When you’re in the same position the Texas Rangers finds itself in, you’re allowed to do irrational things. Life’s short, and you don’t want to rob the Buffalo Bills of its claim to fame.
It seems like the Rangers suffered a bigger setback when Cole Hamels opted to stay in Philadelphia, robbed again by the same city slickers who deprived Colonel Nolan of more ammunition.
Of course GM Jon Daniels was in on Zack Greinke, but there was always more of a resigned necessity to the whole pursuit, unlike the more romantic approaches of the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
That’s the price of being a big market team. You get to behave business-like because you have to, because the Rangers aren’t catching a big wave but are creating steady ones. Don’t count them out of making another appearance, even if the team stands pat, though that would be a bit harder without heavier reinforcements.
The Angels could afford to trade off its farm system because Greinke is a finishing touch to a lineup of aces. The Rangers could have really used Greinke, but it’s understandable if the team wasn’t willing to give up any of its better prospects for a two-month rental that though great comes with question marks.
The Phillies could have gotten SS Jurickson Profar, or SP Martin Perez AND 3B Mike Olt, and Philly could really use a bat under 35 now and in the foreseeable future. On a side not I may or may not expound on later, don’t be surprised if the Phillies traded Roy Halladay instead of Cliff Lee, if not in the deadline then during winter. Doc’s time is nearly up, and it doesn’t look like the Phillies will win soon, but it’s illogical to extend Hamels and then reduce from a point of superiority. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro found himself overextended in one direction, and though his team is heavily one-dimensional, now and in the future because of its gaudy payroll, it would be stupid of him to make the same mistake and reload for the future by taking away from the present. So never mind, forget I never bothered with Cliff Lee being available in the first place. It ain’t gonna happen.
But back to the Rangers. I think they’d be amendable to selling Olt or Perez for a guaranteed blockbuster rental or control. It might be a bit illogical to punt for Josh Johnson because he’s a reasonable bargain and could-be ace for at least one more season after this. It only looked like the Brewers were asking for either, or, and were really more interested in the player blocked long-term by Adrian Beltre.
Giving up Olt shouldn’t be a matter of function and motion. The Rangers could bring him up as a first baseman, and by the way he’s destroying the minors, could be hot enough during time of call up to be a more than satisfactory internal call up.
It worked for the Tampa Bay Rays last season. Desmond Jennings was just as valuable coming off a minor league hot streak than Carlos Beltran. Perez has shown enough promise to stand up to the Boston Red Sox. As a lefty with plus stuff, he’s just as good a bet to help the rotation as a pricey trade acquisition.
The Rangers know more than most teams the value beyond the numbers, it’s not a matter of if but a matter of when. Sure, Hitter A gives you 25 home runs and a .500 SLG, but if he’s not doing that at the right time, it wouldn’t matter. More than any professional sport, baseball is cyclical in nature. The key isn’t only to get the most out of exotic stats, it’s when to match them up so they work together, so that those numbers equal to a win in real terms, and not just in player value.
Which is why don’t expect the Rangers to pay the Colon or Teixeira Bounty the Marlins are angling for Johnson. Neftali Feliz could be back soon. The Rangers understand the root of what got him hurt better than why Johnson couldn’t rip through a full season while being dominant, and even as a first time starter with control issues, Feliz has better numbers than Johnson, whom we’re expecting to get better if luck and his defense improves. What for when Feliz already prevented runs at a better rate, while doing it in a more challenging league.
For all the noise of the Rangers’ need for an ace, they’re once again applying the Buehrle Model of having a deep stream of quality pitchers. None of them have to be spectacular, but they just have to be decent enough to let the more reliable offense do the work. After all, Cliff Lee didn’t blossom into an ace for the Rangers until the postseason, and for all his regular season brilliance, wear and tear got to C.J. Wilson in the playoffs. The Rangers had to rely on Matt Harrison last season, so what the hey.
They do need to replace Colby Lewis, who was the most consistent of the Buehrles and sported a balls out 6.00 plus K/BB ratio, tops in the league. There could be value in quantity, or low risk rentals. The St. Louis Cardinals’ biggest and most noticeable upgrade included a right-handed and left-handed specialist, and a No.3 starter as inconsistent as the moon’s far.
Daniels may choose to overpay for relief pitching again, and there’s an understated market that could help boost the Rangers’ chances of going deep the way Mike Adams did, and continues to do.
