Mike Napoli? Signs with Red Sox.
Koji Uehara? Signs with Red Sox.
Zack Greinke? Signs with Dodgers.
Justin Upton? Stays with Arizona.
James Shields? Traded to Kansas City.
Josh Hamilton? Signs with the Angels.
Just a couple short weeks ago, the word from Nashville was that the Rangers were dominating the Winter Meetings. Two weeks later, virtually every player speculated about going to the Rangers has gone elsewhere.
And such is the cycle of baseball. Jon Daniels has been the Boy Wonder of General Managers for the past five years. Today he is an also-ran, victim of his own success.
This isn’t to say that JD isn’t a good GM. He’s one of the best and has put together one of the best farm systems in the majors. Baseball, though, is a big poker game with the GM’s when it comes to trades and free agents and it’s quite likely his brethren have learned JD’s “tells”.
In the case of Hamilton, there was too much honesty for his own good. It was well-publicized that Hamilton was willing to let the Rangers top the best offer he got. The longer the process went, the more it became apparent how far the Rangers were willing to go and that was four years, so Jerry DiPoto offered Josh five.
Arizona used Daniels to get what they wanted, which was a lot. By dangling Justin Upton out there, they found so many offers involving the Rangers and other players that could help them that they cut side deals to get all those players and now have no need to trade Upton.
Greinke? Well, the Dodgers are spending like drunken sailors. That was a long-shot anyway.
As for Shields, he was Daniels’ back-up plan should Greinke not work out, but the Rays got tired of waiting so they worked out the deal with Kansas City and probably got a better return than they would have from Texas.
Now speculation is already rife that the Angels will turn around and trade one of their now spare outfielders to the Mets in return for RA Dickey, another Rangers target.
At this point, there’s very little Texas can do to respond to these moves. There’s not much in the free agent market anymore that will strengthen the team. There’s a very good chance the 2013 Rangers will contain a lot of mentions of Profar, Olt, Martin and Perez, youngsters who will be given a good shot at playing time. This is also still a very good team. They may not win the West in 2013, but putting the youngsters in now could pay huge dividends in 2014.
Still, Rangers fans have every right to think the front office should have been more aggressive than they were this off-season. Much as Jon Daniels deserves a lot of credit for building the Rangers into World Series contenders, he has been outmaneuvered at every turn this off-season.
Losing Hamilton doesn’t make me distrust the Rangers’ front office. It does make me think Jon Daniels needs to adapt his style of playing poker.
After non-tendering and then re-signing Geovany Soto, Texas basically has one “proven” catcher to go with into Spring Training. Pardon me for being singularly underwhelmed. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays seem to be skirting Security and Exchange Commission rules by trying to corner the market on catchers, having now stockpiled JP Arencibia, John Buck, Travis D’Arnaud and Eli Whiteside. I’m pretty sure they’ve got about four more on their AAA roster as well for safekeeping.
I was hoping Naps would return to the Rangers but it was not to be. We still don’t know if Josh Hamilton will return to the fold or not. Also out there from the Rangers roster are Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Mark Lowe.
But enough about who could be departing. Let’s talk about who I’d love to see arriving via the free agent route. I’d planned this article a month ago but the rigors of the “real job” got in the way. As a result, one of my prime free agent picks was snatched up, when the Giants re-signed Jeremy Affeldt to a 3-year deal. Texas never would’ve gone for three years on a reliever so c’est la vie.
BJ Upton may have gone on the list as well (though I’m not 100% sure of that), but Atlanta snatched him up. There are still quite a few out there, so here are the free agents on my Rangers wish list, starting with the obvious:
1) Zack Greinke: Well why not? He’s the prime pitcher in this year’s free agent class. The Dodgers are said to be the favorite at this point, which I can grudgingly accept. I do NOT want him returning to the Angels. I would LOVE to see Greinke in a Rangers uniform. He’s just the right age, he has playoff experience and his social anxiety issues have nothing to do with him pitching. MLB Radio this morning kept talking about how the “band box” in Arlington would not be good for Greinke, which goes to show how hard reputations die. Rangers pitchers have more than held their own at RBiA the last three years and additional construction in the 2011 off-season actually lessened the famous summer jet stream in 2012. I would love to see a Darvish-Greinke-Harrison Top 3.
2) Adam LaRoche: Put LaRoche at first base and all of a sudden Texas has one of the best defensive infields in baseball. Add in the production which certainly tops Mitch Moreland‘s the past two seasons and you’ve got a good recipe for success, whether Hamilton comes back or not. LaRoche certainly isn’t the top tier in first basemen but he’s at the top of the middle tier.
