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Rangers take a chance on Matt Moore for two pitching prospects

Giants receive Israel Cruz and Sam Wolff

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Did you miss this one? I wouldn’t hold it against you. It’s been several moons since Matt Moore was a rookie darling for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011, dominating a postseason start after Joe Maddon boldly handed him the ball for a game one at Arlington against the Texas Rangers.

Moore allowed just a run in 10 innings for the series and two years later finished top 10 in AL Cy Young voting during an All-Star season.

A UCL tear limited Moore to just 10 innings in 2014 and his brief 2015 return wasn’t pretty. After a career ERA of 3.53 he spiked to 5.43 but in a small sample size (63 innings.) However, he was back in baseball.

And he built on that success in 2016, returning to the Rays’ rotation and putting up very good numbers. Moore’s always been a little too walk prone but that part of his arsenal has actually been a major improvement since his return from injury.

Unfortunately, hits are up and strikeouts down. But the home run hall has become a real problem.

With his original contract signed in 2011 set to jump to $5 million dollars and counting, the Rays traded him at the 2016 deadline to San Francisco. There he regained command of his peripheral stats to finish 2016.

Frisco RoughRiders
Frisco RoughRiders

2017 was a mess, though. Even at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, he piled up a league-leading 15 losses for the Giants and allowed over 10 hits per nine innings. Additionally, he surrendered a career high 1.4 home runs per nine.

Now worth $9 million in the final year of his original contract (a $10M club option for 2019 will obviously be declined), he has a chance at redemption in his contract year.

Staying with the Giants may have been his best pure fit as a pitcher, but a change of scenery may very well be the answer. Six years after shutting out the Rangers in the ALDS, he has become one.

Traded on Friday for minor league pitchers Israel Cruz and Sam Wolff, it’s a fresh start for Moore.

It’s also a new start for two younger arms heading west from Texas. For those keeping track at home, the Rangers will also receive $750,000 in international signing money to relieve the cost-cutting Giants of Moore’s 2018 salary.

Cruz, 20, signed with the Rangers in 2014 out of Venezuela and pitched in the Dominican Summer League during the 2014 and 2015 campaigns. After tough sledding out of the gates, he finished 2014 with five impressive starts and in 2015 he advanced to over 50 innings pitched.

The most impressive stat to Cruz’s name so far is certainly the home run ball. It’s almost poetic he’s in a deal for the long ball troubled Moore because in 156.2 Minor League innings, Cruz has allowed one home run. Just one.

He transitioned to the bullpen in 2017 and pitched there exclusively in the Venezuelan Winter League, allowing one lone run and seven hits in 31 innings.

Wolff, with two F’s, is a 26-year old who split last year at the top two levels of the Texas farm system before going under the knife to repair a torn right flexor tendon.

He’s been tried as a starter at High-A in 2014 and Double-A in 2016 and his impressive 2014 stint in hitter’s haven High Desert certainly put the sixth round pick’s name in more progressive conversations.

In 2017, Wolff made 40 appearances out of the bullpen and was excellent for Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock. In 43 innings over 40 impressions, he posted a 2.93 ERA and finished 12 games, racking up three saves.

After years as a decent strikeout artist at best, his permanent transition to the bullpen resulted in a welcome spike in K’s. He struck out 59 batters (12.3 K/9) and if Wolff makes it to San Fran, it’s going to be in the bullpen.