Is Robbie Ross Jr. a success story?
Maybe he hasn’t settled in at his ceiling, either as a starting pitcher prospect or as the bullpen weapon he proved to be as a rookie in 2012.
But the 2008 second-round pick, at least by the Wins Above Replacement metric, has been more valuable in the Major Leagues than 17 of the 25 pitchers drafted ahead of him that year.
And more valuable than 40 of the 41 second-rounders the Rangers have selected in franchise history (with 1986 pick Roger Pavlik the lone exception).
And a pitcher who has carved out a relatively stable big league role after being ranked number 25, 7, 19, and 14 in his four years as a Rangers prospect by Baseball America, making the club as a non-roster invite in 2012 and not even needing an option his first two seasons in Texas.
He was sent to Boston yesterday, probably at a point when his trade value was its lowest since his arrival in the bigs leagues.
What about Anthony Ranaudo? A success, or not?
Three years after declining to sign with the Rangers out of high school as their 11th round pick, he was the third of three Boston first-round picks in 2010, a largely disappointing trio that included third baseman Kolbrin Vitek and outfielder Bryce Brentz.
And he didn’t get to the big leagues until his fourth pro season, posting a 4.81 ERA in seven late-season Red Sox starts and failing to miss bats (15 strikeouts in 39.1 innings) or keep the ball in the park (10 home runs).
But he was the AA Eastern League Pitcher of the Year in 2013, when he went 8-4, 2.95 in 19 Portland starts (before a promotion to AAA: 3-1, 2.97 in six appearances) and did miss bats (106 punchouts in 109.2 innings) and did keep the ball in the park (nine homers).
And he was the AAA International League Pitcher of the Year in 2014, when he went 14-4, 2.61 in 24 Pawtucket starts (before getting the call to Boston in August), fanning 111 in 138 frames and yielding nine bombs.
And only six of the 18 pitchers drafted ahead of him in 2010 have been more productive Major Leaguers.
Ranaudo’s BA ranking among Red Sox prospects largely receded over his four years in the system (2, 4, 14, 11), but just three winters ago he was getting votes from BA writers as they were putting together their list of the game’s Top 100 Prospects, while Ross was being given a non-roster invite to Rangers camp.
It’s fair to point out that that was three years ago, and Ranaudo is no longer thought of in those terms. Early projections that the 6’7” prototype would develop into a number two starter have given way to those suggesting he’s a four at best, a reliever at worst, and without sharpening his fastball command he may be nowhere on that spectrum, at least on a contending staff.
But you have to ask yourself this, after shedding for the moment the fact that everyone loves Robbie Ross Jr. as a really good dude: Let’s say Nick Martinez, whose big league numbers weren’t all that different from Ranaudo’s in 2014, was traded today for a left-handed middle reliever whose ERA last year was 6.20 — including 7.85 in relief — and whose opponents’ slash line was a gaudy .319/.387/.464?
And whose bottom-line 2013 numbers weren’t nearly as shocking — Ross posted a 3.03 ERA — but he lost his edge against left-handed hitters that season, as they slashed .341/.412/.538 against him over 102 trips to the plate?
We all love Ross, but look at this deal objectively. In spite of a thin corps of left-handed relievers, Texas was not going to comfortably entrust Ross in 2015 with the task of coming in to get Robinson Cano or Victor Martinez or Michael Brantley out. And even if the cutter command against righties came back a bit (they hit .336/.408/.484 off him last year), there are several righthanders in the Texas bullpen who would get the ball before Ross in big spots.
One of the casualties of the Rangers’ injury-riddled spring in 2014 is that Ross — who was groomed exclusively as a starter as a Texas minor leaguer and moved to the bullpen only when he killed it in camp in 2012 and won a roster spot — was pressed into the rotation and started the season’s third game. That experiment went pretty well for about three weeks, then poorly after that, and on his return to the bullpen he struggled for most of the year, prompting two intervening assignments to AAA Round Rock.
Just as Texas believes it has an opportunity to clean Ranaudo up and get some value out of his mid-90s velocity/power curve combination, Boston believes it has a chance to rebuild Ross’s four-seamer that tied hitters up a couple years ago from his low plane.
And still, thousands of Red Sox fans took WEEI up on its invitation to vote in a poll on the trade, and 76 percent think Boston made a bad move trading Ranaudo for Ross.
This is one of those deals in which a couple players have flashed much more value in the past — one a couple years ago in the big leagues, the other on the farm — and as fans it’s easy to dream on those flashes and fear the possibility that things come (back) together somewhere else.
