Times long past, I think it means.
A year ago, it sort of felt — possibly — like that perennial World Series chase was a time long past for the Rangers. We were all pretty sure those 95 losses were freakishly anomalous, due in large part to record-setting injury numbers, but then again there were healthy veterans whose numbers had cratered, too, plus a first-time manager coming in, a couple division rivals who had what appeared to be impact winters, and then, in March, the loss of Yu Darvish for the year.
Instead, it’s now that brutal 2014 that feels like an outlier, an aberration, a time long past. Texas re-earned a place at the tournament table in October, and once again this has the look and feel of a contender, as has been the case every year this decade, other than 2014.
Jim Bowden ran an ESPN piece yesterday attempting to identify “[w]hat’s missing for all 30 MLB teams.” This is what Bowden said with respect to the 10 teams coming off playoff baseball:
* A power bat and bullpen depth (NYM)
* Starting pitcher (CHC)
* Patience to wait for farm system to deliver (LAD)
* Impact bat (STL)
* Starting pitcher, first base (PIT)
* Corner outfielders (KC)
* Bullpen depth, backup middle infielder (TOR)
* 1B or 3B (HOU)
* Starting pitcher (NYY)
* And Texas: Their players returning to good health
It’s been a relatively quiet off-season for the Rangers, but as we’ve talked about over and over, Texas got a four-month (and half-season) jump on its winter in July, plus it’s not as if the off-season is over.
But, as Bowden noted: “If everyone is healthy, the Rangers have a strong, deep club; now it’s just a matter of getting all hands on deck. All-Star starting pitcher Yu Darvish is expected back as early as mid-May from Tommy John surgery (surgery was in March), Derek Holland and Martin Perez would be another year beyond their surgeries, and Josh Hamilton has comeback player of the year potential if he can return from his long list of ailments.”
I might tap the Hamilton brakes, but you get the point. The Rangers, at least in the perception of Bowden and others, don’t need that added impact starter or a corner bat to contend. They may just need to be healthy.
The Yankees made a splash this week trading four prospects to Cincinnati for closer Aroldis Chapman — but as Sweeny Murti (WFAN) notes, New York was 66-3 this season when leading after six innings, 73-2 when leading after seven, and undefeated in the 81 games it led after eight. How much better, Murti wonders, does Chapman really make that team?
This isn’t exactly the 1997 Rangers replacing Mike Henneman with John Wetteland.
Some reports suggest the Rangers are lurking on Yoenis Cespedes (who wouldn’t cost a draft pick to sign, incidentally), and could turn loose a high-end bullpen arm for the right return (maybe a young, controllable starting pitcher with mid-rotation projection). But it doesn’t sound as if Texas plans to play big in free agency, and by all accounts the club isn’t proactively looking to move a reliever, or Mitch Moreland. The Rangers — as always — will look to be opportunistic, but that’s not the same as pushing the issue.
Nick Cafardo (Boston Globe) reports that Cliff Lee is “completely recovered from his flexor tendon tear and has been cleared to throw,” and he suggests the 37-year-old could be “a great gamble” for Texas, Baltimore, Kansas City, or Houston. That’s one situation I’m really interested in monitoring, but given the dollars it would take, even if heavily incentive-based, I’m not so sure the non-roster deal the Rangers signed righthander A.J. Griffin to a couple weeks may not be the more prudent risk to take.
Still: Would love to see Cliff back here.
Last winter was mostly quiet for Texas as well, headlined by the mid-January trade for one year of Yovani Gallardo and — in retrospect — the Rule 5 drafting of Delino DeShields.
But recognize that aggressive is always right around the corner when it comes to Jon Daniels.
I rank the Rangers’ top 72 prospects every winter for my book. Looking back at the list from a year ago, which I shared last New Year’s Day, and focusing on just the 24 that make up the top third, Daniels moved 10 of them in 2015, with another three not only graduating to the big leagues but lasting long enough to exhaust rookie status and remove themselves from this year’s list. None of them fell out of the top 24.
More than half of those two dozen from a year ago today are now with new organizations, or have established themselves in Texas.
More than half.
And as a result, Cole Hamels and Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman are also here, each for a long time, not to mention a supplemental first-round pick that the Rangers will recoup once Gallardo — whose 184.1 innings and the best ERA+ of his career helped Texas reach 162+ last year, when he was the de facto ace for the first half of the season — signs elsewhere this winter.
I’m not sure I’d predict that 10 of the 24 players who top the list in this year’s book get traded between now and New Year’s Day 2017, but I do agree with Bowden’s assessment that the Rangers don’t have much more to do this winter to position themselves to contend in 2016 — and knowing Daniels, that means we could be looking at another big trade deadline move or two this summer, as he once again gets a head start on the winter while boosting a pennant run in the meantime.
And making sure that 2014 feels, even more, like a time long past.
