Thoughts on the signing of Barret Loux.

Here’s the thing.  Should we be celebrating the fact that Texas has found a way to add the sixth overall pick from last June’s draft and start focusing on what the other four rotation spots will look like in three years?

Should we be clearing schedules for those shoulder and elbow surgeries that many are calling inevitable for that first-rounder who just jumped at third-round money, wishing we could get that $312,000 back to pay three-fourths of someone’s minimum salary on the 2011 roster?

Nowhere close to either extreme. 

There’s a difference between taking Miami righthander Kiki Bengochea in the 11th round (2002) and paying him what was then a high-third-round signing bonus ($550,000), and signing Texas A&M righthander Barret Loux, the sixth pick in the first round, for what was late-third-round money.

Two rolls of the dice.  Totally different risk/reward.

I’ve never seen Loux pitch.  Even if I had, I wouldn’t pretend I’ve got a handle on what his ceiling could be, where the reward level is. 

I don’t read MRI’s.  Even if I did, I certainly wouldn’t sit here and tell you how stable Loux’s physical situation is, where the risk level sits.

But even before Arizona, by all accounts, reached for Loux (who agreed to a pre-physical, below-slot bonus of $2 million) at number six in June, the draft expert industry projected him as a consideration by more than one club drafting later in the first round.  Maybe not at a $2.34 million slot like Arizona’s, but some had him in the mix as high as 13th overall ($1.656 million slot) and a strong consideration at number 23 ($1.26 million slot). 

Texas is paying Loux $312,000 – a smaller amount than it paid eight other draft picks this year that we know of – to see if the shoulder and elbow belonging to someone many considered to be a first-round talent can hold up.  And if the arm doesn’t, and surgery is needed?  Ask C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis if that means it’s time to find something new to do.

A half a dozen of these reports could be written about the saga that began with the Diamondbacks’ selection of Loux on June 7 and ended with Bud Selig’s August 17 ruling, following Arizona’s decision to back out of the handshake deal, that the 21-year-old would become a free agent on September 1.  No sense in rehashing all that here. 

The important thing, as far as a Rangers-centric view is concerned, is that tests administered before Arizona would sign Loux revealed damage in both his elbow (he’d had bone chips removed in 2009) and shoulder (which had cost him two months of action as a high school senior).  Neither issue had interrupted his 2010 Aggies season (11-2, 2.83, .202 opponents’ average, 136 strikeouts [seventh most in the NCAA] in 105 innings, Third-Team All-America), but he couldn’t pass Arizona’s physical. 

The Diamondbacks had the choice between attempting to sign Loux for less money, or walking away, compensated with the number seven overall pick in what promises to be a stronger 2011 draft.  Easy choice.

The Rangers, with no real downside, stepped in and emerged from what was reported to be at least a dozen interested teams with Loux, who may have turned down larger offers from at least a couple teams – and took substantially less than the $800,000 Detroit offered him as its 24th-round pick in 2007, when he was coming out of Houston Stratford High School. 

Why is that?  Could Loux (pronounced like “loud” but with an x at the end, I think) have headed to the independent leagues in an effort to reestablish his market for 2011, instead of signing at a huge discount?  Suppose so.  But maybe he felt better about the protection of his arm, the training and conditioning and medical support, that a big league club – Texas in particular – could offer him now. 

Loux went back to College Station this fall, not to prepare for the 2011 Aggies season (he was ineligible to do so, having hired an agent to negotiate with the Diamondbacks) but to work toward his finance degree and throw for big league scouts.  (He’d joined the Cotuit Kettleers of the Cape Cod League at the end of July but I don’t believe he ever saw any game action.)

The is not the same situation as Tanner Scheppers’s a year ago, and Loux is not the talent that Scheppers is.  Even if healthy, he wouldn’t fit among the Rangers’ top 10 prospects (which I’ve ranked in the 2011 Bound Edition as Martin Perez, Scheppers, Jurickson Profar, Engel Beltre, Robbie Erlin, Michael Kirkman, Luis Sardinas, Robbie Ross, David Perez, and Wilmer Font) and maybe not even in the back half of the top 20 (Jake Skole, Jorge Alfaro, Fabio Castillo, Joe Wieland, Matt Thompson, Luke Jackson, Christian Villanueva, Miguel De Los Santos, Mike Olt, Omar Beltre).

But it’s another talented arm to add to the system, and at third-round money the risk is hard to get too worked up about.  There’s risk in paying three times as much to a healthy 16-year-old from Venezuela, too, or tens of millions to a Japanese club and its player to bring him to the States.  They’re all gambles, on some scale.

Nobody knows what will become of Loux (with apologies to Big Papi), and whether his path will get interrupted on the way to the big leagues, temporarily or worse, but given the size of the investment, I’m a lot happier that his path begins not with Los Angeles or Oakland, not with Tampa Bay or New York, not with San Francisco or Philadelphia, but with the Rangers.

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(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport

 

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