The end of the day brought the news. After days of speculation and an apparent disintegration of the initial deal, the Texas Rangers and the Chicago Cubs agreed to let the Rangers take Matt Garza off the Cubs’ hands while Chicago will assume responsibility for the careers of Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, C.J. Edwards and a player to be named later.
Now we’ll get a couple of days of pundits putting in their two cents’ worth about who “won” the trade, after they’ve finished opining the Ryan Braun suspension to death. Since Garza will be a free agent at season’s end, there’s no doubt the Cubs are the winner if the Rangers don’t ink Garza long-term. On the other hand, an extension for Garza would probably put this as a win-win for both teams. Olt was blocked by Adrian Beltre, so his loss was expected. Justin Grimm could have been a serviceable 4th or 5th in the rotation starter in another year or two. Unfortunately, Texas needed him this year and, following a very successful April, continued to get worse with each successive start. Maybe a change of scenery and going back to AAA will put him on the right road back.
The one I was hoping wouldn’t leave was Edwards. While only at the Low-A level with Hickory and at least two or three years away from the bigs, Edwards was as highly regarded as any 48th round draft pick could be. You saw that right- Edwards was a 48th round draft pick in 2011. Over the past two seasons, Edwards has thrown 160+ innings at three different levels with a combined 1.68 ERA. Now get this: In those 160+ innings, Edwards has given up only 94 hits with 207 strikeouts, only 59 walks and here’s how many home runs he’s given up: Zero. Zilch. Nada.
Texas has been after Garza for a while. Two and a half years ago, they offered Tampa Bay Derek Holland as part of a package, but the Rays sent him to the Cubs instead. I expect Jon Daniels will make a full-court press to sign Garza to a multi-year deal following season’s end.
This trade will not put the Rangers over the hump. As poorly as the offense has performed, there’s no denying the need for at least one big bat in the line-up. Alex Rios of the White Sox is discussed a LOT in the Metroplex, since it’s unlikely the Marlins will part with Giancarlo Stanton at least until the off-season. Texas still has decent minor league pieces they can use to try obtaining a hitter. Only 9 days until the trade deadline. The eyes of Texas are on the Rangers’ front office.
- Everything You Need to Know About the Garza Deal (baselinecommentary.com)
- Report: Rangers Trade Olt, Two Others For Cubs Pitcher Matt Garza (dfw.cbslocal.com)
I heard the news today, oh boy…
ESPN’s Outside The Lines reported Major League Baseball will attempt to suspend as many as 20 players for PED use linked to the probe of Biogenesis in Florida. The clinic’s founder has agreed with MLB to basically out his clients and baseball will try to hand out suspensions accordingly.
The Texas Rangers are affected because Nelson Cruz‘ name was in the first series of newspaper articles as a Biogenesis client. For his part, Cruz said through a representative before Spring Training even began that he didn’t do anything wrong. If that turns out as a false statement, that in itself is cause for suspension under the latest collective bargaining agreement.
The two biggest names in the probe are Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez. Cruz heads the B list, along with the likes of Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon. The OTL reports mention possible suspensions of as any as 100 games. That figure is mentioned only for A-Rod and Braun.
The report brings up many questions. There is no mention as to when any suspensions will come down. It only says MLB will “attempt” to suspend as many as 20 players. In other words, there will be all kinds of repercussions from this. The MLB Players Association will almost certainly mount a significant defense based on no concrete proof of use. This would likely involve the courts, which means it could drag on for a while. Even if the MLBPA fails, each player would then have the right to appeal.
I’m not going to be surprised if Cruz gets suspended but I also won’t be surprised if he isn’t. Speculation is already rampant among the fans on what Texas will do if Cruz is out of the line-up for 50 games. Would they ask Jurickson Profar to learn how to play right field on the fly? Would Mike Olt be a possibility? Or how about AAA center fielder Engel Beltre, a great defender but not a powerful bat?
