Ezequiel Duran, Josh Smith Drawing Trade Interest

Utility-men Ezequiel Duran and Josh Smith are both drawing trade interest from teams, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The pair came across from the Yankees in the Joey Gallo trade last year, and both made their big league debuts this past season.

Duran, 23, was signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2017, and put up strong numbers coming up through the Yankees’ minor league system. He continued that form with the Rangers, hitting .283/.316/.531 with nine home runs in 155 plate appearances at Triple-A this year. That earned him a big league call-up, but he struggled to a .236/.277/.365 line with five home runs in 220 plate appearances, striking out 24.5% of the time against a 5.5% walk rate.

He appeared in 51 games at third base and nine at second, while he’s also spent a bit of time in the outfield and at shortstop in the minor leagues, and is largely playing left field in the Dominican Winter League at the moment. He was a slightly below average fielder at third, as Defensive Runs Saved and Outs Above Average both pegged him at -1.

With third base likely to be Josh Jung’s for the foreseeable future, and the other infield spots locked up by Nathaniel Lowe, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien there’s not much room for Duran, who was ranked third on the Rangers’ prospect list by Baseball America back in August. A difficult first stint in the big leagues shouldn’t tarnish his trade value much, and with the infield set, he could be used as part of a trade package for another area of need, such as starting pitching.

Smith, 25, is in a similar position. BA had him as their ninth-best prospect going into the season, and he hit .290/.395/.466 at Triple-A to earn a call-up to the big leagues. He struggled as well, but still posted a strong walk rate (11.1%) and strikeout rate (19.8%) on the way to a .197/.307/.249 line in 253 plate appearances.

He largely split time between third base and left field for the Rangers, but also logged time at second base and shortstop. He was worth three Outs Above Average in 287 2/3 innings at the hot corner, worth one OAA in 183 innings in left.

The Rangers could run with Smith as their starting left fielder in 2023 and hope to unlock some of the offensive potential he showed in the minors, but, like Duran, he may have more value to the team as a trade chip.

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