My friend Ben Rogers, who along with Jeff
“Skin” Wade is taking the Ben & Skin Show from the Ticket taxi
squad over to Live 105.3 for a fulltime slot (weekdays, 11-3, starting a week
from Monday), is taking a big chance. He’s
giving up something that’s relatively safe (his normal job, which looks a lot
more like most of ours) in exchange for more upside. Risk: potential reward.
Ben said it best: “Nobody is going to brag at my
funeral about the awesome conservative decisions I made.”
Maybe it would have been safer for Texas to have used the
number 11 pick in June’s draft on a college pitcher like TCU’s Andrew Cashner
or a high school arm like Ethan Martin, than to draft Justin Smoak, both
because he was unquestionably going to command a couple million dollars over
slot to sign, and because the Rangers’ top prospect was Chris Davis, a first
baseman himself and roughly the same age as Smoak.
could have even made an awesome conservative decision like the Astros did at
pick number 10, when they chose eminently signable Stanford catcher Jason
Castro, passing over Smoak. But that’s
not how the Rangers think, or act.
Were there nervous moments on Friday as the late-night deadline
neared, real possibilities that the club wouldn’t come to terms with Smoak and would
be left with slot 11A (which will be the 13th pick) as consolation next summer? Absolutely.
But Tom Hicks stepped up financially, as he has done every year at draft
time, Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan stayed true to the game plan — which meant both
going significantly above slot but not limitlessly and refusing to offer a
major league contract — and a $3.5 million deal got done just as the hourglass
was nearly emptied.
As for the issue that the right-handed-throwing Davis
appears to be this club’s long-term first baseman despite the versatility to play
elsewhere, while the left-handed-throwing Smoak is an above-average defender at
first base but not likely to profile in the outfield? That question is answered easily.
As Daniels said late last night: “There are worse
problems to have than to have to figure out a way to get both bats in the
middle of our lineup down the road.”
Whether that means that Davis could eventually slide over to third
base or an outfield corner, or that one of them will ultimately figure in at
designated hitter — or that we bring the name of Matt LaPorta up again in 2009
— it’s a non-issue right now.
Right now the key is that Justin Smoak’s pro career is
about to launch, and it will be as a Texas Ranger, with stops in either Spokane or Clinton
this month and then Surprise in the fall.
Where it goes from there, that is, when and how soon and
in what capacity, isn’t as important now as the awesome aggressive decision
that Texas made on June 5, and last night, to add another impact talent to the
I’ll try to remember to pay attention to who is on the
board next June at pick number 13, when the switch-hitting Smoak is terrorizing
one of the minor leagues in a Rangers-issued uniform.
One other thing. If the season were to end today, the 2009 draft order would be as follows:
Washington 44 79 .358
Seattle 46 75 .380
San Diego 47 75 .385
San Francisco 51 70 .421
Cincinnati 54 69 .439
Pittsburgh 55 67 .451
Kansas City 55 67 .451
Atlanta 55 67 .451
Colorado 55 69 .444
* Washington (comp pick for failure to sign Aaron Crow)
Cleveland 55 66 .455
Oakland 56 65 .463
Detroit 59 63 .484
Baltimore 59 62 .488
Texas 61 62 .496
Houston 62 60 .508
Toronto 62 60 .508
Florida 63 60 .512
Dodgers 63 59 .516
Arizona 63 59 .516
Yankees 64 58 .525
* Seattle (comp pick for failure to sign Joshua Fields)
Philadelphia 65 57 .533
Mets 66 56 .541
St. Louis 69 56 .552
White Sox 68 53 .562
Minnesota 68 53 .562
Milwaukee 70 53 .569
Boston 71 51 .582
Tampa Bay 74 47 .612
* Yankees (comp pick for failure to sign Gerrit Cole)
Cubs 75 47 .615
Angels 75 45 .625
I would never root for Texas to lose games, but keep an eye on this. If the Rangers finish with one of baseball’s 15 worst records — they are at number 14 right now — then if they sign a Type A free agent this off-season, they’ll forfeit their second-round pick, which could be around the 60th pick overall.
If Texas finishes with one of baseball’s 15 best records — a group from which the club is separated right now by just 1.5 games — it will instead forfeit its first-rounder by signing a Type A.