With less than two hours remaining before the 2011 MLB trade deadline, the Rangers scored a major upgrade to their bullpen by acquiring dominant San Diego setup man Mike Adams in exchange for highly-regarded pitching prospects Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin.
Less than 24 hours after dealing for Baltimore's Koji Uehara, Texas added another stifling late-inning arm with the 32 year-old Adams. The 6'5 righthander has spent the past four seasons in San Diego, the last two of which have primarily involved him setting up Padres closer Heath Bell, who has also been the subject of trade talks over the past several weeks.
Adams' body of work put together during the 2009-2011 seasons has earned him a reputation as baseball's most dominant setup man. This year, he has posted a 3-1 record to go along with a miniscule 1.12 ERA and 49/9 K/BB ratio in 48.0 innings pitched. His 2010 (1.76 ERA) and 2009 (0.73 ERA) seasons show a similar dominance. Against right-handed hitters, Adams is simply untouchable, allowing a paltry .107 batting average against in 2011.
Though he has received less media attention than former bullpen-mate Heath Bell, many teams expressed a greater desire for Adams' services than those of the current Padre closer. Bell will become a free agent at the end of this season and is likely to demand a contract that places him amongst the highest-paid closers in baseball. Adams is making just $2.5 million this season and is under team control through the end of 2012.
Along with the recently-added Uehara, Adams will attempt to stabilize a Texas bullpen that currently ranks near the bottom of the American League in several different categories. Closer Neftali Feliz (0-2, 3.21 ERA, 21 saves) has been solid in 2011 and picked up valuable experience during the Rangers' World Series run last year. However, he has blown several saves and the peripheral numbers (27 K, 20 BB in 38.2 IP) are not nearly as impressive as his 2010 showing. If Feliz falters down the stretch, manager Ron Washington would likely feel comfortable allowing Adams to slide into the closer's role.
In exchange for Adams, the money-conscious Padres received two talented starting pitching prospects that have terrific control of the strike zone.
Robbie Erlin, a 20 year-old righthander selected by the Rangers out of a California high school in the 3rd round of the 2009 MLB Draft, was tabbed by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in the Texas organization prior to this season. The Rangers sent Erlin to High-A Myrtle Beach to start the 2011 season, where he dominated Carolina League hitters to the tune of a 2.14 ERA and outstanding 62/5 KK/BB ratio in 9 starts. By the end of May, he was promoted to Double-A Frisco, where he has held his own in a hitter-friendly environment. Through 11 Double-A starts, Erlin is 5-2 with a 4.32 ERA, though those numbers do not tell the whole story. His 61/7 K/BB ratio ranks near the top of the Texas League leaderboard, though he has run into trouble at times by throwing too many strikes, resulting in a .282 BAA. He will remain in the Texas League after the trade, joining the Padres' Double-A affiliate, the San Antonio Missions.
Also joining the San Diego organization is 21 year-old righthander Joe Wieland. Like Erlin, he began the 2011 campaign at High-A Myrtle Beach, mowing down Carolina League while compiling a 2.10 ERA and staggering 96/4 K/BB ratio in 85.2 innings pitched. Prior to the season, Wieland was listed as the No. 22 overall prospect according to Baseball America. He joined Erlin at Double-A Frisco and has continued to find success at the more advanced level, going 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA and 36/11 K/BB ratio in 9 starts before today's trade. In a strange and ironic twist, he will join the same San Antonio Missions team against whom he tossed a no-hitter two days ago.
The Rangers believe they have a team capable of making a return trip to the World Series. Buoyed by a dynamic offense and aggressive manager, Texas is once again a threat to claim the American League pennant. The acquisition of Adams gives the bullpen a feared weapon in front of Neftali Feliz and shores up the team's lone glaring weakness. San Diego, meanwhile, continues to stock its farm system with high-level talent and will likely be back in contention in the National League West within the next few seasons.