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Yankees potential trade partner: Texas Rangers

It’s looking like the Rangers will prefer to buy at the deadline, not sell. Almost paradoxically, that makes them a better match for the Yankees this July.

MLB: Texas Rangers at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last twelve months, the New York Yankees have mined the Texas Rangers to help fill out their roster. First, Brian Cashman flipped several mid-tier prospects to the Rangers for Joey Gallo and Joely Rodríguez last July. Then, after failing to work out a trade with Texas’s front office for Isiah Kiner-Falefa before he was sent to Minnesota, he swung a blockbuster deal with the Twins that brought the former Rangers shortstop to the Bronx. A week before the season started, he flipped Albert Abreu to Texas for catcher Jose Trevino, and when the Rangers granted Matt Carpenter his release, he immediately called up the veteran infielder and signs him to a Major League contract.

With such a robust recent history, you might think that the Rangers and Yankees are a match made in heaven. The teams clearly have a strong familiarity with each other’s rosters and farm systems, something which theoretically should help facilitate a deal. Circumstances this July, however, make it unlikely that the Yankees will be able to pry a significant contributor from Texas.

Last season, the Rangers were very clearly in “sell” mode: they were on the way to a disastrous 60-102 season, their biggest contributor at the plate (Gallo) had only one more year of team control left, and the rotation was filled with pitchers that had ERAs north of 5.00. The 2022 Rangers are in a much different boat. For starters, by signing both Corey Seager and Marcus Semien this past winter, they announced an intention to field a competitive team in the next two-to-three years; because of this, it’s unlikely that they’d be willing to trade anybody who’s not a rental. Furthermore, at 39-43, they’re only four games out of the third Wild Card, and their +13 run differential suggests that they have been underachieving slightly. At this point, unless something changes drastically between now and the end of July, they’re just as likely to bring in some reinforcements as they are to sell off any pieces.

Both at the plate and on the mound, the Rangers have been roughly league average this year, with both their OPS+ and ERA+ hovering around 100. Specifically, their lineup could use an additional outfielder, as Brad Miller has been their primary left fielder for most of the season, or even a DH, as Mitch Garver will miss the rest of the year with forearm surgery. And as it happens, the Yankees have an outfielder that they understandably are ready to move on from. His name? Joey Gallo.

At first glance, it might seem weird that the Rangers could decide to bring back Gallo. In many ways, however, it is the best intersection of need and availability for all parties involved. Although the Rangers want to make a play at the Wild Card, this was by all accounts a transitional year for them; the last thing they’re going to want to do is invest a ton of prospects when they would need to leapfrog four teams for the final Wild Card spot. The Yankees, meanwhile, want to move Gallo to free up a roster spot to add another outfielder, but because he’s a free agent after this season, no rebuilding team is going to want to bring him in. That leaves other contenders as the market, and since he’s been so bad, only fringe contenders are likely going to be willing to roll the dice.

Now, of course, it is still relatively early in July. There’s a lot of time for the playoff hunt to evolve before the August 2nd trade deadline. And should the Rangers definitively fall out of the race, we could see other players become available. Starting pitcher Martín Pérez, in the midst of a breakout year in his age-31 season and who is a free agent after the year, might make an interesting target if the Yankees decide to look for an innings-eater to bolster the rotation, while Matt Moore and Garrett Richards are intriguing veteran bullpen options.

The way things currently stand, however, these players are probably staying in Arlington, as the Rangers seek to bolster a fringe contender and attempt to pry open their window slightly earlier than expected. And if that’s the case, they match up with the Yankees only as part of a larger deal designed to help both teams improve their outfields.