The 2024 season has thus far been worse than even the most pessimistic Texas Rangers fan could have predicted. Entering play Thursday, the defending World Series champs were 32-35, 6.5 games behind the first-place Seattle Mariners.

Fortunately, the MLB trade deadline is a time for all teams with any hope of contention to make the necessary tweaks to their rosters. And because of the expanded playoff format and general lack of good teams around baseball, Texas is much still in the playoff discussion. The Rangers have a slew of pitchers coming back off the injured list at some point, but they must not depend on those additions as their sole source of improvement.

Given that additions appear paramount, let's talk about three potential trade targets that would instantly make Texas more viable as playoff contenders the rest of the way. The Rangers may be in hot water, but they're also in a position to control the tone of the trade deadline if they bring in some of the big fish on the market.

Luis Robert Jr., White Sox outfielder

Not many seem to expect the Rangers to go after Luis Robert Jr., who is clearly one of the biggest names with the potential to be moved. Much of that ties back to the Rangers' unwillingness to add significant payroll before this season, citing uncertainty with their television deal with Bally Sports and their bankrupt parent company. But what if they're just waiting for the right time, for the right player?

The young outfield group was supposed to be one of the strengths of the Rangers this season, anchored in part by rookies Evan Carter and Wyatt Langford. But both have under-performed and so has postseason hero Adolis García, leaving Texas with one of the least valuable outfields in baseball by both WAR and OPS. Sure, Leody Taveras has played a good center field, but that shouldn't preclude the Rangers from finding an upgrade.

Bringing in Robert would be huge for morale in the Rangers' clubhouse. They don't know how many more seasons they have left with Corey Seager and Marcus Semien up the middle at the peaks of their respective prowess. Their championship window is open, as winning a title last season clearly indicates. But if Texas wants to start a dynasty, they need one more big bat in their lineup.

Tanner Scott, Marlins relief pitcher

Miami Marlins relief pitcher Tanner Scott (66) pitches against the New York Mets during the ninth inning at Citi Field.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It seems as though the Rangers are doomed to have a shaky bullpen. José Leclerc played an instrumental role in stabilizing things last October, but has been one of the worst relievers in baseball all season. Plus, it's a righty-dominant bullpen, with only Jacob Latz throwing more than 20 innings this season from the left side. The Miami Marlins' Tanner Scott solves all those problems.

For nearly a full season now, Scott has been one of the best closers in baseball. Ironically enough, he regained control of the closer role shortly after the trade deadline last season, when new Marlins acquisition David Robertson struggled mightily in his first few save opportunities. With this move, Scott would rejoin Robertson in a new bullpen, this time with both having excellent seasons.

Because the Rangers have dug themselves a big hole to make the postseason, holding leads late will be imperative in the second half of the season. Scott would give them one more weapon to deploy as either a closer or lefty killer. With a $5.7 million salary this season and free agency looming, Scott is a true rental that won't totally decimate the Rangers' farm system.

Brendan Donovan, Cardinals utility player

This one can only happen if the St. Louis Cardinals decide to be at least partial sellers. But perhaps they should be, because their lineup has been dreadful all season. If so, Brendan Donovan is a perfect match for the Rangers, already having been listed as a fit for Texas in a trade deadline preview written by Jim Bowden of The Athletic.

The 2024  campaign hasn't been good to Donovan, the third-place finisher in the 2022 Rookie of the Year voting. But he's nearing league average with the bat, posting a 98 OPS+ thus far in 61 games, and he can play almost any position on the diamond. He also took home the inaugural utility Gold Glove award in the National League in that same 2022 season.

Acquiring Donovan would give the Rangers a deeper bench in pinch-hit situations, more defensive flexibility and a left-handed platoon option all in one. He's a Swiss Army knife and one of the Rangers' many issues this season has been inability to play matchups, both in starting lineups and late-game situations. Donovan's value to the team wouldn't be as an everyday starter, but in the flexibility he'd give Bruce Bochy in making decisions for each and every game.