It’s not illogical to expect Yu Darvish or Harrison to go deep in a playoff series or two, allowing a shutdown bullpen enough rest in-between holding down games. We’ve witnessed how the World Series quickly devolves into a game of relievers, as early as the third inning at times.
Expect Daniels to come away with some combination of San Diego’s Luke Gregerson and Huston Street, Kansas City’s Jonathan Broxton, Cleveland’s Chris Perez, Milwaukee’s Francisco Rodriguez, Seattle’s Brandon League and so on and so forth.
A third-tier pitcher, for carrying through the fume times, like Joe Saunders, Ricky Nolasco, hell Carlos Zambrano and Paul Maholm.
I’ve already made the argument of shipping for Josh Beckett or Jon Lester or both, and if you’re banking on Johnson alone to be a bounce back candidate, then you’re missing out on Beckett, who’s got as good of a chance of succeeding, and failing, as the Marlins’ expensive pseudo-ace.
Don’t expect the Rangers to sit idly on offense, and the biggest name tossed around after Justin Upton’s has been hung out to dry in public — again — is Cleveland’s Shin Soo Choo.
At right field, he’s an upgrade over Nelson Cruz defensively, and though he’s not as powerful, he already has better stats, trending towards a more productive finish.
Cruz has always been a free-swinger, but a stinking .310s OBP is easy to stomach when you’re hitting 29 home runs. He’s still got a chance to reach that on a Josh Hamilton binge, but he’s at 14 home runs. He’s significantly increased his line drive rate, but he strikes out too much, walks too little and stands as a grim reminder of why David Freese’s routine fly turned into a heroic base hit.
Choo’s .377 wOBA is superior to Cruz’s league average .331 wOBA. He walks, but also has a good .294 batting average that could ride a superior BABIP in a smaller park. He’s less powerful than Cruz, on reputation and total home runs, but his .196 ISO is somewhere around career averages, whereas Cruz’s .186 is a tremendous dip from last year’s .246 ISO.
I’d argue that Choo’s a better investment than Upton, who aside from upside has shown that the only thing he can be counted on to do is to be inconsistent. If the Rangers are that protective of their prospects, than taking on Upton would cost more than what it would have taken to get Greinke, and there’s not that much tangible difference between Cruz and Upton right now.
Choo’s the better right fielder, and won’t cost much in years and money, though he will be somewhat under club control for one more season as a final year arbitration eligible player. At 30, it’s the best time to have his services, more so than Cruz, who’s 32, and the type of mistake hitter who doesn’t profile to age well as his bat speed decreases.
But finding an upgrade over Cruz, or Feliz for that matter, is a nice problem to have, for the very reason that it’s not a problem at all.
The Angels went almost all out on Greinke and did well to hold on to Peter Bourjos, Garrett Richards and Hank Conger, but Jerry DiPoto had to do something as Ervin Santana and Dan Haren potentially jeopardize a World Series run. And unlike the Angels, the Rangers don’t have to rely on a 20-year-old sensation, a 32-year-old superstar who showed a whole lotta weakness, and a 23-year-old slugging sophomore who’s never been this good for this long before. Hence the need for a superhuman rotation. The best part is that the Angels no longer have to overpay for relief pitching, perhaps the way the Rangers would, by necessity.
But all other systems are a go for the Rangers. Josh Hamilton may look human but his slump is overstated by the superhuman display of power he exhibited. Baseball people knew this was going to happen — well, not to this degree, but that’s been accounted for.
Lee’s a pipe dream, and a smart organization knows not to drop a Teixmas package for someone like Johnson — at least Teixeira was worth it for the equivalent of one season he spent there. The team already knows that to get something you got to give something — Chris Davis could make all this offensive hunt moot had he not been traded for Koeji Uehara, but don’t expect an impulse buy.
The consensus best arm left couldn’t pry Perez or Olt away from the Rangers. Take that as they don’t want a rental unless it’s Cole Hamels. Don’t expect Texas to dangle him for another pitcher, except if that somehow translated into Felix Hernandez.
Texas could run away from everyone in the league by acquiring Choo, and to some degree Upton, but all things considered, the system works as designed. Because of an understanding of time, space and slugging percentages, and a deep stream of major league ready in house solutions, the Rangers don’t have to do anything to increase it’s already good chances of making the World Series.