On June 8, 2014, Richard Durrett wrote a piece for ESPN on the promotion of Chi Chi Gonzalez and Joey Gallo from High A Myrtle Beach to AA Frisco. It was one of the last stories Richard would publish.
Last night, Gonzalez was phenomenal (again), and Gallo patiently worked what would turn out to be a huge bases-loaded walk after falling behind in the count, 1-2, to veteran lefthander Brett Anderson. It was a professional at-bat, in support of a professional work of pitching artistry, by a couple ballplayers who have been in the big leagues for less than three weeks.
It’s almost difficult to comprehend, barely more than a year after Gonzalez and Gallo were sporting Pelicans blue, that they’re contributing at the level they are as big leaguers, one holding Red Sox, Royals, A’s, and Dodgers hitters to an anemic .173/.265/.221 clip with an ERA of 0.90 that was 0.30 before his final pitch last night – and sitting this morning with what’s already the eighth-highest WAR among American League pitchers – and the other hitting a robust .261/.370/.543 that includes a .370/.485/.741 clip against right-handed pitching.
It’s far more difficult to comprehend that Richard isn’t around to write about it. We lost him one year ago today.
The second annual Do It For Durrett Night is in about three weeks. It will take place at Globe Life Park (in the Cholula Porch) on Thursday evening, July 9, a Rangers off-day between home series with the Diamondbacks and Padres. The list of current and former Rangers players and officials who will be on hand is impressive. The auction prize list (live, silent, and “dates”) is, too.
The Do It For Durrett Foundation is a non-profit organization, dedicated to helping to ease the burden on local working-class families impacted by sudden loss. This event supports that effort.
The “’80s Night” theme that night (which may be lost on Chi Chi and Joey, each born in the ’90s) will feature live music performances ranging from star proportions (Casey Donahew) to below replacement level (Rangers players and, um, others).
There are a handful of VIP tickets still available (those include a pre-party, dinner, drink tickets, and an event T-shirt), plus a few dozen general admission tickets, which include dinner and the T-shirt. There are also two tables of eight remaining – at less cost per ticket than the general admission price point – if you’re thinking about bringing a group.
I’m thinking about Richard Durrett today, and Kelly and Owen and Alice and Margot. There’s a whole lot about Rangers baseball to celebrate right now, and Richard would be right at the front of celebrating it with the rest of us, with the relentless optimism that marked everything he wrote, and did.
Let’s do some good, and celebrate Richard on the 9th.
It was a tremendous win over one of baseball’s best teams and its second-best offense, a grind-out featuring 15 scoreless half-innings out of 17, seven of those courtesy of Yovani Gallardo, whom the Dodgers should have had a pretty good book on.
After Gallardo, having been given four Texas runs in the sixth, provided a nine-pitch shutdown inning in the seventh, I’d hoped that he’d be sent back out for the eighth. He’d thrown 101 pitches, had close to his best swing-and-miss stuff of the year, and was keeping everything on the ground.
It wasn’t to pull back on the bullpen from a workload standpoint. When Gallardo, Nick Martinez, Colby Lewis, Wandy Rodriguez, and Chi Chi Gonzalez fire 11 straight quality starts (breaking a franchise record that had been set by Fergie Jenkins, Jon Matlack, Doyle Alexander, Dock Ellis, Doc Medich, and Steve Comer 37 years ago), one thing it means is that they’d not only kept the Rangers in every game over that stretch but had also given their relievers a relatively healthy break.
I wanted to see Gallardo take 4-0 back out to the hill to start the eighth because he was dealing, and because the eighth inning doesn’t have a clear answer at the moment, at least since Ross Ohlendorf (Ross Ohlendorf!) returned to the disabled list. It’s belonged to Tanner Scheppers the last week and a half, but he’d been scored on two straight times out and four times out of eight (6.14 ERA), and though he hadn’t pitched since Friday it seemed like a good spot to let Gallardo keep the ball, at least until he’d allowed a baserunner, or maybe two.