My Top 72 Rangers Prospects list, as found (with full write-ups on every player) in this year’s Bound Edition:
- Nomar Mazara, OF
- Joey Gallo, 3B-OF-1B
- Lewis Brinson, OF
- Dillon Tate, RHP
- Luis Ortiz, RHP
- Andrew Faulkner, LHP
- Brett Martin, LHP
- Luke Jackson, RHP
- Eric Jenkins, OF
- Ryan Cordell, OF-3B
- Leody Taveras, OF
- Michael Matuella, RHP
- Ariel Jurado, RHP
- Josh Morgan, SS-2B-3B
- Connor Sadzeck, RHP
- Jairo Beras, OF
- Yohander Mendez, LHP
- Yeyson Yrizarri, SS-2B
- Andy Ibanez, 2B
- Ronald Guzman, 1B
- Tyler Phillips, RHP
- Jose Trevino, C
- Travis Demeritte, 2B-3B
- Phil Klein, RHP
- Sam Wolff, RHP
- LeDarious Clark, OF
- Scott Williams, RHP
- Jake Lemoine, RHP
- Jose Leclerc, RHP
- Chad Smith, OF-1B
- Chris Garia, OF
- Jonathan Hernandez, RHP
- Victor Payano, LHP
- David Perez, RHP
- Drew Robinson, 2B-SS-3B-OF
- Luke Tendler, OF
- Michael De Leon, SS-2B
- Frank Lopez, LHP
- Jose Almonte, OF
- Chad Bell, LHP
- Tyler Ferguson, RHP
- Ti’Quan Forbes, 3B-SS
- Will Lamb, LHP (traded to White Sox for minor league righthander Myles Jaye after I went to print)
- Evan Van Hoosier, 2B-OF
- Luis Marte, SS-3B-2B
- Pedro Payano, RHP
- Jose Valdespina, RHP
- Richelson Pena, RHP
- Royce Bolinger, OF
- Jesus Pirela, RHP
- Samuel Zazueta, LHP
- Melvin Novoa, C
- John Fasola, RHP
- Miguel Aparicio, OF
- Adam Parks, RHP
- Jared Hoying, OF
- Kelvin Vasquez, RHP
- Anderson Tejeda, SS-2B-3B
- Isiah Kiner-Falefa, 2B-SS-3B-OF
- Cole Wiper, RHP
- Pedro Ogando, OF-2B-1B
- Collin Wiles, RHP
- Eduard Pinto, OF-1B
- Pat Cantwell, C-OF
- Ryne Slack, LHP
- Kellin Deglan, C
- Pedro Brito, LHP
- Jimmy Reyes, LHP
- Preston Beck, OF-1B
- Seth Spivey, 3B-2B-OF
- Yohel Pozo, C-1B
- Brett Nicholas, C-1B
Happy New Year, you guys. Here’s to good health and to more moments like this one, and to even better ones.
I think the science is that the days start, little by little, to get longer on December 22 each year. A little more light, each day.
It felt that way Tuesday night. The weather, and just about everything else, couldn’t have been better.
We packed in about 325 people at the really cool Bedford Ice House for the Newberg Report Book Release Party, and you guys donated hundreds of toys to help make sure lots of kids had better holidays than they would have otherwise.
Jeff Banister, Eric Nadel, Darren Oliver, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Freeman, and Josue Perez signed autographs and answered fan Q&A and posed for photos — Banny also formed a brand new Rangers cap at my request (scroll down through this stack of Marty Yawnick’s photos from the event to watch the video) — and it was a great night of baseball.
All those guys sacrificed family time to be with a few hundred hungry Rangers fans. The energy was incredible. Baseball can’t get here soon enough.
Jared Sandler and then Ben and Skin helped run things, Steve Richardson and his staff took care of everyone, Dawn Shepard and Billie Jo Davis classed up the joint, and this dramatic reenactment happened:
Thanks for everyone who came out to the party. Most of all, I want to thank Banny, Eric, Ollie, Robinson, Sam, and Josue, because the grind those guys go through — in large part for us — for eight or nine months every year leaves very little time to decompress, to reconnect with family and build on that part of their lives before the grind gets set to start up all over again. I think that’s probably lost on lost of folks. It’s no longer lost on me.
I’m super-grateful to those guys. They made a cool night really come together.
Now, I’m about to ruin today’s entry, because I walked out of a movie theater about 12 hours ago and can’t help myself.
No spoilers, I promise.
This is going to be terrible, but here we go.
Episodes one through three of the Star Wars franchise were the equivalent, maybe, of the Rangers’ first-ever taste of playoff baseball, when the club was mauled by the Yankees three times but still reached new territory. October 1996 (Juando: Rise of Vader), 1998, and 1999 = May 1999, 2002, and 2005. Yeah?
(This works better if you pretend for a minute that Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith were actually released first, just as they fall in the story.)
(Actually, it probably still doesn’t work.)
Maybe Episodes four through six line up with the 2010 World Series season (1977’s breakthrough A New Hope), the 2011 World Series season (1980’s awesome The Empire Strikes Back), and the extraordinary 2015 Rangers season (1983’s Return of the Jedi), which may not have soared the way 2010 and 2011 did but which was still a phenomenal experience . . . leaving us fired up, wanting more.
We saw Episode VII: The Force Awakens last night.
There’s a World Series parade ahead, one year soon, that will complete this analogy. That film was awesome.
The Star Wars portion of this report wasn’t awesome, but I ruined a “Mad Men” episode a few years ago by actually commenting on specifics, so I won’t make that mistake again.
(I just made a different mistake, by not deleting the last eight paragraphs.)
