Dust settles with Rangers unchanged

Dust settles with Rangers unchanged

TORONTO -- A lot of smoke, but not that much fire.

When the avalanche of trade rumors ended at 3 p.m. CT on Sunday, Alfonso Soriano was still a Ranger. So were David Dellucci, Richard Hidalgo and Gary Matthews Jr. Texas made one high-profile move with the Chan Ho Park for Phil Nevin deal. There was also a smaller-print deal which brought reliever Kevin Gryboski from the Braves for Minor Leaguer Matt Lorenzo.

But the buzz about Soriano to several different clubs for pitching, Hidalgo to the Orioles for Sidney Ponson, and Dellucci to the Cardinals for arms died quietly with the facts far removed from the fiction.

"In general, the types of deals that were presented to us never made sense," Rangers general manager John Hart said. "We did field a number of calls, but we were never compelled and never really got close with any players we had."

Thus, the Rangers will head into August with a potent offensive force in Nevin, who adds the kind of experienced right-handed hitter Texas has been looking for since last winter. They also are out from under the gloomy-expectation cloud that was created when the club signed Park to a five-year, $65 million free agent contract and then saw him struggle for most of his 3 1/2-year Texas tenure.

Nevin gives the Rangers flexibility. He can play first base, third base and the outfield. He could catch in an emergency situation and figures to get plenty of opportunities as a designated hitter.

"Phil is a professional hitter," Hart said. "He has power. He's a guy who will adjust well in our park. As we viewed the deal, we were moving a pitcher we hadn't had success with."

While the Rangers have no definitive answer yet for filling Park's spot in the rotation, they would hope they could come up with a replacement from inside the organization who could better Park's 5.66 ERA and .299 opponents' batting average. Texas officials were encouraged by the work of left-hander C.J. Wilson on Sunday and manager Buck Showalter said Wilson remains a candidate to fill a rotation spot.

Left-hander Kenny Rogers could miss anywhere from one to three more starts, depending on the ruling of independent arbitrator Shyam Das regarding Rogers' suspension from Major League Baseball. When Rogers returns, he'll anchor a rotation which includes Chris Young, Ricardo Rodriguez and Joaquin Benoit. Finding one more starter to replace Park will be the club's immediate task.

Hart said the Rangers, rather than sacrifice top prospects for two-month rentals, will continue to provide opportunities for the young pitching in the organization. The club could then try to augment the pitching either through an August waiver-wire deal, or through trades or free agency during the offseason.

The Rangers had said in the weeks prior to the trading deadline that finding pitching help was at the top of their shopping list. But the offers they received weren't enough to pry away Soriano, who represents a significant part of the offense. While Soriano is slugging away with the top home run hitters in the league, he also is one of the few Texas players who can manufacture runs with his speed.

With the 53-51 Rangers still in contention for a playoff spot for 2005, Texas would have needed top value to give up Soriano. Texas made it clear all along it was not shopping Soriano, but merely keeping a gauge on market demand.

Soriano could be an even hotter commodity in the offseason. He stands to make about $10 million through the arbitration process next year and could walk as a free agent after the 2006 season.

"A lot of people like this player, as we do," Hart said. "We're excited to have him for the second half of this year and next year."

Despite the constant rumors over the past week, Soriano has flourished lately at the plate and on the bases.

"His game didn't blink," Hart said.

Hart said the Rangers were aggressive in targeting players they felt could help, but simply weren't able to find the right fit in what Hart termed "a dry market." The club did not want to compromise 2006, and beyond, by giving up top-level prospects or significant contributors for possible short-term help.

"We know we're short in some areas, as are a lot of clubs," Hart said. "But we've retained all our upper-level prospects and we like our [Major League] players. We're in a good position as we go forward."

Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.