3) Eric Chavez: Hear me out on this one. Chavez did a great job in a utility role for the Yankees and, unfortunately, will probably re-sign with them now that the Bombers know A-Rod will be out for 4-6 months. Chavez is close to Rangers manager Ron Washington and credited Wash for his Gold Glove in Oakland. As overplayed as the Rangers were and as many nicks that Adrian Beltre got during the 2012 season, a proven guy like Chavez would fit right in with the Rangers.
4) Kyle Farnsworth: The bullpen has to be rebuilt and Farnsworth would be a good addition as a late inning guy. He’s closed and set up for the Rays and he could fill a variety of roles with the Rangers, spelling Joe Nathan when he’s pitched a couple of games in a row and setting up otherwise. Plus he’s one bad-ass martial arts dude.
Beyond that, I think the Rangers will look to improve more via the trade route than free agency. I also don’t expect them to get much done during the Winter Meetings. They don’t have a big history of splashy moves during this time.
This is a team in flux. I can’t wait to see what moves Jon Daniels has in store over the next two months.
With two outs in the first inning of Friday night’s game against the White Sox and runners on first and second, Nelson Cruz hit a three-run shot that gave the Rangers a 4-1 lead in a game they would eventually lose 9-5. The Cruz missile was a significant moment in the weekend, although we did not know it at the time.
Since then, the Rangers have managed not a single hit with runners in scoring position. The official tally is now at 0-29 and counting. It’s a miracle that 1) the Rangers have scored 5 runs in that time; and 2) that they actually managed to win Sunday night’s game.
What has become a putrid offense in the month of July scored their last five runs on a solo home run, an error, and three groundouts. So many chance, almost all of them wasted. Friday night, Texas had the bases loaded and one out. Couldn’t convert. Twice on Saturday, they had a runner on third with one out and once a runner on third with nobody out. Couldn’t get a hit. Sunday, the Rangers loaded the bases in both the first and second innings and couldn’t get a runner home. They also had a runner on third with one out twice and a runner on third with two outs once. Two of those three times, they got a run home but not via a hit.
It’s that type of offensive ineptitude that allowed the White Sox to take two of three from the Rangers and win the season series, 6 games to 3. If not for the sparkling work of Scott Feldman on the mound Sunday, it’s conceivable the White Sox could have swept the Rangers for the second straight time. Feldman had what was perhaps the best game he’s ever had in a Rangers uniform, going eight innings on only 88 pitches, striking out five and walking no one in picking up his fifth straight victory after losing his first six decisions of the year. Better yet, the Angels lost two of three to the Rays, so they gained no ground on the Rangers. In fact, the Angels dropped to third after the A’s took two of three from Baltimore, so now it is Oakland in second place at 4 1/2 games behind.
Still, this Rangers fan is getting very pessimistic despite the fact my team still has the second best record in the American League. This month, the Rangers offense stands at a .242 batting average with 71 runs scored, worst in the AL by a whopping 21 runs! The vaunted offense has only hit 18 July home runs, less than anyone except the Mariners who have also hit 18. The only reason they’re even 9-12 this month is because the pitching staff is 5th in ERA for July and has thrown two shutouts.
Rehabbing Neftali Feliz was pulled from his Sunday start with Round Rock when his elbow started acting up again. He joins Colby Lewis on the list of Rangers pitchers who will not be available the rest of the year. Meanwhile, the Angels made the big move of the weekend, picking up Zack Greinke from the Brewers. He will provide a big boost to their starting pitching. The good news is he pitched Sunday against the Rays (and lost!), so Texas will not have to face him in this week’s big 4-game set at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. At best, Texas will only see Greinke twice in the regular season.
It’s beginning to look doubtful the Rangers will pick up an impact starting pitcher by the trade deadline tomorrow. Latest rumors have Texas working on stretching out Alexi Ogando to be a starter again and looking at the relief market. The way the offense has been going lately, I still think it would behoove the Rangers to find a bat to help them in the stretch run. Josh Hamilton has been so bad of late that he was benched on Saturday after being booed by the home fans following another one of his gruesome at-bats Friday. Sunday he amazed one and all by not only not striking out, but taking some pitches and walking twice. He also was moved from third to fifth in the line-up.
No, things haven’t been looking so good in Rangers Land as of late. Still, I take comfort in this. Texas mostly stood pat to start the 2012 season. The Angels spent a small fortune to get Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson. Mike Trout came up and is having an MVP-like season. Now they’ve gone and gotten Greinke. Still, here it is July 29th and the Rangers are up 5 on the Angels. A year ago at this time, they were up only 2 on LA. Maybe it’s being done with smoke and mirrors, but my boys are still getting the job done. I’m not guaranteeing Texas will retain the AL West crown, particularly in light of the way they’ve been playing lately. But I can’t say I’m betting against them either.