Thanks to all those who came out to Bedford Ice House on Tuesday. Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.
Seriously: Happy New Year.
Since I announced Friday that Jeff Banister, Sam Freeman, and Josue Perez will join us Tuesday night at Bedford Ice House for the Newberg Report Book Release Party, we’ve added several more autograph guests.
Now joining us for the event, which will be emceed by Jared Sandler, Ben Rogers, and Jeff “Skin” Wade of 105.3 The Fan, will be:
* Rangers manager Jeff Banister
* Hall of fame broadcaster Eric Nadel
* Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos
* Rangers lefthander Sam Freeman
* Former Rangers lefthander (and current front office exec) Darren Oliver
* Rangers minor league hitting coordinator Josue Perez
The event officially starts at 5:30 tomorrow (Bedford Ice House is at 2250 Airport Freeway, Bedford, TX 76022, about nine miles north of the Ballpark), and though we plan to go until 9:00 with autographs and fan Q&A, you might want to make sure you’re there on the early end, as some of our autograph guests will have to leave at around 7:00.
Bedford Ice House is a non-smoking establishment, and the event will be very kid-friendly. Have your kids bring some new and unwrapped toys to help support the Rangers Foundation’s Cowboy Santas Toy Drive effort. And plan to eat, if you’d like.
The Mavs and Stars will be on TV there as well, and I can almost rule out that the Mavs will trade for Rajon Rondo during the party, like they did last year.
The 2016 Bound Edition will be on sale ($25) at the event, and I’ll also have copies of the Bound Editions from the two World Series seasons on hand ($20 each). There will be a very limited amount of Newberg Report T-shirts ($15) available as well. Cash, checks, and credit cards accepted.
If you’re not able to attend and still need the 2016 book for holiday gifts, the publisher tells me that if you place your order by Tuesday mid-afternoon, you’re ensured FedEx delivery no later than Thursday (Christmas Eve).
But the forecast calls for a high of 72 degrees tomorrow and a low of 61, which leaves me about zero reasons I can think of for you not to join Banny, Eric, and the rest of us at Bedford Ice House tomorrow for a much-needed night of baseball.
Sometimes the press release reverberates with a cannonball splash, like four years ago today, when Texas was awarded the exclusive rights to negotiate with Nippon Ham righthander Yu Darvish after submitting a record posting bid of $51.7 million.
Other times it registers with a mild ripple, like the anticipated reunion with Colby Lewis, the free agent signing of 33-year-old journeyman Justin Ruggiano, or last spring’s trade, days before the season opened, of a player to be named later or cash for out-of-options and out-of-the-Cardinals’-plans lefthander Sam Freeman.
The thing about that second category is those moves often make the whole greater than the sum of its parts — without wiping out the chance at that cannonball.
Freeman — who will join us Tuesday night at Bedford Ice House for the Newberg Report Book Release Party, along with (so far) Jeff Banister and Rangers minor league hitting coordinator Josue Perez — wasn’t going to make the St. Louis roster coming out of camp last spring, as the Cardinals were going with southpaws Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist in their pen.
The Rangers acquired Freeman on March 28, got him into three spring training games, and after he gave up six runs (five earned) on 10 hits in two innings, they designated him for assignment, opting to go with zero lefties in their bullpen on the Opening Day roster. The Carrollton Hebron product slid through waivers unclaimed, was assigned to AAA Round Rock, and after eight effective appearances through early May, he was purchased by Texas.
A couple uneven weeks followed, but after May 28 Freeman was nails for the club, posting a 2.18 ERA (and stranding 82 percent of the 39 runners he inherited) the rest of the way, limiting hitters to a .198 batting average and .298 slug and punching out 37 in 33 innings of work.
The “player to be named later or cash” that Texas owed St. Louis turned out to be $75,000, which is pocket lint on the MLB scale.
If Houston and Washington get that sort of production out of lefty specialists Tony Sipp and Oliver Perez, respectively, they won’t regret the three years/$18 million and two years/$7 million they agreed, respectively, to pay those two veterans earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Freeman will make a little more than $500,000 in 2016.
Ruggiano, a veteran of seven big league seasons and five big league clubs, signed a one-year, $1.65 million deal with the Rangers this week. According to Jon Heyman (CBS Sports), only $500,000 is guaranteed. Ruggiano can get up to another $1.25 million if he reaches six plate appearance incentives, the final one of which is 500 trips to the plate.
Texas had only five hitters make 500 plate appearances in 2015.
Five in 2014.
Six in 2013.
It’s a modest contract.
And one that makes a lot of sense.
You can imagine that the profile for one of the bench pieces Texas went into the winter seeking looked something like this:
* Hits right-handed
* Hits left-handed pitching
* Capable of playing center field
* Capable of everyday duties in left field for stretches of time
* Capable of playing right field
* Inexpensive, given that ideally he’s part of the bench — which would also keep the possibility of a bigger splash alive
Ruggiano checks every box. Hitting from the right side, he’s a career .272/.336/.520 (.856 OPS) hitter against left-handed pitching, including a robust .301/.370/.578 (.948 OPS) in 83 plate appearances in 2015. He’s appeared in all three outfield spots in every one of his big league seasons, and was primarily a center fielder as recently as 2012 and 2013. Traded by Seattle to the Dodgers this year on August 31 (the deadline to acquire players and have them eligible for the playoffs), the Austin native and Texas A&M product played in 21 of Los Angeles’s final 32 games and hit .291/.350/.618.