I have other questions, but they go beyond Nelson Cruz. Would Cabrera and Colon be suspended again? They got 50 games last season, apparently for using the stuff Biogenesis was providing. Would a second suspension be like double jeopardy? Here’s another one. We know Nelson Cruz worked out in Florida during the off-season going into the 2012 season. The inference is he became a Biogenesis client at that time. We also know a number of names haven’t been named in the Biogenesis probe. When Cruz did those off-season workouts, he worked out with teammate at the time Mike Napoli. Could Naps, now a member of the Red Sox, possibly be involved with this? I’m not accusing him and I hope the answer is no, but the question certainly has to be asked and looked into. According to reports, Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez was also a Biogenesis client, but wouldn’t face suspension because he obtained only legal products from the firm. On that basis alone, would every player named thus have a reasonable doubt defense for their activities with the firm?
Despite these reports, don’t expect any suspension decisions to come down soon. I doubt we’ll see anything happen until at least the All-Star break. Some players will then choose to fight to the end, others will accept their punishment right away. Cynical as it may be, I would expect the ones who choose to fight will mostly be players whose teams AREN’T involved in a pennant race. Clubs who are in a race would likely quietly urge their affected players to get it over with so as not to distract the team in its quest.Thus, if Cruz is suspended, he probably won’t fight it.
- Report: MLB preparing suspensions for Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, others for Biogenesis link (tracking.si.com)
- OTL: MLB might suspend A-Rod, Braun, 18 others (espn.go.com)
- Nelson Cruz, facing suspension, says he hasn’t spoken to MLB investigators (sportsblogs.star-telegram.com)
Just 11 days from Opening Day and the Rangers line-up is starting to shape up. The first domino to fall occurred Tuesday when Mike Olt was sent back to the minor league camp. Olt was given a chance to win a job as Mitch Moreland‘s back-up at first base and Nelson Cruz‘ back-up in right field but he just didn’t run with it. Olt struggled at the plate throughout the spring and led the club with 12 strikeouts when he was sent down.
I always figured Olt as a long-shot to make the club out the gate. As the second or third best prospect in the Rangers system, it didn’t make sense to me that he would be a back-up. Olt’s struggles, combined with the way Jeff Baker has been locked in at the plate pretty much sealed his fate.
While he hasn’t been sent down yet, the fact #1 prospect Jurickson Profar decided to join the Netherlands team in the World Baseball Classic after the first round was a pretty good sign he won’t be with the Rangers on Opening Day either. Rangers brass has already said Profar won’t be in Arlington unless he could be assured of 350 or so at bats and that appears unlikely.
With the top three prospects all gone (Martin Perez is out with an injury) from consideration, it’s time to look at who is likely to get the few open positions available. Here are the players who have had outstanding springs and will probably be Rangers on March 31st when they play the Astros in Houston:
As mentioned earlier, Baker has just been outstanding with the bat all spring long. In 49 at bats, Baker is hitting .449 with a home run and 7 RBI. Best of all, Baker knows his role is as a back-up. Players who know and accept their role prepare the way they’re supposed to and shouldn’t cause problems in the clubhouse.
In the first part of the spring, anytime someone mentioned Solarte as a possible candidate for the utility infield position, those more in the know would say it wasn’t going to happen because Solarte doesn’t play shortstop. Lo and behold, in the past two weeks, Ron Washington has given Solarte four or five games at shortstop. Whether this results in a roster position remains to be seen, but Solarte, who played in AAA Round Rock in 2012, has some pop in his bat and could be a consideration.
Most folks figured Martin would be on the big league level this year. The question was would it be as part of a platoon with Craig Gentry or would he win the job outright. The competition has been on and neither player is giving an inch. As of this writing, Martin is hitting .350 with 4 extra base hits, 5 walks and 2 steals. Gentry is at .286 but with a surprising 2 HR’s and has 5 steals without being caught. Other teams have been calling about obtaining Gentry, so Martin could still be the guy fulltime but if Gentry stays, center field could be a fun position to watch on the Rangers this year.
Kirkman is anothe rplayer who figured to make the club as he is out of options. What was unexpected was how impressive he would be this spring. The southpaws in camp have been excellent and none more than Kirkman, who has now pitched 9 scoreless innings this spring, allowing only three hits with 0 walks and 8 strikeouts. With the injury to Martin Perez, Kirkman has even put himself into the mix for the #5 starter position.