Which is bigger for the Rangers this weekend, the home series with the White Sox or the imminent trade deadline?
If you’re actually playing for the Rangers, the answer is, you worry about the White Sox and as for the trade deadline, que sera sera. It’s especially true this weekend, seeing as the Sox swept three from Texas at Chicago just a couple of weeks ago. This weekend represents not only payback time, but also the opportunity to send a message to a playoff contender that the road to the World Series still goes through Arlington.
Tonight’s pitching match-up is one I’d love to see: Yu Darvish vs. Chris Sale, both starters with 11 wins on the season. Sadly, viewing is not an option, as the Friday night games are only broadcast live in the Dallas Metroplex, from which I’m far removed. So I imagine I’ll be constantly checking my MLB app whilst the wife and I watch the Opening Ceremonies of the London Olympics. Still, the Darvish-Sale match-up is sure to set the tone for the entire weekend of Rangers baseball. Matt Harrison and Roy Oswalt will get the other two starts in the series.
Meanwhile, the trade deadline has gone into double-digit hours away now, with Texas being linked to: Zack Greinke, Josh Johnson, James Shields, Justin Upton, Shin Soo Choo, Cliff Lee and probably the ghost of Babe Ruth as well. Just a few days ago, I opined the Rangers would not be looking for a starting pitcher this year and upgrading the offense would be the priority. A day later, Colby Lewis was lost for the season, throwing everything in disarray. That makes every quality starting pitcher a target for Texas, with Greinke being the crown jewel in the wish column.
Last year the Rangers were relatively quiet at the deadline, with only two relief pitchers being acquired in Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. Two years ago, Texas managed to get Bengie Molina and Cliff Lee before the deadline and still added Jorge Cantu, Cristian Guzman and Jeff Francoeur in waiver deals after the deadline. There’s not a pundit around who doesn’t think the Rangers are going to make a big deal before the Tuesday deadline. I think they will too, but I also know Jon Daniels could scotch a deal if he feels the asking price is too high.
In the meantime, it’s three with the White Sox this weekend and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the priority.
As pointed out many a time in these pages, the advantage of having a playoff-caliber team is that your team is linked to virtually every big name being bandied about in the weeks leading up to the July 31st trade “deadline“. I put deadline in quotes because, of course, many a deal occurs after July 31st. They just become more complicated as they involve putting players on waivers and hoping the wrong team doesn’t put in a claim so you can then make the trade you’ve already agreed to with another team. If someone else puts in a claim, you have to withdraw the player from waivers and that team is officially stuck with him for the remainder of the season.
So, thanks to back to back appearances in the World Series, the Rangers are now rumored to be in the hunt for everyone. Cole Hamels? You bet. Zach Greinke? Of course! Matt Garza? You’d better believe it. Then the writers are quick to point out that Rangers scouts have appeared at a game with a Phillies minor league team and offer it as proof Texas is in on the Hamels sweepstakes. Problem is, Rangers scouts are also being seen at Brewers minor league affiliate games. And Cubs minor league affiliate games. And those games are also being attended by scouts from probably half the teams in the majors on any given night. Scouts are always at games. That’s their job.
The question really is, what do the Rangers need? Honestly, I don’t think it’s pitching. They already have arguably the deepest bullpen in the majors and, while most still aren’t household names as yet, the starting staff is one of the best so far in the AL. It is also six deep right now, with Neftali Feliz rehabbing at AAA Round Rock and being stretched out once again as a starter. Even some Rangers fans are saying, “BUT WE NEED A TOP OF THE ROTATION TALENT!” Sure, it would be nice to get a Hamels or Greinke or even Cliff Lee, whose name is suddenly being bandied about as well. I just don’t see Texas giving up some of the best the farm has to offer to pick up free-agents-to-be Hamels or Greinke. Garza’s considered a #2 at best and Texas already has at least three #2’s right now in Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis (or you could substitute Yu Darvish for Holland).
No, I don’t think Texas makes a deal for a pitcher. So what about the offensive side? There’s certainly more to argue about there. Mike Napoli has been as bad this year as he was good a year ago. Michael Young has suddenly become just a singles hitter with a career low walk rate as well. And Nelson Cruz has been healthy all year and still has only 11 home runs to show for it. Even Josh Hamilton has been in a massive slump for the past month plus. On Tuesday, the Rangers finally scored more than four runs for the first time in 11 games. This once potent offense has been scuffling for awhile now and could use a jolt.