This move gives Texas added insurance against Josh Hamilton’s health. He’s got a track record that fellow left field candidates Ryan Rua and Patrick Kivlehan don’t yet have, and he promises substantially more offensively than fellow center field candidate James Jones. There’s even talk that Ruggiano could get some work in Surprise at first base (he logged one minor league inning at that position for AAA Oklahoma City in the Houston system in 2012), to see how that looks, especially now that Mike Napoli has taken Cleveland’s guaranteed $7 million, which could stretch to $10 million.
(I have July 20 down as the date on which Texas sends 20-year-old righthander Jonathan Hernandez to the Indians to bring Napoli back here for a third term.)
The Rangers tend to face lots of lefthanders, and adding a right-handed bat like Ruggiano — especially at those dollar levels — can help balance the lineup on those days.
Lewis returns on a one-year, $6 million contract, pending a physical. It will be the most the 36-year-old has ever earned in a season, stateside or in Japan.
The way I feel about Lewis is probably no different from any of you. He’s a beast, a warrior, the kind of veteran you want young players to learn from, an emblematic member of the best Rangers teams in franchise history. While he’s a back-of-rotation type at this stage of his career, it would have been disappointing to see him pitching in anyone else’s uniform.
Texas will open the season (hopefully) with Lewis added to a rotation of Cole Hamels, Derek Holland, Martin Perez, and Chi Chi Gonzalez — though Jon Morosi (Fox Sports) reported yesterday that the Rangers were “still trying to trade for a starter, [with Tampa Bay’s Jake] Odorizzi, [Cleveland’s Carlos] Carrasco [and Danny] Salazar, [and San Diego’s Andrew] Cashner among [the] possibilities.” Yu Darvish is expected to return in the second half of May. Nick Martinez is still around.
Lewis’s return ensures that Texas isn’t faced with relying on Hamels, Holland, Perez, Gonzalez, and Martinez for a quarter of the season, in case no trade materializes. He may never again approach the career-high 17 wins or career-high 204.2 regular season innings he contributed last year (pitching much of it with a torn meniscus in his right push-off knee, which was recently repaired), but he offers a certain level of reliability — especially at that relatively modest financial commitment — and a ton of toughness, and that’s significant. Big difference having him back on board.
At the end of the Winter Meetings, Jon Daniels told reporters: “We have a good club. We’re not looking to shake it up, to make major changes. . . . There’s no sense of urgency or necessity to make a big splash.”
That’s because the big splash for 2016 (and beyond, not to mention before) was in July, when Texas brought in Hamels and Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman to a club that will be getting Darvish back.
But the thing about adding Colby Lewis and Justin Ruggiano to this club is that, while moves like that add stability to the rotation and flexibility and balance to the lineup, they don’t preclude the possibility of another one of those splashes.
Like adding Dyson and Diekman and a subsidized Napoli and Freeman and Delino DeShields and Chris Gimenez and Ross Ohlendorf and Will Venable’s and Drew Stubbs’s gloves and even Wandy Rodriguez and Kyle Blanks last year (Hamilton, too, I guess, given who’s funding his paychecks), and perhaps Tom Wilhelmsen and Tony Barnette and Kivlehan and Jones so far this winter, it’s not only the moves designed to put you over the top that have a significant impact.
It’s also the additions that quietly, and methodically, help round things out to better your chances to be in a position, come July, to go after that over-the-top, explosive, cannonball move.
On May 25, 1977, the Rangers and Yankees split a doubleheader, with Texas falling, 3-2, behind Bert Blyleven in Game One before Gaylord Perry blanked the eventual World Series champs in the nightcap, 1-0. Jim Sundberg’s second-inning sac fly brought Dave May in for the game’s lone run.
Mickey Rivers played in both games of the twinbill for the Yankees, as did Bucky Dent. Sandy Alomar Sr. played in both for Texas.
On May 21, 1980, Texas lost to California, 9-8, featuring a disastrous seventh inning pitched by Dave Rajsich, Jim Kern, and Sparky Lyle.
Rivers played in that game, too, but this time for Texas, and he filled the box score, contributing two singles, an RBI, two runs, and two assists from center field, once throwing Carney Lansford out at third and another time gunning Rod Carew down at home.
I probably missed that game, and can’t swear I wasn’t sitting in a movie theater for two straight showings, which I’ll now admit to on the assumption that the statute of limitations is less than 35 years.
On May 25, 1983, Kansas City called lefthander Bud Black up from AAA Omaha to make his 1983 debut (he’d appeared some with the Mariners and Royals the previous two years), and he went 7.2 innings strong in a 5-2 win over Texas. Danny Darwin, who was probably teammates eventually with everyone who played in that game, went the distance for the Rangers.
Dent played in that game, too, but this time for Texas, and he went 0 for 4, including a line-drive double play with George Wright on first that registered as 5-3-1, something I’d sure like to see a replay of.
