like it came to a long-awaited end, much as this scattered, delusional post about the Rangers and Yankees does with this sentence.
y number 15), “an athletic righthander with projection and a silky-smooth delivery” that some scouts are high on despite a 4.66 ERA and 11.6 hits allowed per nine innings for Low A Hickory in 2010.
hthander Warner Madrigal (Yankees); infielder Ramon Vazquez (St. Louis); infielder Alex Cora (Washington); righthanders Francisco Cruceta and Casey Daigle and catcher Chris Stewart (San Francisco); righthander Jose Veras (Pittsburgh); shortstop Ray Olmedo (Tampa Bay); and righthander Virgil Vazquez (Angels).
ble and three walks in eight trips]), and in general against lefthanders. His 2010 slash against southpaws was a tremendous .305/.399/.567. Over his five-year career, it’s .287/.391/.537.
f the ballplayer. It’s a misunderstanding of both the value of talent and the value of money. . . . [A]s a player now in his 30s with a history for recurring hamstring issues, does it really make sense to bet on his continued good health? Hell no. . . . He will be what he’s been for much of his Jays career: a nice ballplayer, good enough to help a winning ballclub, but for the expense of employing him and how much that hampers its efforts to buy real star talent.”
former Major Leaguer Jerry Grote, the club’s radio color analyst, for a segment to discuss the Rangers at the big league and AAA levels.
When Texas makes a season-defining trade, or calls up its top prospect to make his big league debut, the update I send out announcing the move generates dozens of emails, sometimes hundreds, often with wildly divergent opinions but the same level of energy and intensity. Yesterday’s midday announcement of John Rhadigan triggered that sort of response, in both volume and vigor. And many asked me to weigh in on the hire.
First things first: I’m a radio guy. Tom Grieve knows it, Josh Lewin knew it. For various reasons I do catch hundreds of innings of the television call each season. But the TV sound is down in my home for probably more than 1,000 innings each year. It’s partly because of Eric Nadel, of course, but not only because of Nadel. I’m a radio guy in baseball and I am in football as well. Always have been, always will be.
But I do realize that those hundreds of innings of TV play-by-play I might tune into each season is as many as, if not more than, some segments of the fan base might catch of Rangers baseball all year – fans that the organization would like to convert into thousand-inning consumers. And, of course, I’m intensely interested in seeing the Rangers striving to make themselves better everywhere they can and at every opportunity: in the rotation, in center field, in scouting, in sponsorships, in the television booth. Even where I might not be directly affected, I want this organization to be great.
I have no idea how John Rhadigan will sound calling Rangers games. This I do know: He’s a pro’s pro. He knows this team and this franchise. He’s an extraordinarily good guy, and you’ll find nobody who disagrees about that. He’s been proficient at worst, tremendous at best, at everything he’s done in this market, and he’s done a lot.
But calling an eighth-inning 6-4-3 to end an Angels threat and preserve a one-run Rangers lead with the Texas magic number down into the teens? Or reacting (and not overreacting) to what turns out to be a routine, bases-empty Adrian Beltre fly to left center in mid-May? Don’t have an opinion on that. Feels sort of wrong to fire one up just yet.
A year ago at this time, what would you have thought if you were told Texas would end up sending Chris Davis back to AAA after just 48 at-bats, would trade Justin Smoak during the season, and would give first base to Mitch Moreland, a recent 17th-round pick who just a year earlier had been told by the organization that it was up to him whether he wanted to convert wholesale to the mound, or remain a position player? Who, in 2010, would be strictly an Oklahoma City outfielder until mid-July, two weeks before he’d be called up to settle in on a first-place Major League team as its starting first baseman?
Last March, Randy Galloway said he asked five Rangers officials who the club’s 2012 first baseman would be: Davis or Smoak? The leading answer, said Galloway, was Moreland.
I’d say most of us who heard that, no matter how insane our level of interest in this team was, were pretty skeptical.
Are you as big a fan of Phillies play-by-play man Scott Franzke as I am? Probably not, but if you are, how did you feel about his potential in that role when he was handling Rangers radio pregame and postgame show duties, just a few years ago?
Maybe John Rhadigan is Mitch Moreland. Maybe he’s Scott Franzke. Maybe not – but maybe.
Is it fair to say we just don’t know yet?