Jeff Banister sent Scheppers out for the eighth, however, and Yasmani Grandal turned his first pitch around, hammering a middle-middle fastball to center at 107.5 miles per hour. Jimmy Rollins then flew out deep to left, number nine hitter Alberto Callaspo worked a walk, Joc Pederson singled, and suddenly Yasiel Puig stood in as the tying run.
Scheppers struck Puig out and got Adrian Gonzalez to pop out, and the Dodgers rally died.
But I was still thinking about July 2011 as the top of the eighth came to a close.
In the final five Rangers wins in close games that month, Mark Lowe was entrusted with the eighth inning, twice assisted by Yoshinori Tateyama and Arthur Rhodes.
Texas spent that entire month in first place, but the bullpen was obviously in need of an upgrade, more so than any other facet of a roster poised to compete for a second straight World Series.
At the end of July, the Rangers took former first- (2007) and fifth-round (2006) picks to go get Koji Uehara and former third- (2009) and fourth-round (2008) picks to go get Mike Adams, and while Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis ended up working out better for Baltimore than Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland (since traded again) have for San Diego, the Rangers were able to settle their seventh and eighth innings in a big way, at least during the regular season, even as the division lead shrunk to 1.5 games in mid-September.
It was a great example of good scouting and developing making impact trades possible, and that’s where my head was in the eighth inning last night and still is this morning. I’m not trying to take anything away from Texas 4, Los Angeles 1, a terrific win, but there’s an opportunity over the next 45 days to get a lot better.
Maybe Neftali Feliz, the man that Lowe and Tateyama and Rhodes were setting up four July’s ago, fits in the eighth once he returns from the disabled list (Scott Lucas reports he worked at 94-97 last night, despite stadium readings of 100), but even if that’s not too much to count on, another lockdown arm in the bullpen would be welcome.
(Interestingly, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports suggests “[o]ther teams . . . are interested in [Feliz], according to Major League sources; a trade is not out of the question.”)
In a different Fox Sports piece, Jeff Sullivan suggests that the Rangers’ bullpen situation may be in need of a boost more than any other contender’s biggest need spot.
Jon Heyman includes nine relief pitchers among his top 40 trade candidates around the league, the top two of whom, Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Papelbon, are probably not the best matches, for different reasons. But the next one, Oakland reliever Tyler Clippard, a longtime favorite of mine? Would love to see him here.
The buyers outweigh the sellers every July because of Wild Card possibilities, and it’s even more pronounced in June, when very few teams have decided it’s time to look to next year. The Reds and Brewers and A’s have probably made that decision, but the cost in prospects for Chapman is going to be obscene, and the nearly $21 million Papelbon will earn the remainder of this year plus next year if he finishes another 25 games this season would seem to be prohibitive (aside from the makeup issues, I’m not sure if Texas is on the list of the 17 teams he can block trades to — would he accept a deal without some level of assurance that he’d replace Shawn Tolleson in the ninth, or without the Rangers guaranteeing that 2016 option?).
After Billy Beane traded four years of Josh Donaldson for Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, and Franklin Barreto, I’m not sure any of us can really spitball what it would take to get Clippard — whom Beane acquired in January for Yunel Escobar — but would Alec Asher or Jerad Eickhoff or Andrew Faulkner plus a reliever off the Rangers’ 40-man roster (Jon Edwards, Phil Klein, Roman Mendez, Spencer Patton) get it done, even this early? Is that too much? (Paring the 40 down — or at least trying to avoid adding to it — will be important as guys like Matt Harrison, Martin Perez, Derek Holland, and Ryan Rua get closer to coming off the 60-day disabled list.)
I can see Beane asking for Keone Kela or Luke Jackson or Jake Thompson, and of course the answer is no, but what about Will Lamb or Tomas Telis or Hanser Alberto or Michael De Leon? Tougher calls, but ultimately I’d hope it wouldn’t take one of them as part of a deal.
Where are Beane’s thoughts on Michael Choice?
I’m only half-joking when I wonder aloud whether Craig Gentry, buried in AAA (and not hitting there, either) with the A’s, might make sense to move back to Texas, which is now in need of a second center fielder.