I wasn’t necessarily a big fan of his signing but now I look at Lowe the same way as I see Jeff Baker. Lowe has been signed specifically for the thankless job of being the Rangers’ long reliever and spot starter. This is the pitcher who is used the least but expected to give multiple innings whenever he appears in the game. Over the past few years, that role has been filled by Dustin Nippert, Scott Feldman and Roy Oswalt. It’s a tough role but one Lowe is willing to take on and, unlike Feldman and Oswalt last year, is unlikely to grouse about the way he’s being used. Since signing, Lowe has twirled five scoreless innings this spring.
Last year, Robbie Ross opened eyes when he just threw strike after strike and earned his way onto the Rangers despite pitching only in Class A the year before. This year, the same can be said of Joe Ortiz. While he played at the AA and AAA level last year, the diminutive 5-7 Ortiz was said to not have much of a chance of getting to the majors strictly because of his lack of stature. All Ortiz has done is what Ross did last year- throw strikes and make batters swing. The lefty has now thrown 9 scoreless innings, striking out 9 and allowing a meager .167 batting average, putting him well into the bullpen mix.
Another lefty, this major league veteran last pitched in the bigs in 2010. Robertson has a career ERA in the 5’s but has been nothing short of outstanding in trying to come back from injuries. Robertson has 10 innings of 3-hit no-run ball so far.
Another minor leaguer to watch out for is Nick Tepesch, who was a combined 11-6 for Hi-A Myrtle Beach and AA Frisco in 2012. Tepesch has opened some eyes in Rangers camp and is still in the mix for the #5 starter job, though I doubt he’ll get it. He could get consideration for an early call-up in case of injury, though.
11 days to Opening Night Easter Sunday.
Most Spring Training exhibition games are worth listening to the first four or five innings. The starters are in for a few innings, the pitchers you expect to be on the team are getting their innings in.
By the fifth inning or so, only the diehards tend to stick around, as the line-ups become more of the minor leaguers who have no chance of making the team this year. Some of them you’ve never heard of, even though you tend to glance at minor league box scores on a regular basis. So I’m sorry Johan Yan, I’m not paying much attention to you right now. Same goes for you, Juan Apodaca. I admit I didn’t even know you were a part of the Rangers organization when you came to the plate yesterday.
Today’s exhibition game with the White Sox is a little different, though. There are only two Rangers regulars in the starting offensive line-up today- Nelson Cruz and Geovany Soto. Despite that, this game has my interest and I wish I could be at the game in person to watch.
Why? Because the starting line-up has all four of the players who have a real shot at making the Opening Day roster. Mike Olt at third base, Leonys Martin in center field, Jurickson Profar at shortstop and Leury Garcia at second base. Of the four, Martin is the best bet at sticking and most expect him to platoon with Craig Gentry in centerfield in 2013. Garcia is the second best bet, whose versatility make him a strong possibility for a utility role. Profar and Olt are the two best offensive prospects overall, but unless a trade or an injury occurs (or Nelson Cruz is suspended), it’s becoming unlikely there’ll be enough at bats available to justify putting them on the major league roster. Instead, they will more than likely start 2013 in Round Rock.
Still, having all four in the starting line-up today is exciting. All but Martin have reputations as good defensive players. All but Olt have speed on the basepaths. They’re all scouted to be decent to above average bats.
The best I’ll be able to do today is listen, and my work schedule may not even allow me to do that. If you happen to be able to see this game or listen to it, please do. The first few innings could be a taste of the future of the Texas Rangers franchise.
Ballplayers get at least three months off between end of season and start of spring training. I took three and a half weeks off between blog posts. Am I rested? I don’t know. Am I in shape for the 2013 season? Absolutely not!
I vegged out over the past three and a half weeks. I thought about posting some thoughts but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I spent more time playing with my Christmas presents than I did looking into the minutia of Texas Rangers baseball.
Most common statement I’ve heard from non-Rangers brethren since the off-season began and, more specifically, since Josh Hamilton signed with the Angels: “Bet it’s going to be hard to watch the Rangers this year. They’re going backwards.”