One thing we do know is that the scrutiny will be passionate, as it would be if some well-established, nationally renowned play-by-play man were brought in and loyal Rangers fans expected him to be fluent in how special a defender Davis is, how Alexi Ogando was acquired, the primary reason Craig Gentry didn’t make the playoff roster, and the fact that Moreland closed games for Mississippi State in the 2007 College World Series, and to fold all of that information into the broadcast without acting as if it’s the same level of revelation to the viewer as it is to him. It’s one thing for Jon Miller to relate Josh Hamilton’s unique story when he knows he has viewers in New York and San Francisco, or Pittsburgh and Baltimore, or Denver and Cheyenne, but it would be a problem if a new announcer, with rows of trophies on his mantel, came in here and lacked not only a grasp of Rangers history and talking points, but also a sense of what the viewing audience’s grasp of those things is.
I don’t blame any of you for caring, no matter where you fall on this hire – it fires me up that the interest level is this intense – but for those of you who were disappointed with the announcement, and for those of you who couldn’t be happier, wouldn’t it make sense to wait at least until March 12, when John Rhadigan first relates the starting spring training lineup that Ron Washington is sending out there to take on the White Sox, to really judge it?
I can assure you right now that I’ll prefer the Rangers’ TV play-by-play man to Chicago’s that Saturday afternoon, but as for any more defined opinion than that, other than to tell you there are few guys in the local media who are more likable than John, it’s going to be many months before I’m prepared to, or interested in, giving one.
Texas avoided arbitration on Tuesday by agreeing to terms with C.J. Wilson ($7 million) and Nelson Cruz ($3.65 million) on one-year deals, leaving Josh Hamilton, Frank Francisco, and Darren O’Day as the club’s remaining arbitration cases (the club settled with David Murphy [$2.4 million] a couple weeks ago, and Mark Lowe [$1.2 million] in November).
The question is less whether Texas will settle with Hamilton ($12 million player proposal vs. $8.7 million club proposal), Francisco ($4.875 million vs. $3.5 million), and O’Day ($1.4 million vs. $1.05 million) than whether the club could work out multi-year contracts with any of them.
The Rangers have made a routine practice of approaching core players (and some who might be considered non-core, but dependable pieces of the puzzle) to see if there’s mutual interest in an extension that would buy out the player’s remaining arbitration years and a year or two of free agency. Texas did it in recent years with Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, Francisco Cordero, Hank Blalock, Joaquin Benoit, Scott Feldman, and Ron Mahay.
There was talk in the press yesterday that it wouldn’t be out of the question for the club to approach Elvis Andrus, who isn’t arbitration-eligible yet but will have the first of his three arbitration winters arrive a year from now, about the idea of a long-term deal that would knock the shortstop’s arbitration years out, and maybe more. Such a deal would give the club some cost certainty (perhaps even at a perceived discount, Scott Boras notwithstanding) and the player the financial security that would set him and his family up for life, with the likelihood of plenty of prime earning years beyond the deal.
Young and Kinsler were in the same service time class as Andrus when they signed their initial long-term deals here, as is Carlos Gonzalez (like Andrus a Boras client), who signed a seven-year, $80 million deal with the Rockies last week.
How likely is it that Texas could announce a multi-year agreement with Andrus, or any of its arbitration-eligible players? It’s a question worth looking at, not only as far as Hamilton, Francisco, and O’Day are concerned, but Wilson and Cruz and Murphy as well. The Rangers signed Young in March 2004 before announcing a four-year contract that April. They settled with the first-time arbitration-eligible Feldman last January before agreeing to an extension through 2012 (with a club option for 2013) five weeks later. Settling on the current year doesn’t eliminate the possibility of an extension shortly thereafter.
To me, the idea of a multi-year deal with Wilson, right now, might be the least likely of any of them. Theoretically, it’s the most urgent case of the six, as he and Francisco are the only two who will be eligible to test free agency next winter. But you can imagine that in Wilson’s case, both sides may be reluctant to commit long-term. The Rangers might want to see the one-year starter deliver another year of results and health before binding themselves at anything close to market level for multiple years – he’d cost far more than Feldman, who agreed last year to a guarantee of less than $14 million for three seasons – and Wilson will probably want to take advantage of the fact that he sits near the top of an unusually thin class of starting pitchers eligible for free agency next winter. Someone else will emerge during the 2011 season, but at the moment it’s Wilson, Mark Buehrle, Wandy Rodriguez, Edwin Jackson, and Joel Pineiro who stand out (assuming St. Louis and Philadelphia exercise 2012 options on Chris Carpenter and Roy Oswalt). There’s no Cliff Lee in the bunch.