Now we’re getting ahead of things. But I’m thinking about the Rangers bullpen a lot right now, and that’s not going to change, even when Feliz and Ohlendorf are ready to get back and even if veteran Jared Burton (6.2-3-1-1-2-7 since joining Round Rock) earns a look.
I’d planned on writing about Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo this morning, and Eric Jenkins and Mike Matuella, but late in last night’s game I got distracted.
The farm system is deep, the 40-man roster is going to force a few casualties soon, and getting the ball to Shawn Tolleson lately has been an issue.
Add it all up.
“I can’t think of a better day that I’ve had in my 24 years of scouting with the Texas Rangers.”
So said Rangers Senior Director of Amateur Scouting Kip Fagg — after Day Two of the 2015 amateur draft.
For the first time in his career, Fagg noted, Texas came away with four of the top 20 players off its board.
And it wasn’t as if the club had multiple first-rounders. The Rangers’ first four picks were in slots 4, 45, 78, and 108. Yet Dillon Tate, Eric Jenkins, Michael Matuella, and Jake Lemoine were all top 20 talents, as far as the Rangers were concerned.
Coming away with Matuella (whom I discussed a bit in yesterday’s report) at 3.78, minutes after Day Two got underway on Tuesday, stood out the most, considering that, coming into the 2015 season, he was thought of as a strong candidate to be gone before the Rangers’ first pick at fourth overall. Baseball America wrote, in advance of this draft: “When he’s on the field, Matuella has arguably the best stuff (and control) of any college pitcher in this draft class.”
Regarding the opportunity to take Matuella, Fagg said: “I’m ecstatic . . . probably one of the best moments of my scouting career . . . he can be a front-of-the-rotation guy . . . has that kind of arm and that kind of stuff.”
If Matuella does come back 100 percent from the Tommy John surgery he had two months ago, and if he isn’t slowed by a lower back condition he pitched through at Duke, there will be plenty of teams wondering why they let Matuella slide.
And frankly, if the Rangers wanted Matuella that badly — they clearly did — I’m sorta blown away that they had the guts to pass on him at 45, and take the high school outfielder Jenkins instead.
You might assume that one factor, and maybe the biggest, that chased teams off of Matuella was his signing bonus demands, given that he was headed for something north of $5 million had he not been sidelined this spring.
But teams don’t choose players, especially on Day One or Day Two, without knowing generally what it will take to sign them. That doesn’t guarantee a deal, but the Rangers had to know the parameters of what Matuella and his advisors at CAA (it’s not Scott Boras, as many have reported) are seeking.
The fascinating part of this is that MLB’s assigned slot value for Matuella is $777,600. Any amount above that which Texas pays Matuella necessarily costs someone else among the club’s other picks in the first 10 rounds . . . and the Rangers didn’t load up on college seniors in rounds 4 through 10.
A quick look at the Rangers’ 2012 draft, for illustration:
Round Player Slot value Bonus
1 Lewis Brinson $1,625,000 $1,625,000
1s Joey Gallo $1,324,800 $2,250,000
1s Collin Wiles $954,800 $975,000
2 Jamie Jarmon $601,500 $601,500
2 Nick Williams $515,600 $500,000
3 Pat Cantwell $381,700 $50,000
4 Alec Asher $277,600 $150,000
5 Preston Beck $207,900 $207,900
6 Royce Bolinger $155,900 $50,000
7 Cam Schiller $141,400 $10,000
8 Cody Kendall $132,000 $5,000
9 John Niggli $125,000 $10,000
10 Casey Shiver $125,000 $15,000
Texas wouldn’t have taken Gallo 39th overall without a good idea that, in rounds 3-10, it would be able to sign players for significant amounts below slot. A key point: If a player doesn’t sign, his slot value is subtracted from the team’s assigned bonus pool. In other words, taking a player and choosing not to sign him doesn’t help you pile up extra money for another player. It actually hurts.