I agree it seems the Rangers have gone backwards going into 2013. Gone are Hamilton, Michael Young, Mike Napoli, Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Ryan Dempster. Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz won’t be any help until the second half of the season at the earliest. Coming on board? Joakim Soria, who’s also disabled until after the All-Star break. Lance Berkman, who was limited by injury to less than 100 at bats in 2012. New bullpen pieces in Jason Frasor and Josh Lindblom. A new catcher in AJ Pierzynski. Not exactly a group that’s going to make you forget Hamilton, Young, Napoli, Adams and Uehara, right?
And yet, and yet. I am possibly looking forward to 2013 as much as I looked forward to 2010, when I began this corner of the webiverse chronicling a team that, for the first time in a decade, was possibly going to contend for a title. That team exceeded my expectations and made it to the World Series. And while I harbor no illusions of the 2013 squad being in the Fall Classic, I won’t totally discount the possibility either.
I am looking forward to seeing what the infusion of youth does for this team. Whether the names Leonys Martin, Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar will become as well-known to baseball fans as Josh Hamilton and Michael Young were for the past few years. I can’t wait to see if Yu Darvish builds on a successful rookie campaign to become a bona fide ace. Whether Derek Holland can put a pedestrian 2012 behind him and progress to be at the very least an above average #3 starter. I want to see if new hitting coach Dave Magadan transforms Texas from a team of sluggers to hitters who work counts and put pressure on the pitcher. Will the Rangers running game improve and will baserunning coach Gary Pettis be able to effectively do his job from the third base coaches box instead of his usual first base box? Will Berkman stay healthy enough to impact the team? Is Nelson Cruz going to rebound from a so-so 2012 both offensively and defensively to be the presence he was in 2010 and 2011? Can the new bullpen pieces quickly coalesce into a unit that consistently delivers a lead to Joe Nathan in the 9th?
Most important of all, how will Ron Washington handle the youth movement? Wash took a lot of flak last year for staying with his veterans, especially Michael Young, while Olt and Profar languished on the bench in September. And if he gets all the young guys to perform at a high level and the Rangers continue to compete for a division title, will he finally get some consideration for Manager of the Year?
OK, so Texas didn’t get Zack Greinke. Or Justin Upton. Or Hamilton. Or Napoli. Or James Shields, Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey, Travis D’Arnaud and J.P. Arencibia, all of whom Jon Daniels kicked the tires on during the off-season. Nor does it appear that Kyle Lohse or Michael Bourn are Arlington bound. Yet I’m excited about the 2013 season.
Pierzynski and Berkman aren’t sexy signings, but the two of them have something the rest of the team doesn’t have- a World Series champion ring. I bet that counts for something, including what impact their work ethic might have on Olt, Profar and Martin.
For sure, this is a team with flaws. Just 20 days from Spring Training and there’s no clue who will be the utility infielder or fifth outfielder. It’s anyone’s guess who will be in the bullpen besides Nathan and Frasor. The fifth starter for the rotation has yet to be determined and none of the names in contention are likely to strike fear in the average major league line-up.
What gets me excited is this. If Wash can keep this team in contention through the All-Star break, the second half will see Feliz and Soria returning to the pen and Colby Lewis to the starting rotation. That would make for an intriguing stretch run.
Too bad it’s still 20 days from pitchers and catchers reporting and 66 days til Opening Day at Houston.
Nothing becomes official, of course, until after the World Series concludes. I know the score, though.
The day after a new World Series Champion is crowned, free agency begins. Everyone knows Josh Hamilton will become a free agent. Rangers GM Jon Daniels has already announced Texas will “allow” Josh to shop for the best deal instead of Texas trying to make him a preemptive offer to stay in Arlington.
Josh’s agent has further allowed that after Hamilton has done his shopping, they’ll give the Rangers a chance to top the best offer.
But come on. It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out. The odds are 99% in favor of Josh Hamilton wearing someone else’s uniform in the 2013 season.