But among the things that a franchise’s pro scouts are charged with is to target players who they believe could benefit from a change of scenery (and perhaps coaching). From a need standpoint, a veteran left-handed reliever would seem to be more important to Texas at the moment than a fifth-starter candidate who is probably a good bet to be sent out on his second of three options to start the season — and that should weigh even more heavily when wondering whether Josh Boyd and his crew felt Ranaudo, who offers six years of club control, has the chance to give Texas more value than Ross.
All things equal, at this snapshot in time, you take the southpaw reliever. And that should tell us all things were not equal between Ranaudo and Ross in the Rangers’ eyes, and the club’s front office probably tilted even more heavily than Red Sox Nation in that regard.
Jeff Wilson (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) tweeted this last night: “Rangers have long fancied Anthony Ranaudo, but they also liked the value he can ultimately bring. More value than Robbie Ross would.”
I’m trying to resist thinking about what other type of “value” that word “ultimately” could suggest, and I keep telling myself a young Nate Eovaldi, who has now been traded twice, had issues missing bats as well.
As for the Rangers bullpen, Anthony Andro (Fox Sports Southwest) notes that Jon Daniels isn’t optimistic he’ll be able to add a late-inning lefthander before camp opens in three weeks. Free agent Neal Cotts is reportedly set to sign somewhere else. Phil Coke and a handful of others are still out there. Current internal candidates are Alex Claudio, Michael Kirkman (who is off the roster), and Ross Detwiler, though he’ll come to camp competing for the number five rotation spot with Ranaudo, Martinez, Nick Tepesch, and Lisalverto Bonilla, perhaps among others.
Of the 18 non-roster players currently invited to big league camp, only Kirkman pitches from the left side.
When Ross came out of nowhere in camp to win a job in 2012, four years out of high school, he was coming off a season in which he pitched 123.1 innings for High A Myrtle Beach and 38 frames for AA Frisco, almost all as a starter.
Lefthander Andrew Faulkner in 2014: 104 innings for Myrtle Beach, 30.2 for Frisco, almost all as a starter. He’s now four years out of high school.
Ross in that final year on the farm, per nine innings: 7.5 hits, 0.3 homers, 1.8 walks, 7.5 strikeouts.
Faulkner in 2014, per nine innings: 7.6 hits, 0.3 homers, 3.0 walks, 8.9 strikeouts.
And there have been suggestions (see your 2015 Bound Edition) that Faulkner, who has a little funk in his delivery, could end up as a power reliever who works late in games.
The lanky Faulkner and the stocky Ross don’t necessarily profile similarly on the mound, but the Ross example at least suggests the Rangers might have a taste for pushing one of their better prospects to see if he might be as suited for a role right now as anyone they could go spend free agent dollars on, or trade for.
Texas gave non-roster invites last week to pitchers Chi Chi Gonzalez, Alec Asher, and Keone Kela, third baseman Joey Gallo, catcher Pat Cantwell, and outfielder Jared Hoying. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Faulkner get a late invite, especially in light of the new absence of Ross.
It’s probably fair to consider Ross and Ranaudo disappointments to a point, given the promise they once flashed. But the job of Rangers and Red Sox scouts, and the General Managers they report to, is to evaluate players not on how high they were drafted, or how they pitched three years ago, but on how they might fit the current picture, and what there might be worth dreaming on down the road.
Two years ago, the idea that Texas would trade Robbie Ross Jr. at age 25 for a fifth starter candidate who’s a good bet to spend the better part of a third year in AAA would have been as preposterous as the thought that Boston would trade former first-rounder Anthony Ranaudo, coming off consecutive Pitcher of the Year seasons at the AA and AAA levels, in exchange for a middle reliever who just posted a 6.20 ERA and allowed an .851 OPS and is a lefthander who historically doesn’t get lefties out.
That’s a lot of words devoted to a trade of two players of that profile, but good old-fashioned baseball trades that aren’t made because of money don’t always involve core players. And on the Rangers’ end, when it’s a trade that not only isn’t made for need but actually contradicts what the roster appears to be in need of, the fascination level kicks up another notch and makes you wonder which team’s scouts will feel better about the recommendation another year or two down the road.
I’m going to put some time in tonight on the Yovani Gallardo trade story, in hopes that I can finish and roll it out in the morning.
In the meantime, here are the prospect features I wrote for the 2015 Bound Edition on the two minor leaguers who accompanied Luis Sardinas in the deal, righthanders Marcos Diplan and Corey Knebel, whom I ranked 13th and 19th in the Rangers system, respectively.