On May 19, 1999, Texas beat Tampa Bay in its second year of existence, 9-8, a game started by Mark Clark and Bobby Witt, whom I swear I have zero memory of as a Devil Ray. Rafael Palmeiro took Witt deep twice, and Pudge Rodriguez and Todd Zeile homered off Witt as well.
It was a game in which none of 1999 Rangers contributors Esteban Loaiza and Ruben Mateo and Jonathan Johnson appeared, but not because they’d been traded before the season to Toronto for Roger Clemens, who was supposed to come to Texas for that trio in February and drop the puck at a Stars game that same night in what would be Dallas’s Stanley Cup season but was instead traded to the Yankees for David Wells and Graeme Lloyd and Homer Bush, and these nine paragraphs really weren’t teeing up that note about Bush, who was named yesterday as the Rangers’ new director of youth baseball programs, nor did I have any special interest in noting that Clemens beat Texas in the ALDS elimination game that same year, allowing New York to advance and knocking the Rangers out of the playoffs for what would be 11 years.
On May 16, 2002, Texas fell to the White Sox, 4-0. Future Ranger Sandy Alomar Jr. caught Chicago righthander Dan Wright’s only career complete game (64 starts).
Wright got Rangers center fielder Calvin Murray to strike out swinging and ground out twice, and these 11 paragraphs really weren’t teeing up that note so I could comment on Uncle Calvin’s nephew Kyler, who made huge news in College Station yesterday and will be making more huge news very soon, possibly touching the baseball page.
On May 19, 2005, Texas didn’t play. It was an off-day that preceded a nine-game win streak that catapulted the Rangers into first place in the division for the first time since the previous year’s August 5th.
I’m not sure what Justin Ruggiano did that day for Class A Vero Beach, but there’s a decent chance it was something good as the Texas A&M product was in the midst of his breakout .930 OPS season (High A/AA) in the Dodgers system, and these 13 paragraphs really weren’t teeing up a note on Ruggiano, who formally signed yesterday with the Rangers, a development I’ll comment on another time, nor was it meant to give me an opportunity to talk again about Kyler and bag on the Aggies.
Today is December 18, the date in Rangers history on which Texas signed Bobby Jones and Bill Stein (1980), Mike Jeffcoat (1986), Rob Ducey (1992), Bill Ripken (1993), Geremi Gonzalez (2001), Doug Glanville (2002), Brad Fullmer (2003), Endy Chavez (2010), and Justin Germano (2013).
I don’t know if Jon Daniels has anything momentous in store to mark today’s official release date of Star Wars: Episode VII, but it wouldn’t take much on the scale of Rangers happenings on the release dates of the previous six films in the series.
Though I would suggest that if JD does nothing today, it would be a solid upgrade over his predecessor gifting us with David Elder to Cleveland for John Rocker (and his Rangers ERA that’s right out of a movie script), December 18, 2001.
(And perhaps doing nothing today would have been solid advice for me to take. Unsubscribe if you must — I’ll understand.)
Don’t have much time today but wanted to quickly share this with you.
Six days from now, on Tuesday, December 22, we will host the Newberg Report Book Release Party at Bedford Ice House, at 2250 Airport Freeway, Bedford, Texas 76022. We will get rolling at either 5:30 or 6:00 p.m.
As always, we will collect toys and books (new and unwrapped, please) to support the Rangers Foundation’s Cowboy Santas Toy Drive effort.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister will attend to sign autographs. We hope to have other Rangers guests on hand as well; stay tuned for added details.
Jared Sandler (pre/postgame host for the Rangers Radio Network) and his 105.3 The Fan buds Ben Rogers and Jeff “Skin” Wade (of the Ben and Skin Show) will emcee the event, which will include fan Q&A with our guests.
Bedford Ice House is an awesome new family-friendly, non-smoking venue with a large main room plus a huge patio – with a forecast that day calling for a high of 72 degrees.
Admission is free.
Your kids will be on Winter Break.
The food there is all made from scratch, and there’s plenty to wash it down with.
You can get books autographed by Rangers folks for yourself and to give as awesomely unique holiday gifts. (I’ll have not only the 2016 Bound Edition on hand but also plenty copies of the 2011 and 2012 Bound Editions, covering the Rangers’ two World Series seasons.)
Every box is checked, right?
More details soon. But for now, mark your calendars for next Tuesday.
One Los Angeles team joins the other in being made to look bad by Donald Zackary Greinke, as the 32-year-old made the stunning decision last night to sign a six-year, $206.5 million deal with the Diamondbacks. The Dodgers, playing with Monopoly money, saw Greinke predictably take advantage of the third-year opt-out in the six-year contract they gave him in December 2012 — but instead of agreeing to a new landmark deal to stay, the righthander signed with a division rival for money LA surely had the wherewithal to pay.
Back when the Dodgers sign Greinke to that six-year deal in December 2012, he was coming off a failed pennant race with the Angels, who had picked him up that July from Milwaukee by stripping its farm system (which would be ranked dead last by Baseball America going into 2013) of Jean Segura, Johnny Hellweg, and Ariel Pena. Greinke went 6-2, 3.53 in 13 starts for the Angels, but they finished fourth in the Wild Card race behind Texas and Baltimore.
