ARLINGTON -- The Rangers made the definitive midseason trade last year when they acquired pitchers Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe from the Mariners for four young players. First baseman Justin Smoak and pitcher Blake Beavan are now with the Mariners and Lee left Texas, but it is well understood that the Rangers would not have reached the World Series without acquiring the left-hander. The Rangers wouldn't mind making a similar impact trade again this summer. "I'm always open to it, but I don't know if that player is out there," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said.
Maybe that player is Padres reliever Heath Bell. The Rangers have been openly searching for relief help almost from the beginning of the season and have asked about every reliever rumored to be available, from Bell to Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson of the Padres, Joel Hanrahan of the Pirates, Jim Johnson of the Orioles, Tyler Clippard and Todd Coffey with the Nationals, Royals closer Joakim Soria and Leo Nunez of the Marlins. The Mets traded closer Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers on Tuesday and Kerry Wood apparently has no interest in leaving the Cubs, but they have scratched very few other pitchers off their list. That the Rangers haven't been able to land that coveted reliever has not been because of a lack of phone calls, but one scout said about 15 teams are out there looking for relief help. It's a seller's market and not many are selling, not when the Nationals and the Pirates remain within striking distance of at least a Wild Card spot. People thought the Twins would be ready to sell by now, but they have been inching their way back into the American League Central race. Teams that do have relievers available are not just giving them away. The Rangers would likely have to give up a significant prospect or two. Under Daniels, the Rangers have not shown a willingness to pay a high price for relievers, whether by trade or free agency. Their free-agent approach has been limited to one-year deals plus options -- both Darren Oliver and Arthur Rhodes are working off that -- and their best relief acquisition was picking up Darren O'Day off waivers from the Mets. Lowe was the second player in the Lee trade, but Texas hasn't made a significant trade for a proven Major League reliever since acquiring Akinori Otsuka from the Padres five years ago. The Rangers could always trade for a starter and move one of their current starters to the bullpen. They are adamantly opposed to doing that with Alexi Ogando. Derek Holland's name has been brought up as a bullpen candidate, but then he revived the Rangers' hopes he can succeed as a starter by shutting out the Athletics on Thursday night at the Ballpar in Arlington. The Rangers did add to the bullpen by activating O'Day and Tommy Hunter off the disabled list on the final homestand before the All-Star break. They join Lowe in giving the Rangers three right-handed setup relievers to go with Oliver and Rhodes from the left side, with Yoshinori Tateyama as the middle reliever and Neftali Feliz still the closer. The Rangers will activate Scott Feldman off the disabled list after the All-Star break, and he could replace Tateyama in a middle-relief role. That would give the Rangers a set bullpen leading up to the Trade Deadline and possibly reduce the need for a reliever. The Rangers will continue to look at all possibilities in improving the team. Lee was their big move last summer, but in separate deals they also acquired catcher Bengie Molina, infielders Jorge Cantu and Cristian Guzman and outfielder Jeff Francoeur. The blockbuster may not present itself, but the Rangers rarely sit still at this time of the year.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.