Without Cantwell, Asher, Bolinger, Schiller, Kendall, Niggli, and Shiver agreeing to sign for considerably less than their slots called for, Gallo doesn’t get done — and without Texas having confidence in advance on those players’ willingness to take less, Gallo doesn’t even get picked.
So here’s where we are as far as the Rangers’ Day One and Day Two picks go:
Round Player Slot value
1 Dillon Tate $5,026,500
2 Eric Jenkins $1,360,100
3 Michael Matuella $777,600
4 Jake Lemoine $528,000
5 Chad Smith $395,300
6 Tyler Ferguson $296,000
7 Dylan Moore $221,700
8 Blake Bass $176,300
9 Peter Fairbanks $164,700
10 Leon Byrd $153,700
If Matuella won’t sign for less than several millions — even though he wouldn’t be back on a mound until late next season for Duke, if at all — then Texas will need to create that overage by signing other players on the above list at a discount.
Is Tate willing to take less?
Is Jenkins, who many thought would go higher in the draft than he did?
In 2012, Cantwell and Bolinger and Schiller and Kendall and Niggli were college seniors, with little leverage as a result. Asher’s medical history impacted his value.
In 2015, on the other hand, the Rangers took only two college seniors on Day Two — Moore and Bass — and hardly went conservative otherwise, admitting after the day ended that Lemoine (whom they also drafted in 2012 out of high school, before he opted for the University of Houston) was a top 20 player on their board in spite of a shoulder injury that limited him this spring; selecting the projectable 17-year-old Smith in spite of his commitment to the University of Georgia; and taking the Vanderbilt righthander Ferguson, who has dazzling stuff (touching 98 with a power curve) but fought through an awful bout of wildness in 2015. He has all the reason to go back to school in 2016 to resurrect his value — which would hurt the Rangers in their effort to get Matuella signed.
For what it’s worth, Matuella told reporters yesterday, regarding the likelihood that he’ll sign with the Rangers: “I’m very optimistic. The Rangers have made it clear to me that they want to sign me and I’m confident we can work something out.”
On top of that, because the Rangers have a track record in situations like this, my own confidence on Texas and Matuella getting something done by the mid-July deadline is high. I’m fired up.
Said Baseball Prospectus’s Chris Crawford: “I have no idea how the Rangers are going to get these guys signed, but in terms of upside, this class is outstanding.”
And this should be said: If Texas adds both Michael Matuella and Dillon Tate, each thought (one going into the 2015 season, the other in last couple weeks) to be a strong candidate to be the first player taken in the entire draft, to a system already brimming with high-end talent, it has a great chance to dull the pain, once and for all, for any Rangers fan bemoaning the 13-3 finish to the 2014 season that cost the club the top pick in this draft.
It’s been a really great two days for the hottest team in baseball, both on the field and off.
The mocks have been updated, in some cases as many as three or four times, and the name most often tied to the Rangers at 1.4 is UC Santa Barbara righthander Dillon Tate, widely considered the top pitcher in the draft and, in some projections, a candidate to go 1.1 to the Diamondbacks.
In most (but not all) of the mocks that have Texas taking Tate, shortstops Dansby Swanson (Vanderbilt), Alex Bregman (LSU), and Brendan Rodgers (Lake Mary HS, Florida) are projected to go to Arizona, Houston, and Colorado in the three slots ahead of the Rangers’ pick.
The current projections from the national outlets:
Dillon Tate (RHP, UC Santa Barbara)
* ESPN (Keith Law)
* MLB.com (Jim Callis)
* Baseball Prospectus (Christopher Crawford)
* FanGraphs (Kiley McDaniel)
* Scout.com (Jeff Ellis)
Brendan Rodgers (SS, Lake Mary HS, Florida)
* Baseball America (John Manuel)
* MinorLeagueBall.com (John Sickels)
Alex Bregman (SS, LSU)
* Sports Illustrated (David Rawnsley)
* MLB Network Radio (Jim Duquette)
Daz Cameron (OF, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, Georgia)
* MLB.com (Jonathan Mayo)
Kyle Tucker (OF, Plant HS, Florida)
* MLB Network Radio (Jim Bowden)
There will likely be updated projections from some of the publications before things get rolling this evening, and I’ll do my best to pass all of those along via Twitter.