Because Greinke had played less than a full season with the Angels, they were ineligible to recoup draft pick compensation for him that winter when he left for the Dodgers for six years and $147 million — $76 million of which was payable over the three years before the opt-out.
The Angels opted instead, three days after Greinke signed with the Dodgers, to give Josh Hamilton five years and $125 million.
They got no post-season out of the Greinke trade, no draft pick when he left, and lost Segura from a system that was already barren.
They lost Greinke and added Hamilton, and when Hamilton’s current deal is done they will have paid him $42 million to play and $68 million to leave.
Now, to be fair, Texas had its chances to land Greinke (a player I’ve been trying for almost eight years to spitball-acquire and have probably written more about over the years than any non-Ranger), as chronicled by Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) at the end of that off-season when Greinke switched LA employers. He’s been my favorite pitcher in baseball for a long time, and I’m sad he hasn’t worn the Rangers uniform.
I’d be a lot more sad about Greinke if I were an Angels or Dodgers fan.
Arizona is set to pay more than $34 million per year for Greinke’s next six seasons.
Texas is effectively on the hook for a little more than $12 million per year for the next three Cole Hamels seasons (before a fourth season that will pay him $20-24 million unless he doesn’t hit specified workload numbers in 2017-18 and the Rangers choose instead to pay a $6 million buyout), when taking into account the cash subsidy that the Phillies sent Texas and the Matt Harrison contract they took off the Rangers’ books.
Imagine what Hamels, who is Greinke’s age, would get today on the open market. He wouldn’t get Greinke’s $34 million AAV, or David Price’s $31 million AAV, but he’d probably land more than Jordan Zimmermann’s $22 million AAV.
As a free agent today, Hamels would probably be worth twice annually what Texas is committed to pay him for the three-and-a-half guaranteed seasons they acquired.
It’s another indication of how forward-thinking the Rangers’ Hamels trade was. By accelerating their 2015-16 off-season work, they not only made a July trade without which it’s fair to assume they wouldn’t have been a playoff team in 2015, but also acquired a pitcher whose trade value (and presumably whose number of suitors) would only have increased once Price and then Greinke raised the market bar even further.
(As for what this means for Yu Darvish’s market two winters from now, it probably increases the likelihood that the Dodgers will go heavy on him, but otherwise it’s no surprise to see the AAV projections ticking up.)
The Diamondbacks forfeit their first-round pick (13th overall) for signing Greinke, and the Cubs forfeit theirs (28th) for (thankfully) giving John Lackey two years and $32 million. The Arizona forfeiture moves the Rangers’ first-round slot up from 23 to 22, and chances are it will move up even higher as the winter unfolds — assuming they don’t forfeit the pick themselves by signing a free agent who declined his 2015 club’s qualifying offer.
(Boston doesn’t lose a pick because Price, with Toronto less than a full season, didn’t get a qualifying offer, and Detroit forefeited its second-rounder for signing Zimmermann, not its first, because the Tigers have a top 10 pick in June.)
In a slightly less earth-shaking move, yesterday the Diamondbacks hired MLB Network Radio’s Mike Ferrin (who wrote one of the two outstanding forewords for the 2016 Newberg Report Bound Edition, along with Jeff Banister) to be their new pre- and postgame radio broadcast host and secondary play-by-play announcer.
Two really great acquisitions by Arizona on Friday, one of which is an absolute gut-punch for the one Los Angeles team that the game’s best pitcher hadn’t already helped to gut-punch over the last three years.
One week from now, the Winter Meetings will be over.
We may be talking in a week about a lineup facelift that came out of nowhere, or recapping a week that was headlined, at least from a news standpoint, by a player from the back of the book moving on from the Rangers in the AA phase of the Rule 5 Draft.
Sometime over the next week, maybe the medically cleared Colby Lewis will have signed a deal for 2016, somewhere.
And maybe the medically cleared Cliff Lee will have, too.
Not to mention the recently jettisoned Neftali Feliz, Craig Gentry, Roman Mendez, Lisalverto Bonilla, and Joey Butler, whose 2015 teams have given team and player opportunities to move on.
Same goes for Henderson Alvarez, Pedro Alvarez, Chris Carter, Al Alburquerque, Steve Cishek, Ryan Cook, Aaron Crow, Mike Minor, Will Middlebrooks, Tyler Flowers, and the rehabbing Greg Holland.
One week from now, your 2016 Bound Edition might have arrived in the mail (preorders start shipping in a few days), and I might have firm details on the Book Release Party to share with you — plus an announcement about a new Newberg Report venture that might interest you.
The coming week will probably feature a handful of stories about how the Orioles (especially if Chris Davis departs) are far too right-handed and how the Rangers are far too left-handed and, man, Baltimore loves former Rangers and remember how Texas (catchers Laird, Saltalamacchia, Teagarden, Ramirez) and Boston (pitchers Buchholz, Masterson, Bowden, Bard, Hagadone) were absolute locks to get together on a deal in 2008?
One week from now, I probably will have sent out a stack of TROT COFFEY reports, maybe even more than once a day as time allows and as flying rumors warrant, touching on the latest speculation connecting starting pitchers or right-handed bats or experienced catchers on some level to Texas.
And maybe some regarding teams coming after Mitch Moreland or Derek Holland or Shawn Tolleson or Luke Jackson.
