The Texas Rangers have run into some horrible injury luck this season, the results of which have them sitting eight games behind the Oakland Athletics. Despite missing Prince Fielder, Jurickson Profar, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando, Martin Perez, and Geovany Soto, the team remains just two games under .500. After Fielder underwent neck surgery a few weeks ago, the Rangers called upon Mitch Moreland to take care of first base. After 184 plate appearances of poor production and defense, Moreland and the team will now likely conclude that it’s time for him to get a much needed ankle surgery which will keep him sidelined for the next three months.
First of all, I have a hard time calling Kelly Johnson a first baseman, but with the Rangers injury troubles around the infield, it would be easy to find Johnson playing time. The Rangers currently have top prospect Rougned Odor playing second base, and while he’s hitting very well in his first 76 plate appearances, there’s reason to add depth at second base. Odor’s highest level of competition before the MLB was 282 plate appearances at Double-A, so there is concern that he was rushed to the big leagues. Recently, Odor also sprained his shoulder, and obviously the Rangers have to delicately monitor Odor’s playing time to prevent playing an injured prospect and stunting his development.
The Rangers’ only options in the infield at the moment are Donnie Murphy, who’s OPSing .596 in 110 plate appearances, and Luis Sardinas, who was also rushed the major leagues after OPS’ing just .611 in Double-A this season. The Rangers are in a tough position, but Kelly Johnson could be a cheap and effective band-aid.
The Yankees have refused to start Johnson at second base, opting to play the switch-hitting Brian Roberts and Yangervis Solarte. With Brendan Ryan, Solarte, and Roberts on the Yankees’ roster, the only real depth need for the Yankees is at first base. But the team has been unhappy with Johnson’s production at the corner, and recently they’ve worked Triple-A second baseman Jose Pirela at first base in preparation for the next Teixeira injury. While I would prefer to see Johnson at second base over Roberts, the Yankees don’t seem to share this opinion, in which case Johnson is expandable with some decent value in a shallow infield market.
Johnson hasn’t hit much with the Yankees this season, but that’s come in stagnated playing time while playing new positions. The left-handed hitter has a recent history of hitting home runs, something that the Yankees saw from him in April. A team like the Rangers may be willing to take a gamble that he’ll hit his stride in regular playing time.
The Rangers have so many needs at the moment that the Yankees actually match up very well. Weaknesses at the catching position, starting pitching, and first base could all be answered when the Yankees get back Francisco Cervelli, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia. The question is what the Rangers have to offer back, and as a team that’s spent so flamboyantly on rentals in the past, it’s not hard to imagine them giving up a prospect to desperately answer their 2014 needs.