Wilson strikes me, and probably you, as someone who will want to see how much (and for how long) the Yankees and Red Sox and Angels and Dodgers might be willing to pay him a year from now to pitch in a big market, which is not to say Texas wouldn’t ultimately be his first choice once his market is defined. I just can’t imagine he’s making financial security a priority right now.
Cruz, for different reasons, is an unusual case. People talk about Hamilton’s relatively advanced age – he’ll be 31 when he’s first eligible for free agency (after the 2012 season) – but Cruz will be 33 when he can test the market for the first time (after 2013). For that reason, he’s probably motivated now to see if there’s common ground with the team for long-term talks (this season’s $3.65 million contract will be his first, due to service time, for more than $500,000), but how long will Texas be willing to commit for a player who’s already 30? I don’t think anyone expects Cruz, a classic late bloomer, to start to recede in 2011 but, really, how many years do you go?
Which brings us to Hamilton. It’s sort of bizarre to categorize him as a year-to-year proposition (from a team perspective), but for all his positives, which stack up against anyone’s in baseball, there’s also his track record in terms of his ability to bounce back from injury (or illness), the risk of another 2009-level regression, and, frankly, the off-field issues that everyone hopes are fully past tense. I can easily imagine Texas floating a three-year proposal, maybe four, that would delay Hamilton’s free agency by a year or two, but would he agree to such a (relatively) short term for what could unquestionably be the one contract in his career of such a length? Hamilton is motivated in different ways and by different things than most players, and maybe he would be absolutely fine with just a three- or four-year commitment (even though he’s barely made more as a player than the $3.96 million he signed for as an 18-year-old out of high school). But as with many things as far as Hamilton is concerned, his case is uniquely difficult to predict.
As for Murphy, his situation is probably somewhat like that of Feldman’s a year ago. Murphy isn’t exactly a core player, just as Feldman wasn’t when he signed his extension coming off a 17-win season, but like 2009 Feldman he’s the type of player that winning organizations have in the middle of the roster, and aren’t hesitant to commit to. Feldman took advantage of a window to secure his financial situation, and I suspect Murphy (who can’t elect free agency until after the 2013 season, when he’ll turn 32) would be motivated to do so as well.
The 31-year-old Francisco, the lone free agent in the group, made sense to commit an arbitration offer to this off-season, and given the injury that ended his season prematurely, it’s not surprising that he accepted the offer (in spite of a very healthy market for set-up relievers). But given the Rangers’ bullpen depth (including a couple arms who haven’t arrived but are getting close), anything more than a one-year settlement would be surprising, unless the club were to get Francisco to agree to a 2012 club option that would guarantee a modest buyout.
O’Day is probably not a candidate for an extension. The club already controls him for four more years (he’ll have four years of arbitration eligibility rather than three, as he qualified this winter as a Super Two), and the 28-year-old unlikely to elevate into a role (now or in the future) that would generate the kind of statistics which would trigger a massive arbitration payday.
And Andrus? I’d say the Gonzalez deal that Boras just struck with Colorado gives him the type of model that will simultaneously (1) embolden his ask and (2) lessen the chances of anything getting done. That’s not a problem. Andrus is here through 2014, at least, and there will be plenty of chances to make sure his tenure lasts longer than that. I wouldn’t rule out an extension before the season, but it may be more likely to look like Mark Teixeira’s in 2006, a two-year agreement that didn’t even exhaust his arbitration years but did give Texas a little multi-year cost certainty.
ount on the Rangers, who haven’t taken an arbitration case all the way to hearing in 11 years (when a panel found the club’s $3.5 million proposal for Lee Stevens more appropriate than the 32-year-old’s $4.7 million submission), settling in the next couple weeks with Hamilton, Francisco, and O’Day, just as they’ve already done with Wilson, Cruz, and Murphy (and Lowe). The bigger issue is whether there will be mutual interest between club and player in some cases – including Andrus’s – for a multi-year extension at a number both sides would accept.
I should have known better than to ask yesterday for story ideas. You guys emailed me with more than 200 of them. Not complaining – I appreciate the feedback a lot – but I won’t be able to address any of them today. Several of your suggestions in particular turned up over and over, and I’ll get to those, and a stack of other notes, next time.
Sometimes the moves work out, like when you traded John Kruk, Eddie Whitson, Mackey Sasser, and a 1991 second-round pick and sixth-rounder for 26-year-old Barry Bonds, Mark Carreon, and an eighth-rounder (which you turned into 20-year-old AA reliever Mark Wohlers in the next week’s draft) and a 13th-rounder.