Marcos Diplan, RHP (number 13 overall) (International free agent/2013)
The Rangers blew away their international bonus pool allocation in 2013, ignoring the $1.94 cap and paying out more than $8 million once the tax penalty was added to the stack of bonuses they gave a handful of Dominican and Venezuelan teenagers. Of the high-profile names, only Diplan was a pitcher, and according to Baseball America, he was the top available arm in the entire crop of J2-eligibles, in spite of the fact that he stands under six feet tall. Small righthanders have long been discounted from a scouting standpoint, though perhaps the Royals magical run in 2014, with hard-throwing, sub-six righties Yordano Ventura, Greg Holland, and Kelvin Herrera at the forefront on the pitching side, could signal a greater tolerance. Texas signed Diplan for $1.3 million in July 2013 but kept him in the Dominican Summer League for all of 2014, a far more conservative decision than when the organization assigned Martin Perez to Short-Season A Spokane to make his 2008 debut. Diplan’s results were outstanding. Permitting more than two earned runs only once in his 13 regular-season starts, he posted the fifth-best ERA (1.54) in the 36-team league. He held opponents to a helpless .154/.302/.213 slash line (allowing only 32 hits in 64.1 innings — easily the best hit rate among all pitchers in the league) and struck out eight batters per nine, though he did lead the league with 36 walks. In the DSL championship series, the 17-year-old blanked the Red Sox over four frames (three hits, four walks, five strikeouts) in helping the Rangers knot up a best-of-five that they eventually won in four games. Showing velocity at 89-92 when he signed, Diplan touched 96 this summer, flashing a curve and change that he’ll look to start developing further when he pitches stateside in 2015. Whether his ultimate future is as a starter like Ventura, or a late-inning weapon like Herrera or Holland, Diplan is part of a wave that’s three or four years away but with the type of ceiling that could be very much worth the wait.
Corey Knebel, RHP (number 19 overall) (Trade with Detroit Tigers/2014)
Knebel’s profile matches Huston Street’s so closely that there’s at least some sense that he hasn’t quite met expectations, which is crazy. Street was undrafted out of Austin Westlake High School, Knebel undrafted out of nearby Georgetown High. Both were dominant closers as University of Texas freshmen. Both were supplemental first-round draft picks after their junior year (Street 40th overall, Knebel 39th overall), dominated pro competition that summer, and less than a year after their final college appearances were big leaguers. That’s where the parallels end, as Street won Oakland’s closer job out of spring training in 2005 and won AL Rookie of the Year honors, while Knebel joined Detroit last May and was shaky every third time out, getting sent back to AAA after six appearances (five runs on eight hits and three walks in 6.2 innings, with eight strikeouts). The 22-year-old was as dirty in his return to the International League as he had been before the call-up (four runs on four singles and eight walks in 14.1 frames, 16 strikeouts), much of which took place with Texas sitting on his appearances as Joakim Soria trade talks were developing. Perhaps stemming from those talks, the Tigers brought Knebel back up to the big club on July 19, getting him into two games before the Soria trade was made four days later, when they sent Knebel and AA righty Jake Thompson to Texas for the veteran reliever. The Rangers assigned Knebel to AAA Round Rock with clear designs on getting him to Arlington by season’s end, but after three strong weeks with the Express (20 strikeouts in 12 innings, .205/.300/.364 slash line), he was shut down with an elbow sprain. When he’s right, the 6’3” Knebel touches 98 and mixes in an out-pitch curve with sharp, late break. Along with Keone Kela, he represents another closer prospect for the Rangers to factor into the relief picture, and he should begin to make an impact on the big club in some form in 2015, assuming the elbow is sound.
There are 70 more minor leaguers featured in the book, which is for sale in two formats:
* Hard copy ($24.95)
* eEdition ($9.99)
Catch you tomorrow (I’m hoping) with the Gallardo writeup.
This is what we know:
At 1:59 pm on Sunday, local time, Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) sent out this tweet:
“Rangers on verge of trading for Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo, sources tell me and Jon Morosi.”
Minutes later, the Packers kicked off against the Seahawks, which a conspiracy theorist might suggest was the perfect time from a PR standpoint for the Brewers to sneak any unpopular action items through while their fan base and most of their media were focused 100 percent on football.
Raise ticket prices. Announce all brats at Miller Park to be replaced by more health-conscious quinoa-and-kale-based selections. Trade your homegrown veteran starting pitcher, who at just 28 had already established himself as the 45-year-old franchise’s all-time leader in strikeouts.
