offensive help -- when Profar is perhaps the shortstop and Olt is manning first base or right field -- is probably not as far as we realize.
Josh Hamilton's slump has been well-documented, and noted by team president Nolan Ryan, a slide that only complicates the Rangers' decision about how much -- and how many years -- to offer Hamilton if and when he reaches free agency. Hamilton is swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone than ever, and he's missing more than ever, as these numbers from FanGraphs show.
Mike Napoli's batting average is down 93 points; his OPS has dropped more than 250 points. His contract talks with the Rangers were among those greatly affected by the Yadier Molina deal, and so there's no guarantee he'll be back next year or that he'll hit the rest of this season.
Nelson Cruz won't be a free agent until after next year, but he is extraordinarily streaky. He was the most dangerous hitter in the Texas lineup for a stretch in the postseason last year, and this year he went more than a month without a home run. And Cruz is 32 years old.
Michael Young is 35 years old and perhaps the most popular player in Rangers history other than Ryan. His batting average this year is 34 points below his career average, and his on-base percentage is down 82 points. What will he provide in August and September and October and next year in the final year of his contract? It's uncertain.
The 30-year-old Ian Kinsler is among the youngest regulars in the Texas lineup, and he is signed through 2017. But there has been a decline in his performance, as well.
Maybe Kinsler will bounce back. Maybe Hamilton and Nelson and Napoli will. Maybe Young will have a resurgence.
But the Rangers' front office must plan for the possibility that it needs to turn over a significant part of the lineup in the next calendar year, and Profar and Olt are the best internal options.
It didn't feel good for the Rangers to see Zack Greinke go to the Los Angeles Angels, and while Texas could really use an upgrade in its rotation -- especially with the chronically underrated Colby Lewis out of action -- the deadline might pass without the team adding a starting pitcher.
Within two years, Profar and Olt might serve as backbone pieces in the Texas lineup, and while the desire to get the last strike in the last inning of the World Series burns within everyone in the Rangers' organization, hanging on to those two was prudent and the best possible big-picture decision.
Other trade stuff
1. It would be a shocker if the San Francisco Giants didn't add an outfielder between now and the trade deadline.
6. Kenny Williams is going to add more.
8. Ryan Dempster's trade saga is all about time.
10. The Astros keep getting younger.
11. Kevin Towers is looking for a pitcher.
Dings and dents
• Marty Brennaman has to get his head shaved.
And today will be better than yesterday.