August and everything after.
When you put men on second and third in the eighth inning and fail to push a run across, it’s deflating, and I get that, but if you put three on the board a couple innings earlier, those runs count just as much.
I heard from some of you yesterday just after 3:00 in the afternoon, complaining that Texas “did nothing” while David Price and Jon Lester and Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Masterson and John Lackey and Jarred Cosart and Asdrubal Cabrera and Andrew Miller and Stephen Drew and others were flying all over the place.
But if you look back at what the Rangers got for Joakim Soria nine days ago (and Jason Frasor to a lesser extent, a week before that), and compare it to what Miller, for instance, brought Boston yesterday, you’ll probably agree that when you score doesn’t matter as much as how many you score — and in this case, Texas appears to have played the market very well by jumping when it did.
(MLB.com’s Jim Callis, asked whether he preferred Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel, whom the Rangers got from Detroit for Soria, or minor league lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez, the player that Baltimore sent Boston for Miller, who is having a better year than Soria: “Thompson and Knebel, easy call.”)
It’s not as if the Rangers took yesterday off. Jon Daniels told reporters that other teams asked him not only about Alex Rios and Neal Cotts but four to six other players as well, possibly including Colby Lewis. “We exchanged proposals with a couple clubs,” Daniels said, “but it just didn’t line up ultimately.” He also acknowledged that Texas got involved in conversations about controllable starting pitchers, a couple of whom show up in the second paragraph above.
There’s value in restraint, and while I was with all of you who were hoping for that adrenaline rush of some breaking news on Thursday involving the Rangers, I can point to trades the last couple July’s with the Chicago Cubs that prove the point that saying no is often the best move a club can make.
And trade season isn’t over.
As things stand today, Texas is a half-game ahead of Houston in the inverse standings, a full game ahead of the Rockies. But this month, where the Rockies’ record sits isn’t so important. August trade waiver claims are league-dependent, and so when American League clubs run dozens of players onto the wire revocably this month, the Rangers will have the first shot at putting in a claim and creating a trade opportunity. Sure, Houston could catch Texas in that regard, but presumably that organization would be less likely to risk a claim on a sizable contract, as Texas did a year ago on Rios, leading to the deal that sent Leury Garcia to the White Sox for the veteran outfielder. Any National League players placed on trade waivers will have to clear the 15 NL clubs before Texas and its AL counterparts have claim opportunities.
And, looking ahead, where the Rangers find themselves in the standings will reap huge benefits over the next year, and Daniels admits the process isn’t necessarily fair. In a recent interview he did with Boston radio station WEEI, Daniels said of the procedural rules that reward teams with bad records: “On some level the rules are in place to create parity. Finishing at the bottom of the standings, we have a chance to do it this year. We certainly don’t want to. We weren’t designed that way. The system is set up that it’s an enormous advantage to finish last. It’s something we need to look at as an industry.
“We have an incentive to lose on some level, and nobody wants to acknowledge that. Nobody builds their team thinking to lose.”
Noting that there’s a lottery system in the NBA that at least purports to create a mild disincentive to lose games, Daniels pointed out that finishing last in baseball results in the following:
- Picking first in the June amateur draft
- Being awarded a bigger draft budget for the first 10 rounds (which not only gives you a shot at the top player, but also the ability to shift more money around to impact the following rounds)
- Being awarded a bigger international free agent budget
- Picking first in the Rule 5 Draft
- Having the top waiver claim position for the entire winter (when waivers are not league-dependent) and through the first month of the following season
There’s an advantage in free agency as well, as teams with one of the 10 worst win-loss records have their first-round picks protected — meaning the Rangers will be able to sign an impact free agent who received a qualifying offer from his 2014 club (Max Scherzer, in light of Detroit’s Price pickup yesterday? Nelson Cruz?) this winter without forfeiting their June first-rounder. Their second-round pick would instead be on the line (though if they recoup a supplemental first for losing a player they’ve tendered the qualifying offer to — like Rios, for example — I’m pretty sure that pick would be lost for signing such a player, instead of the club’s second-rounder).
Texas will also be getting a significant number of key players back from injury in 2015.
Young players will have another year of experience under their belts, including some like Knebel and Patton who aren’t with the big club yet but presumably will be soon, like Phil Klein, who is reportedly on his way to his home state to meet the Rangers in Cleveland, presumably the same destination today for Rangers area scout Roger Coryell.
Oakland will have to recover from a move that meaningfully impacts business going forward — as Lester will almost certainly leave, the A’s will get no compensation as a result (you can’t tender a qualifying offer to a player you didn’t have for the entire season), Cespedes is gone, and Oakland also tossed its competitive balance pick (usually in the 70 range) into the trade, which reduces its draft pool budget by roughly $800,000. Texas cares more at this point about how good the A’s are in 2015 and 2016 than how they fare in 2014, and yesterday’s trade (not to mention the Jeff Samardzija deal in which Oakland shockingly parted with shortstop Addison Russell) dramatically impacts that club’s position once the books on 2014 are closed.
And Lester and Masterson, to name a couple, will be on the market this winter, with Texas not having to surrender its first-rounder to play.
Thursday was a good day for the Rangers, even if they didn’t score themselves by 3:00.
And it’s only August — which means there’s still the ninth inning to play.