Tom Verducci: Rangers Aren’t Head And Shoulders Above Everyone Else

As the dust settles on MLB’s trade deadline, several contenders put themselves in prime position for a deep postseason run – none more so than the Texas Rangers.

“I think they probably improved themselves as much as any contender at the deadline,” Sports Illustrated and MLB Network analyst Tom Verducci told Moose & Maggie, who were filling in as hosts of CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I like this team. I’ve liked them from spring training. They were my pick to win it all this year. I think now you look at the bullpen they have with (Jeremy) Jeffress – they probably have the hardest-throwing bullpen in all of baseball. If you throw under 96 miles per hour, I guess you’re not allowed in the bullpen in Texas.”

The Rangers were incredibly active before the deadline, adding Jeffress, Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran, who hit .304 with 22 homers and 64 RBIs in 99 games for New York this season.

“I thought he was the perfect rental for the Indians or the Rangers – basically any team,” Verducci said. “He’s a terrific postseason player. And what I really like about Beltran, besides production, is he makes other players around him better – and it’s not just some of the hand-holding you do with young hitters, especially in a pennant race, but in terms of seeing what other pitchers are doing against your lineup, sequencing, tipping. Anything along those lines, he’s got a great mind for that side of the game. I think there’s a residual effect besides just getting a really good hitter in the lineup. The DH has been a black hole a little bit for them this year.

“So yeah, I really like this Texas team,” Verducci continued. “I don’t think they’re head and shoulders above everybody else. I think it’s kind of a muddled picture in the American League, but if I had to rank them, I’d put them No. 1.”

In the National League, meanwhile, the Mets added Jay Bruce, who leads the league with 80 RBIs. Verducci certainly didn’t hate the move – after all, the Mets have the third-worst offense in baseball – but he didn’t love it, either.

“On the face of it, you’re saying it has to help,” Verducci said. “It does help. But I thought Lucroy was a much better fit for the Mets. If you look at the Mets, they’re last in the major leagues in batting average on balls in play. They beat you only with home runs. And the reason is, they’re just stocked with guys who hit pop-ups and fly balls and don’t run very well – and that’s exactly what Jay Bruce is. He’s a pull hitter, uses half the field, hits a lot of fly balls, and I just don’t think he makes them a more dynamic offense in terms of the mix of players they have, whereas I thought Lucroy (uses) the whole field (and gives) you a tough at-bat with runners on base. Besides, I really like having a veteran catcher with a younger staff. The Mets haven’t done that with all their young pitchers. They’ve put them in the hands of Travis d’Arnaud and some younger catchers, and I think a veteran catcher would have been perfect. But again, this time a year, if you can add someone who you can put in the middle of your lineup right away and give some protection to (Yoenis) Cespedes, I get what they’re doing. They’re basically doubling down on the home-run ball, but at least they’re making an effort.”

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