Like CJ Wilson before him, it’s a pretty sure bet the Rangers brain trust already knows the top dollar and contract length they’re willing to give him. More than likely the scenario will be this: The annual dollars won’t be the issue, the length of the contract will be.
Texas would love to have Hamilton back, but I doubt they’re willing to offer him more than four years, unless the fifth year and beyond are for lower dollars with heavy performance incentives. Texas could very well be willing to pay Josh $90 to $100 million over the next four years. But someone else is going to offer five or six years at $110-$125 million. Guess which one he’ll take.
Nope, the Rangers are already preparing for life without Josh. They started the other day by hiring Dave Magadan away from the Red Sox as the new hitting coach. Magadan is very much a Ron Washington philosophy type: do what the game asks you to do. Magadan’s Red Sox teams were known to be patient and took a lot of pitches, something the Rangers stopped doing in 2012, especially Josh Hamilton. He also has a reputation for getting the best out of young batters coming up. This lends credence to the possibility of Jurickson Profar and/or Mike Olt being on the roster for Opening Day 2013 and pretty much a certainty that Leonys Martin will be on that roster too.
While he wasn’t the only one for whom this was said, Hamilton has never been one to worry too much about instruction. He doesn’t watch much video, he loves swinging at the first pitch. He likes being the guy with the big bat, so much that he’d rather swing for the fences all the time than settle for a solid single even when the game situation calls for the base hit.
This isn’t to hate on Josh because he’s been the spotlight guy that’s led Texas to two World Series appearances. He’s put up MVP numbers in the past and still may in the future. If and when he goes, I won’t tear up or throw away my Josh Hamilton jerseys. Whoever signs Josh, though, know this: When his decline starts (and who knows, it may have started this year), I don’t think it will be pretty. Josh has succeeded because of his pure athleticism. He plays the game all out, which is good. On the other hand, because he trusts his athleticism, he’s also slow to make adjustments. When the inevitable decline comes, it could be a much steeper drop than most players have. But that likely will be someone else’s problem, not the Rangers.
Managers are the fans’ favorite punching bag. When the team’s going bad, they blame the manager. Even when the team’s going good, as the Texas Rangers have been for the past three years, the manager takes the brunt of the blame for any perceived shortcomings.
So how about this? I want to give Wash a lot of credit this morning for the way he was thinking ahead during last night’s win over the Cleveland Indians.
For Rangers fans, the win was nice but it came at a price. Adrian Beltre left the game early with a shoulder injury. He’s scheduled to get an MRI today. His replacement, rookie Mike Olt, hit a single in his second plate appearance, but hobbled so badly to first base because of the Plantar Fascitis he is suffering, he had to be pulled.
With expanded rosters in September, it would have been easy for Wash to either put Brandon Snyder in at third, since he was the utility corner man for the first half of the season, or put Michael Young there and do without the DH the rest of the game. Since it was already the 8th inning, that wouldn’t have posed any significant hardship on Texas.
Instead, Wash went a completely different route. He moved Ian Kinsler over to third base and inserted rookie Jurickson Profar in at second. Judging by the tweets I read, this move had fans collectively scratching their heads. Kinsler had never played any position other than second base in his entire major league career. After the game, Kins said he hadn’t played third since he was in the minors in 2005.
Many didn’t understand the move, but I don’t think a lot of Rangers fans think Ron Washington has the ability to think ahead.
Wash certainly wanted to win last night’s game, but that wasn’t what was most important to him. He has the post-season to think about. And if there’s any possibility he will have to do without Adrian Beltre in the post-season, he has to figure out how he will do that. He’d love to go with Olt, but his balky foot may not allow that. Brandon Snyder is strictly utility. He can’t replace Beltre for more than a couple of games. That leaves Young as the back-up, which is probably what will happen, but Young is also a defensive liability.
So Wash put Kinsler in at third. He didn’t have to field anything in his brief time there, but if he had, Wash would have gotten a good look at it. If he liked what he saw, then Kinsler could be the late inning defensive replacement for Young while Profar takes over at second. That’s a much stronger team than one which features Snyder.
We’ll find out more about Beltre today. Hopefully, he won’t be out for very long. But if he is, Wash already has a potential plan in mind.