The problem here is, who are you going to get rid of and who are you going to get? Speculation in the Lone Star State all year has been that David Murphy could find himself on another team by the trade deadline. Murphy, though, is a part-time player, a valuable 4th outfielder. If the Rangers go after offense, it should be to get a fulltime player. So who are you going to bench to make room for that player? Is it Cruz who, when he does get into a hot streak, can carry the team on his back for two weeks? Is it Young, the longtime face of the franchise (and for the record, I am very tired of hearing that term)? Do you find a first baseman and tell Mitch Moreland his services are no longer required when he comes off the DL?
This is likely to be the toughest year to try to gauge what Texas will do at the trade deadline. It was easy in 2010. Texas needed a catcher, they got Bengie Molina. They needed starting pitching. They got Cliff Lee. And they got extra bench help with Jeff Francouer. Last year was pretty obvious as well. The big need was in the bullpen. They went out and got Mike Adams. This year, a move likely entails saying goodbye to an established starter, be it pitcher or position player.
Now for the over-thinking part alluded to in the headline. Someone MLB Radio this morning, I think it was Todd Hollandsworth, said the Rangers really didn’t need to make any moves at the deadline this year. They have starting pitching depth, relief pitching depth and positional depth. I agree with that in theory. And yet, I think we’re going to see the Rangers make a deal of some sort. The easy reason is this: Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Mike Adams and Colby Lewis are all free agents at season’s end. Texas may make a deal for a player with at least a couple of years of control just to help negate the possible departure of one of those players.
Here’s a harder reason, but one just as likely. Texas could make a deal simply to make sure one of their competitors doesn’t. Maybe Matt Garza (or Ryan Dempster) aren’t really needed by the Rangers. But they could certainly be used by the Tigers or the Yankees. Maybe Texas gets one of them simply to keep them from going to New York or Detroit. Justin Upton’s name has come up as a trade possibility. Texas could go get him to make sure Detroit, Chicago or Tampa don’t. Texas knows as well as anyone that standing pat while other teams get stronger makes the Rangers a weaker team than they are now, even though they haven’t changed at all.
Will Texas make a deal? I have to think so. I also have to think a deal this year will result in at least one current starting player, either on the mound or in the field, no longer calling Texas home. And it will probably be a name that surprises a lot of people.
The Josh Hamilton Free Agent Thing: During interviews at the All-Star Game, Josh Hamilton made a curious statement as to re-signing with the Rangers. First, Hamilton said the Rangers will get first shot at him in the off-season. Second, that his camp and the Rangers camp had mutually agreed to put off contract discussions until season’s end. Then, however, Hamilton added this: “[Texas] had a shot earlier this year and didn’t really take it”.
Josh, Josh, Josh. This is revisionist history at its best. Lest you forget, every report out of Arlington in the off-season said discussions were ongoing, that progress was being made, even that an agreement was very close. Something happened to change all that. Now what was it, Josh? Think real hard. Could it be that maybe, just maybe, it had a little something to do with that relapse you had at a Dallas bar in the off-season? Texas didn’t take the shot because YOU took YOUR eye off the target. I love what you’ve done for the Rangers, Josh. Just don’t insult my, or every other fan’s, intelligence by putting the failure of a long-term deal squarely on management. You had a lot to do with that, my friend.
The Cole Hamels/Zach Greinke Trade Speculation Thing: It’s July, so the annual trade deadline speculation has begun. Two of the biggest names out there are free-agents-to-be Cole Hamels and Zach Greinke. And of course, the Rangers are featured prominently in trade speculation. Will the Rangers get Hamels or will the Rangers get Greinke? Here’s my prediction: The Rangers will get neither, and I doubt any other team will either.
Why? Because of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Used to be, a team could send prospects to another team and get a two-month rental on a free agent to be, then get a compensatory draft pick when said player signs a big free agent contract with someone else. Those rules apply no more. Now, the team trading the player gets the draft pick. So you tell me. Even in a pennant race, why would it make sense for a team like the Rangers to part with one or two of its best prospects, thus depleting their minor league system, for a player who’s going to leave in two months, leaving them with nothing?
The only way I see a team picking up one of those major players is if it’s a trade and sign deal, or if the team doing the acquiring sends a much smaller package to the other team, knowing that team is also getting a draft pick in the process. They not only get a player like Hamels, they’ve also agreed to a long-term deal to keep them off the free agent market. I think we’re going to start seeing a lot more deals at the trade deadline for players with one or two more years of control than you will of the prime players getting ready to hit free agency.