Or Aaron Heilman, Yorvit Torrealba, and a 2004 first-rounder for Jason Johnson, Jason Grimsley, and AA catcher-turned-first baseman Justin Morneau.
Or, to be sure, Milwaukee center field prospect Dave Krynzel for Boston shortstop prospect Hanley Ramirez, firmly blocked by Nomar Garciaparra at the time of your April 2004 trade.
Other times, you spend days, maybe weeks, haggling before finalizing that blockbuster that sends Preston Wilson, Jose Jimenez, Byung-Hyun Kim, and Ricky Ledee away and makes Geoff Jenkins, Mark Redman, Kaz Ishii, and Pokey Reese new members of the Exprestos, not to mention that second-rounder and sixth-rounder that you got tossed in. In other words, a flashy sizzle-over-steak trade that doesn’t do much good and doesn’t really hurt, but provides the adrenaline fix of making the deal.
I’ll readily admit that when I saw the news yesterday that Jim Thome had decided to return to the Twins, accepting a one-year deal with a $3 million base that’s reportedly less than what Texas offered, I was momentarily deflated. I love Thome, always have, even if I’m not sure how adding his bat was going to work out in terms of playing time, unless it was setting things up for another domino to fall.
That’s not to say I question whether Thome would have helped this lineup; I have no doubt he would have. But if he were to play against righthanders and if that’s the plan for Mitch Moreland, too, is Michael Young suddenly a DH against southpaws only, with two games a week somewhere else in the infield? And if Young fills in for Moreland against tough lefties, who DH’s?
Not that a right-handed designated like Manny Ramirez makes any more intuitive sense, since that’s what Young is slated to be. (Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes adds Texas to the Angels, Twins, Rays, and Blue Jays as teams who have asked about Manny.)
Maybe someone like Troy Glaus, a right-handed bat who can play first base? Sure, unless you’re expecting him to come in and mash lefthanders, which he hasn’t really done since 2007. You like Marcus Thames? Who’d play first against Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden and Jon Lester and C.C. Sabathia and Francisco Liriano and David Price and John Danks and Mark Buehrle and Ricky Romero and Brian Matusz – Thames or Young?
Change makes things more interesting. Especially this time of the year, when the sports landscape flags with the fortunes of the other teams that generally hold interest. The hot stove season in baseball is so awesome that it has a nickname, and television programming named after it, and part of the reason for that is change fires us up, renews hope, stokes new scenarios to dream on.
In some cases, the idea of adding a player you’ve been in awe of forever, still producing even if his prime years were back when you were able to ship John Lackey, Reggie Sanders, Randall Simons, Royce Ring, Garrett Atkins, and a second-round pick away for young Adam Dunn, Joel Pineiro, and a first-rounder that you turned into the great Guillermo Quiroz, the number 35 prospect in all of baseball, gets you all baseballed up, especially at the time of year when your pro and college football season is over, your basketball team is skidding off the road, and hockey’s just not enough to get you to spring training.
Five days ago, I tweeted: “Not sure how all this would shake out, but gotta say: Seeing Thome stride to plate Opening Day would be almost as great as Vlad a year ago.”
That visceral reaction to player movement will always exist for me, a onetime Rotisserie league baseball owner who, on some days, wishes he were the assistant to an assistant in a real Baseball Operations department. Even if guaranteed that the end result would be no better and no worse, there’s a part of me that would still vote yes for that one extra Rangers trade, that free agency flier, the ability to trade draft picks.
Because you never know, washed-up Kevin Elster might do a little damage if we just give him a chance, Cancun Lobstermen outfielder Ruben Sierra could be worth another shot, Colby Lewis may translate if we bring him back, maybe longtime nemesis Vladimir Guerrero actually has something left in the tank, and that trade you made, getting 18-year-old Sean Burroughs for 11-year veteran Marquis Grissom, could really pay off.
Hey, quick question. We’ll have a booth at FanFest next weekend, and one of things we’re thinking of doing is having a Rangers trivia contest on Saturday, one that lasts all day for those interested, with an autographed Bound Edition (signed by Rangers players, not me) or two for the winners. Shoot me an email if you like the idea, or if you have other ideas we might consider for the booth.
And if you have one of the 2,000 copies of the book sold so far, you can go to Amazon and post a Customer Review if that’s your sort of thing.