Scott will have a draft preview as part of his Farm Report later today.
The Rangers’ Monday picks are expected to come at approximately 6:27 pm (1.4) and 9:40 pm (2.45), with rounds 3-10 of the draft following on Tuesday afternoon and 11-40 on Wednesday beginning at 11 am.
It occurred to me last night, as I watched the last couple innings of another impact Rangers win, that I wouldn’t write today.
For the last couple weeks I’ve written about walkoff wins and no-hit bids and majestic multi-home run games and jaw-dropping debut bombs and an awesome sacrifice bunt.
Thing is: This is just a good baseball team.
I could invoke the names of Len Barker and Scott Chiamparino and Derek Holland and Edwin Correa this morning in a thousand-word essay on Chi Chi Gonzalez going 9-3-0-0-2-2 against the defending AL champs, in their park, and how, given yesterday’s report, there’s something cool enough about the fact that Gonzalez was teeing it up against Edinson Volquez that I might have pushed two thousand words.
I could point to the Wild Card standings and the tightening AL West and talk about how this team is playing and who could be coming back soon to help, but nah. Not today.
I’m not writing about Texas 4, Kansas City 0. I could write about another signature moment for this team and an exciting rookie pitcher and the front office and player development program that paved the way for Friday night, right in step with lots of other things that are going on with this franchise.
But maybe Chi Chi and his teammates were just handing the ball to the ref, Jason Witten style.
I’m not writing today.
Yovani Gallardo was steady and the bullpen was nails and Delino DeShields was disruptive and Shin-Soo Choo came up big, but perhaps lost in Texas 2, Chicago 1 in 11 was the job Hanser Alberto — who hasn’t been out of the lineup since he entered it a week ago and still hasn’t had a hitless game — did in the final moments of the game.
Leonys Martin had singled, for the third time on the night, to lead off the bottom of the 11th. Alberto was up, with DeShields, Choo, and Prince Fielder slated to follow. The objective was obvious, and with a lefthander on the mound, getting Martin (leading the league in caught-stealings) into scoring position by running him without putting something on probably wasn’t strongly considered.
The play was so obvious, that Alberto betrayed his intentions by squaring before White Sox reliever Dan Jennings kicked toward the plate.
Bunt foul, 0-1.
Chicago manager Robin Ventura thought he could possibly cut Martin down by pitching out on the second pitch, and even if if Martin weren’t running perhaps he could get the rookie Alberto to offer in the high-leveraged situation, in which case there’d be a two-strike count and the Rangers might have taken the bunt off, or risked a strikeout by trying it again on a chase pitch and not dropping the ball fair.
It wasn’t a great pitchout, but it was a pitchout, and Alberto could have let it go but he didn’t, extending the bat out of the zone and getting the ball down. It hugged the first base foul line, and Adam LaRoche couldn’t risk letting it roll (the consequence could have been Martin in scoring position with zero outs rather than one). Alberto was out, Martin reached second, DeShields was intentionally walked to set up a potential game-extending double play, and up stepped Choo.
Three pitches later, game over, and Alberto and his teammates poured out of the dugout to celebrate another walkoff before heading to the clubhouse to salute a fifth straight series win and a 5-2 homestand before getting on a plane for Kansas City.
The Rangers are exactly one-third through their schedule. And in spite of the decimated rotation, struggles at closer and second base and shortstop, and an offense whose core (with one exception) did nothing in April, Texas is tied this morning for a Wild Card spot.
I was thinking last night as Alberto (who did commit his first error in the game) contributed to a win, which he’s now done several times in his first week as a big leaguer: What if he’s what Leury Garcia was supposed to be, a plus defender who can fill in all over the infield and do some things at the plate to help his team win, at a league minimum salary?
What if DeShields is what Ramon Nivar was supposed to be?
What if Chi Chi Gonzalez, Jake Thompson, and Nick Martinez give this club what “DVD” were supposed to, without all the advance hype?