Better come loaded up if they want those conversations to go anywhere.
One week from now, there will have been nothing new to report about Jurickson Profar, which is only going to make me more impatient for Pitchers & Catchers.
In a week, I might have the chance to update Andy Ibanez’s Liga Colombiana de Beisbol Profesional winter league run, which sits at .400/.464/.480 . . . but in just a scant 28 plate appearances.
Is this morning’s report just an excuse to roll out the new Newberg Report email banner, featuring Nomar Mazara in Jorge Alfaro’s place (hat tip to Scott for the photo and Marty for the design)?
Or to remind you that today would be a great day to take five minutes and cross some folks off your holiday shopping lists (or to take care of yourself) by buying books about the 2015 Texas Rangers — or any Rangers club dating back to 1999 — at this link?
Just stretching out a bit. The frenzy starts in a couple sleeps.
Though I do really like the new banner . . . which is about to get a heavy workout.
You asked that other owner in your fantasy league a thousand times for Dodgers prospect Raul Mondesi (Sr.), and Expos minor league shortstop Wil Cordero and Marlins reliever Matt Mantei slightly less often, and you got nowhere.
If your cordless phone calls were even returned, they didn’t last long, as he inevitably tried convincing you that you should instead consider moving that former 62nd-rounder, Mike Piazza, for the second pick in the previous year’s expansion draft, Nigel Wilson.
Then that guy decided he no longer had time for Rotisserie League Baseball, and turned his team over to a new owner.
You got Mondesi.
I’m not suggesting Patrick Kivlehan is going to be Raul Mondesi — or even Nigel Wilson — and I’m not even sure Jon Daniels ever asked Seattle for Kivlehan before last month, when he was pinpointed as the player to be named later in the deal that sent Tom Wilhelmsen and James Jones to Texas for Leonys Martin and Anthony Bass.
But with all the GM turnover in the league, my thoughts turned yesterday — just as they did when the trade originally came down, in the Wilhelmsen context — to the idea that maybe Kivlehan is a Texas Ranger today only because he had a new General Manager that wasn’t nearly as resistant to moving him as his predecessor, under whose regime the player had blossomed from college senior draft selection to legitimate prospect.
In that report I wrote about the Wilhelmsen acquisition, I included a quote from a league exec shared by Joel Sherman (New York Post), regarding one of the side effects of the widespread changes at GM around the league: “What happens is that when you have new people, they do not view the talent left behind like the old people did. When you draft and develop a player, you tend to have a higher opinion and affinity for the player than someone outside the organization. The new person doesn’t have the same ties and is more willing to trade them.”
Given his player development background, Jack Zduriencik, the longtime Mariners GM that Jerry Dipoto replaced at the end of the season, was probably particularly proud of the Kivlehan story.
When the Rangers drafted Jake Skole (1st round, 2010), K.C. Herren (2nd round, 2004), and R.J. Anderson (9th round, 2005) out of high school, they were able to convince all three to forgo opportunities to play defensive back in college (Georgia Tech, the University of Washington, and the University of South Florida, respectively).
Nobody drafted Kivlehan out of high school at all.
He didn’t even play baseball at Rutgers until he’d finished four years of football for the Scarlet Knights. The strong safety asked the school’s baseball coach for a tryout, and the senior not only made the team, but ended up recording the first Triple Crown (.399, 14 home runs, 50 RBI) in Big East history. Kivlehan also led the conference in reaching base (.484) and slugging (.710 — sixth in all of NCAA Division I), and stole 24 bases in 28 tries.
He was drafted at season’s end by the Mariners in the fourth round (2012), signing under slot — because that’s what college seniors, without much alternative, typically agree to do.
Kivlehan was the Northwest League MVP that summer, putting up an .883 OPS with a league-leading 12 homers and .511 slug for Short-Season A Everett, playing third base. Baseball America listed him after the season as Seattle’s number 18 prospect.
In 2013, he hit .303/.366/.464 between the Low A and High A levels, and earned a brief assignment to the Arizona Fall League. BA then judged him to be Seattle’s number 12 prospect.
2014: A collective .295/.363/.507 slash line at the High A and AA levels, defensive reps at both infield corners and all three outfield spots, followed by a full-season AFL assignment in which he hit .280/.387/.473 and led the league in RBI (playing first base and left field). He finished the year as BA’s number 4 Mariners prospect.
This year, Kivlehan hit .256/.313/.453 for AAA Tacoma, hitting 22 home runs (seventh in the Pacific Coast League) in 123 games, with his season interrupted briefly by a summer stint with Team USA in the Pan Am Games, where he hit .342 with a team-leading three homers. After playing one all four corners and center field again during the season, he’s playing first base for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League right now, putting up a .310/.333/.448 small-sample line in his first 30 plate appearances.
Maybe most notable about Kivlehan’s AAA production in 2015 was that he hit .237/.288/.440 (319 plate appearances) before the two-week run with Team USA — and then .287/.352/.475 (199 plate appearances) thereafter. He got better.
The idea that a player could be away from the game completely for four years and succeed at such a high level in college, and then meet every challenge as a minor league hitter, had to make a scouting-first guy like Zduriencik unusually proud. Whether Texas was among them or not, I’m sure teams asked Seattle regularly about Kivlehan — who universally earns “off the charts” grades for his makeup as well — and I can imagine Zduriencik was regularly reluctant to seriously consider the idea.