Some Rangers dates to keep in mind as we’re now down to 33 sleeps:
January 21: Dr Pepper Mid-Winter Awards Banquet
January 22-23: FanFest
February 16: Pitchers & catchers report
February 19: Position players report
February 27: Cactus League opener; first of 10 free spring training game webcasts on http://www.texasrangers.com (Rangers vs. Royals, 2:05 CT)
February 28: First of 10 Cactus League radio broadcasts on ESPN 103.3 FM (Rangers vs. Royals, 2:05 CT)
March 12: First of 11 Cactus League television broadcasts on TXA21 or FSSW (Rangers vs. White Sox, TXA21, 2:05 CT)
April 1: Opening Day, Rangers vs. Boston, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, 3:05 CT
Four hours later, the Angels open in Kansas City, which reminds me of something Jon Heyman (Sports Illustrated) and Joel Sherman (New York Post) each predicted in November – that the Angels would sign Carl Crawford, and Adrian Beltre, and Rafael Soriano this winter. All three.
Instead, Beltre and Crawford will face off in the Texas-Boston opener 500 miles south, and Soriano will be in the home dugout when the Yankees host the Rangers in a three-game set that ends on April 17, the one ESPN national telecast featuring Texas on the schedule released this week.
Meanwhile, as it stands, as Los Angeles lines up for player introductions in Kauffman Stadium on April 1, the Royals announcer will call either Maicer Izturis’s or Alberto Callaspo’s name as the Angels’ starting third baseman, and Juan Rivera or maybe Scott Podsednik in left field, and hoping to pitch in case L.A. can take a slim lead into the bottom of the ninth will be Fernando Rodney.
(We’ve talked before about how Jason Bay and Nelson Cruz have been traded badly over and over. Add Soriano to the list: Seattle dealt him for Horacio Ramirez four winters ago, and Atlanta moved him for Jesse Chavez last off-season. Today, Soriano is a three-year, $35 million set-up man.)
(One reason I like the Yankees signing Soriano: They now forfeit their first-round draft pick, at number 31, to Tampa Bay. Texas makes its first pick at number 33. New York likes to pay well over slot to late first-rounders and supplemental firsts who fall because of signability issues: Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Andrew Brackman, C.J. Henry, Slade Heathcott, etc. Someone in this deep draft who might have fallen to New York at 31 will get past Tampa Bay at 31 and 32 [with nine picks among the first 60, the Rays aren't going to bust slot] on June 6, ripe for the Rangers’ picking at 33.)
(In fact, New York won’t pick until 50th overall [at best]. Texas will have had two picks [33 and 37] before the Yankees are ever on the clock.)
One more set of dates to throw at you:
March 31, 2007: Texas designates off-season free agent pickup Marlon Byrd for assignment, two days prior to Opening Day.
April 5, 2007: Byrd clears waivers, and Texas outrights him to Oklahoma. Having been outrighted once before (by Washington in July 2006), Byrd has the right to decline the assignment and take immediate free agency. He doesn’t, choosing instead to report to the RedHawks.
May 26, 2007: Byrd, hitting .358/.415/.568 over 44 games for Oklahoma, is purchased by Texas.
Byrd hasn’t spent a day in the minor leagues since (with the exception of four days on rehab in 2008 when he was coming back from a knee injury), and has earned more than $8 million in that time, with another $12 million coming in the next two years.
Why bring that up now? Because the player who held off Byrd for the final bench spot in 2007, and could very easily have killed Byrd’s Rangers career before it ever started, was Matt Kata, who managed a .186/.250/.300 slash while spotting at five different positions before his own designation for assignment in early June of that season.
Why bring that up now? Because Texas has signed Kata to a contract with AAA Round Rock.
Don’t be surprised if Kata, age 32, doesn’t even get a non-roster invite to spring training. He played for the Express last year (when the club was an Astros affiliate), as did catcher Kevin Cash, also a Rangers minor league signee. A third AAA player signed recently, infielder Omar Quintanilla, has never played for Round Rock, but he did play for the University of Texas, as did Taylor Teagarden, who is likely to share duties with Cash behind the Express plate. Two of Round Rock skipper Bobby Jones’s coaches, Scott Coolbaugh and Spike Owen, were Longhorn stars as well.
Others who played for Round Rock in 2010 include Ramon Vazquez, Drew Meyer, Jason Bourgeois, German Duran, Chris Shelton, and Casey Daigle. None is back for a second go with the Rangers. Yet.
But if any of them are still looking for work, I understand the Angels have a few roster spots they still haven’t addressed.