What if Choo — even if he’s not the .370/.500/.554 beast he was through his first 120 trips to the plate as a Ranger last year — is the player he’s been since the start of May this year (.308/.380/.549)?
What if Nomar Mazara is Ruben Sierra and Nick Williams is what Ruben Mateo was going to be and Joey Gallo is exactly what we think he is?
Hey there, Luis Ortiz and Ryan Cordell and Brett Martin and you, too, Yohander Mendez.
What if Shawn Tolleson is John Wetteland and Tanner Scheppers is Mike Adams and Keone Kela and Luke Jackson and Jon Edwards help make the back third death on offense, Royals-style?
I don’t know what Leonys Martin is. The flashes are awesome. But they’re still flashes.
Nobody will ever be Pudge Rodriguez again, but what if Jorge Alfaro continues to evoke memories even after he gets to Arlington, and turns out to be far more than Cesar King was ever supposed to be?
And what if Elvis Andrus is Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor eventually does the things Michael Young used to do and Ryan Rua is early-days Ben Zobrist and Spencer Patton is Jason Frasor and Tomas Telis is what Max Ramirez was supposed to be?
What if this version of Prince Fielder, DH, lives forever?
What if Alec Asher is Colby Lewis, and while it’s sad enough that I didn’t think to wonder this half a dozen paragraphs up, what if Jurickson Profar is a switch-hitting Julio Franco?
What if Monday’s draft pick, fourth overall, is making All-Star Teams in five years?
Most of this will never happen, but not a whole lot of it can be summarily ruled out, and what if some of those things materialize as Yu Darvish and Derek Holland and Martin Perez and Matt Harrison come back, revitalized and good as new?
And what if Jeff Banister is Jim Leyland, or Clint Hurdle?
It’s probably fair to say I’m jumping the gun a bit and sprinting haphazardly toward a tank of Kool-Aid, and maybe pointing out the Wild Card standings on June 5 is even a bit goofy.
But the way this team has turned things around, not so much in the standings as in the style of baseball and the different ways it can beat you, I’m not unwilling to get ahead of things, maybe way ahead of things, and part of that is seeing how the ballplayers on the back of this roster, scouted and developed by this organization into pieces that could contribute up and down a roster, are doing exactly that.
Two weeks ago today, I wrote:
“Josh and Joey homered in the same game, for the first time and, this year, likely the last.”
As of this week’s unexpected events, I happily take that statement back, but it looks like it will stand for another month, at least.
Minutes after Gallo went upper tank last night, for the second time in his second big league game, the Rangers announced that Wednesday afternoon’s MRI on Hamilton’s tweaked left hamstring revealed a Grade 2 strain. He will land on the disabled list today and is expected to miss at least four weeks.
Hamilton reportedly first felt a tweak in his hamstring on the Mike Napoli double to the right field corner that ended Chi Chi Gonzalez’s debut on Saturday, and then it tightened up as he rounded first base on Sunday’s pinch-hit, walkoff double.
Gallo has played six games in the outfield defensively as a pro — all left field assignments in the last two and a half weeks in Frisco — and though he will play mostly third base in Adrian Beltre’s absence, you can probably expect an occasional start in left over these next few weeks, mixing into the rotation of Leonys Martin, Delino DeShields, and Jake Smolinski in the center field/left field equation.
If that takes hold — Gallo is athletic enough for the position and certainly has more than enough arm, though a lack of experience will likely show up at first on routes and decisions (as with Ryan Rua last summer) — it could increase the odds that Gallo’s stay in Texas extends past Beltre’s return, and in turn the chances that he and Hamilton will go deep in the same game this summer, and not while the latter is in Round Rock rehabbing his latest injury.
Given the opportunity by the schedule-makers to spend Monday focusing on next week’s draft, the Rangers’ baseball operations group was likely holed up in nearly full force up on the fourth floor for a very long day, but an unfortunate slide at second base in the fifth inning of an otherwise spectacular day between the lines on Sunday put another item on Monday’s agenda.