For Dipoto, who has shown this off-season that he’s focused on improving his outfield defense (Martin and Norichika Aoki in, Mark Trumbo out), Kivlehan was probably less a scouting and player development success story than a four-corners bat at an advanced minor league age who may not profile as an everyday defender.
But as a guy who hits with power from the right side, presumably capable of filling a role that would allow Josh Hamilton to sit against lefties or give Mitch Moreland an occasional day off at first, Kivlehan — who was just added to Seattle’s 40-man roster and thus has three option years remaining — gives Texas a player who could compete with Ryan Rua for a meaningful big league role.
I was a big Mike Simms fan.
Consider this as well: Texas and Seattle made the Wilhelmsen/Martin deal on November 16, at which time the teams agreed that Kivlehan would be the player to be named later.
The Mariners put the 25-year-old on their 40 on November 20.
Texas could have asked Seattle not to roster Kivlehan, waited for the Rule 5 Draft (one week from today) to conclude, and either taken Kivlehan once he slid through the draft unselected (which would have preserved an option if he were to start 2016 on the farm, and more importantly kept another of the Rangers’ own roster spots open for the winter), or accepted a different Mariners player if Kivlehan did get popped in the draft.
The Rangers obviously wanted Kivlehan badly. They didn’t want to take the chance that they’d end up with a different player to be named after the draft, even with the upside that Kivlehan going unchosen on December 10 would have presented.
MiLB.com slots Kivlehan in as the Rangers’ number 18 prospect. The website had him at number 4 for Seattle. There are layers to what that might mean, and it’s too simplistic to suggest that the Mariners should have been less willing to move him as a tack-on piece in the Wilhelmsen-Martin deal that arguably carried greater risk for them in the first place, in terms of both production and cost.
Kivlehan is most likely a role player, but could be a versatile one. I think he’s a more important piece to this deal for Texas than Jones was, and I thought that before the Rangers non-tendered Jones (and Nick Tepesch) last night. (Surely the intent is to re-sign Jones and Tepesch to non-roster deals.)
Two years ago today, the Rangers traded Craig Gentry to Oakland in a deal for Michael Choice.
In the past two weeks, both Gentry and Choice (now with Cleveland) were designated for assignment, slid through waivers untouched, and were outrighted to AAA. (Gentry had the right to decline his assignment is now a free agent.)
Sometimes you trade a player at what you consider to be his production peak, or at least at a point in his career when you believe his value might diminish going forward. Gentry and Choice, whom Texas and Oakland were very familiar with, presumably fit that profile, and Martin probably does, too.
Maybe Dipoto saw Kivlehan as a player whose present value he thought he could capitalize on, as one he had no long-standing ties to and one who wasn’t an ideal fit with what he was aiming to do with his roster anyway.
And maybe he’s a player Texas had been interested in for a while, one who fits a potential need, but had no success trying to acquire until his GM was no longer the one who drafted him and oversaw his development but instead a new man in charge, a development 2000 miles away that gives the Rangers and gives Patrick Kivlehan an intriguing new opportunity.
The Rangers were never going to be in on Jordan Zimmerman — they got their Zimmermann in July when they added Cole Hamels (who will cost Texas a lot less than the $110 million Detroit will pay Zimmermann over five years) — but it’s a slight disappointment from a Rangers viewpoint.
It’s unfortunate both because a number one starter is moving from the National League to the American League, and because the Tigers are one of 10 teams (the Phillies, Reds, Braves, Rockies, Brewers, A’s, Marlins, Padres, and White Sox are the others) whose first-round pick is protected when signing a free agent who’d declined a qualifying offer from his 2015 club. Detroit instead loses its second-round pick.
If a team outside the 10 worst signs such a free agent, it forfeits its first-rounder — and anytime a team picking 11 through 22 signs one of those 16 free agents (assuming he played elsewhere in 2015), the Rangers’ pick at 23 moves up one slot.
According to local reports, former Rangers bullpen coach Andy Hawkins is taking the AAA pitching coach position with the Royals.
Hanser Alberto (.348/.388/.446) leads the Dominican Winter League in hitting.
James Jones, the outfielder Texas picked up from the Mariners in the Tom Wilhelmsen trade, is seventh in the Venezuelan Winter League in hitting, with a .341/.397/.462 slash line.
In eight relief appearances for Escogido in the DWL, righthander Luke Jackson has scattered three hits and four walks in eight scoreless innings, punching 13 hitters out.
If you’re planning on any holiday shopping at Amazon, you can help the Newberg Report a bit at zero cost to you. If you click the Amazon.com button near the top of the front page at www.newbergreport.com, any purchase you then make on that visit to Amazon kicks the Newberg Report a small referral fee, which we’ll use to upgrade our own product.
And, of course, you can also help out by ordering the 2016 Bound Edition, in hard copy or digital formats.
Jordan Zimmermann is the first domino to fall as far as frontline free agent starting pitching is concerned. The Winter Meetings start in eight days, and it will be interesting to see if the market takes even further shape before 30 front offices convene in Nashville.