Adrian Beltre had singled to center in the fifth inning of a 2-2 game, after driving in runs in his first two at-bats, and a pitch later he went in hard at the second base bag to make sure that Mitch Moreland’s ground ball to Dustin Pedroia resulted in a fielder’s choice rather than a double play. Elvis Andrus then lined out to right and Leonys Martin struck out, and the breakup slide ended up insignificant, at least as the ballgame was concerned.
And of course that’s not really true, as it was Beltre’s spot in the order that Boston manager John Farrell chose to get to when he walked Prince Fielder intentionally in the ninth, bringing Josh Hamilton up in Adam Rosales’s place in what had been Beltre’s number four slot, and bringing on a victory scrum in the middle of the field.
But the medium-term impact of Beltre’s slide was a sprained and lacerated thumb that will sideline him for two to three weeks, and what the Rangers front office had to decide yesterday was how to address his absence in that time.
One idea would have been to recall Rougned Odor, whose approach (and results) at the plate in AAA have been outstanding but whose defense at second reportedly still has some things to smooth out, and let Rosales and Hanser Alberto hold third base down until Beltre’s return.
Another would have been to purchase the contract of 33-year-old journeyman Ed Lucas, who has had a solid spring at Round Rock but wouldn’t necessarily have promised any sort of upgrade at third over the Rosales/Alberto option, plus Lucas would have required addition to the 40-man roster, meaning someone else would have to come off in the event that Ryan Rua or a pitcher on the 60-day disabled list were ready to return before Beltre. Plus, Lucas would certainly be dropped from the 40 once his presence in Arlington was no longer needed, which potentially would put a dent in the club’s depth — not an overriding factor, but like with Tommy Field, who’s currently in designation for assignment limbo, Lucas is a player the Rangers would probably prefer not to have to expose to waivers.
The other obvious option, and the one that naturally had media and fan traction as soon as Beltre accompanied the trainer off the field Sunday, was to make Joey Gallo a big leaguer.
There were downsides to consider.
Like Lucas, Gallo was off the 40-man roster (lacking enough service time to require rostering before now) and would take up a spot — but unlike Lucas, Gallo would obviously not be dropped from the 40 when his time in Arlington was done, which means there would be one more player on the roster who would need to be let go when players like Rua, Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Matt Harrison, and Nick Tepesch return.
Also, when Beltre returns, Gallo would be optioned back to the minor leagues — which means one of his three option years would be burned. (If he were called up in September, or beforehand, and not returned to the farm in 2015, there would be no option exhausted.)
Further, Gallo’s service clock would start ticking, which would theoretically impact things like his timetable for arbitration eligibility and free agency.
But this front office believes this Rangers team can win, and that Gallo gives the club its best chance to get something out of the position in the infield and in the lineup that Beltre vacates for much of this month.
The rest will sort itself out: Let’s go.
I would suggest the effect on the back end of the 40-man roster was possibly the biggest reason not make this move — Gallo should never need three options (something will have gone horribly wrong with his game if we ever got to that point), these two or three weeks shouldn’t accelerate free agency (if he makes the Opening Day roster next April, there’s no impact, and if he doesn’t, it means he’ll need to stay on the farm for four or five weeks rather than just two weeks in order to stave free agency off an extra year, and my bet is Gallo will earn a long-term deal well before he’s a sixth-year player anyway), and as for arbitration eligibility, this is mathematically also very unlikely to have an effect, and this isn’t a franchise that makes baseball decisions based on whether a player might make a couple extra million dollars three or four years from now — but the Rangers believe the reasons not to do this were outweighed by the reasons to go for it.
Today, Joey Gallo is a Texas Ranger.
And he will be in the starting lineup tonight against White Sox righthander Jeff Samardzija (though he might not be against left-handed beast Chris Sale tomorrow . . . but I bet he’s back in there against lefty Carlos Rodon on Thursday).
Gallo, who at age 21 was more than three years younger than the average position player in the AA Texas League, was a .314/.425/.636 hitter in Frisco this year. That’s after he hit .232/.334/.524 at the same level last summer. His strikeout rate is down. His walk rate is up. He has more extra-base hits (20 in 34 games) than singles (18). There are plenty of reasons to believe he was ready for a promotion, which probably would have been an imminent one to AAA if not for the Beltre injury. The organization has already suggested Gallo will go to Round Rock once Beltre returns, rather than back to Frisco.
But the other point stems from the first part of that paragraph. Gallo had his struggles in AA last year before opening a can on Texas League pitching this year. There will be an adjustment with this promotion, and Gallo could end up looking overmatched a lot of the time. But the Rangers aren’t overly concerned about that possibility, or its long-term impact.
“The deciding factor was that we are really confident in the environment, the culture, and the clubhouse,” Jon Daniels said to local reporters yesterday. “It’s a good spot for a young player. We have a lot of confidence in our staff and in the value of sitting next to Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder and learning.”
That’s the now. What about the future, the downside if things don’t go well — that is, if he hits a wall immediately, unlike Odor, who didn’t hit his until his second run in the big leagues?
Daniels: “Even if [Gallo] struggles, which is possible for a young player jumping from AA to the Majors, he’ll be better long-term for the learning experience. He will have a better idea of knowing some of the things he will have to work on. . . . This will help his development.”
Gallo will hit low in the lineup, at a time when the offense is clicking and Josh Hamilton is hogging the buzz and Jeff Banister is the leader and other coaches like Steve Buechele and Jayce Tingler know Gallo well. The kid dated Mike Maddux’s niece in high school, and we can assume it’s all good on that front, too.
The Rangers, coming off their second straight World Series but in no mood to get any less aggressive on the player development front, hunkered down in draft prep meetings three years ago with a plan to go big on Gallo if they got the chance. Using the 39th overall pick, which they received as compensation for C.J. Wilson’s departure, they took Gallo knowing that it would take far more than the $1,324,800 million slot to lure him away from his commitment to LSU.
Texas had five picks in the first two rounds, and used all of them on high school players. The Rangers took outfielder Lewis Brinson first (29th overall) and paid him slot money. In the supplemental first and second rounds, the club took righthander Collin Wiles (53rd), outfielder Jamie Jarmon (83rd), and outfielder Nick Williams (93rd), paying the three a combined $5,000 under slot.
The draft rules limit what teams can spend in the first 10 rounds collectively, and in order to reserve what they believed would be needed to get Gallo signed, the Rangers focused on college seniors and players with significant medical histories in rounds 3 through 10, and were able to sign many of them at significantly under-slot amounts. Catcher Pat Cantwell took $50,000 in a $381,700 slot. Righthander Alec Asher took $150,000 in a $277,600 slot. Righthander Cody Kendall took $5,000 in a $132,000 slot. Others cooperated as well.
All told, the Rangers were able to pay Gallo $2.25 million, over $900,000 more than his slot called for. Many other teams, looking back at how their top 10 rounds went in 2012, probably regret not taking the same chance before the 39th pick rolled around.
Texas picks fourth overall six days from now, and 45th and 78th, and much of yesterday was probably spent evaluating not only the players expected to be available to them in those slots, but also how the organization might spread its draft pool allotment out to maximize its return.
Gallo was probably discussed on two fronts in that war room yesterday, and that’s exciting. He’s a talent that Texas can only hope to have a shot at with the fourth pick next Monday, and while starting today the BP sessions featuring Hamilton and Gallo will be majestic and ridiculous, Texas believes there will be some big moments when the umpires are on the field, too, and even if those are scattered, or missing altogether, the club is confident Gallo will grow from this experience, and as a result the team will benefit in the long term as well.
Neither did the Rangers, but this team is playing very good baseball right now, has by all accounts a tremendous clubhouse, and an immediate need at third base, and Joey Gallo has proven he’s ready for a bigger challenge than AA. For now, at least, the math worked out to make that next step in Arlington rather than Round Rock, just as the math worked out just right three June’s ago to make Gallo a Texas Ranger.