The thing is, Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin is almost as stealthy as Rangers GM Jon Daniels. While the timing of a fan-unfriendly move like trading Gallardo might have been right — and will be today or tomorrow or anytime over the next couple weeks given the way Green Bay’s season ended — it’s not likely that the Brewers wanted word of this out, especially since, almost a day later, there’s been no confirmation of a deal, or even a reliable prediction of what the Rangers would be sending Milwaukee for the eight-year veteran.
(There’s speculation that the leak was Gallardo’s agent, Bobby Witt [who spent seven years as a homegrown starter with the Rangers, second in franchise history in strikeouts when the Rangers first traded him away].)
Regardless of who leaked the story to Rosenthal, and whether the timing was by design, we know this morning, according to Joel Sherman (New York Post), that Texas and Milwaukee do “have [a] deal in principle for Gallardo and that [the] trade is in medical review right now.”
Tom Haudricourt (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) followed with this: “If all it takes is medical review to complete Gallardo deal with Texas, it is all but done. He has never had an arm issue with the Brewers.”
Still no word on the pieces Texas is sending north, which is why today’s report will be relatively short. Adding Gallardo to the rotation, which has a perfectly profiled pitcher at number one (Yu Darvish) and number two (Derek Holland), plus a solid number four (Colby Lewis) and several reasonably positioned candidates at number five (Ross Detwiler, Nick Tepesch, Nick Martinez, Lisalverto Bonilla, plus Chi Chi Gonzalez and Jake Thompson and Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher before long — although one of them other than Gonzalez or Thompson could certainly fit in the trade), is a huge get for the Rangers, who won’t have Martin Perez before the All-Star Break and whose prospects on getting Matt Harrison back are completely unpredictable and can’t be counted on.
Gallardo has one year left on his contract (Milwaukee picked up its $13 million option for 2015 on October 30), and while there’s heavy speculation that Texas will have a very good chance to strike a long-term deal with the righthander, who was born in Mexico but moved to Fort Worth at age four and lives in the Metroplex in the off-season, he’s nonetheless a one-year player, and because of that there’s just no way that the Brewers were going to be able to get anyone from the Rangers’ top tier of prospects — Joey Gallo, Jorge Alfaro, Nomar Mazara, Gonzalez, Thompson — or Rougned Odor, or anyone on that level from any other club. Morosi also reports that Jurickson Profar is not in the deal. Gerry Fraley (Dallas Morning News) suggests Texas “would give up prospects, possibly one infielder and one pitcher,” but it’s simply not going to include anyone in this paragraph.
Rosenthal speculates that shortstop Luis Sardinas could be part of what Texas is sending Milwaukee, and beyond that the Rangers are very deep on that next tier or two after the Gallo-Alfaro-Mazara-Gonzalez-Thompson group (pitchers Luke Jackson, Luis Ortiz [who would be a player to be named later], Andrew Faulkner, Eickhoff, Asher, Corey Knebel, Keone Kela, and Marcos Diplan, and hitters Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Cordell, Travis Demeritte, and Jairo Beras), and if it takes Sardinas plus another one or two names off those lists to add Gallardo to the rotation, it would be a hard deal not to like.
But I’m not going to break Gallardo down today. Not until there’s a deal to report. We don’t know what Texas is giving up. We don’t know if Milwaukee is sending money back, although you’d think there’s some amount of cash involved.
Maybe he’s here one year. Maybe more. Maybe less (while we don’t want to imagine another disappointing season, if 2015 doesn’t go well for the club Gallardo could be a significant trade piece in July — with the Rangers moving him only if the return is more appealing than the supplemental first-round pick the Rangers would get if they were to tender a qualifying offer in November and he left for free agent dollars elsewhere).
But it does appear Yovani Gallardo is almost here, and though we don’t yet know what it is costing Texas to get him, or what it will cost Texas to have him holding down the number three spot in a rotation that suddenly looks a whole lot better, I’m really looking forward to the next time I’m sitting down at this computer to write.
You’re coming off three bad seasons, each worse than the last, and you’ve made the decision that there’s not much you can do to force the current window back open, and to even envision a window opening a couple years down the road, you have to impactfully replenish a flagging farm system that’s been firmly situated in the league’s bottom third those same three years that you’ve failed to post a winning record at the big league level.
Jimmy Rollins, gone.
Marlon Byrd, gone.
Those are your Gagne and Lofton trades.
There’s still a Teixeira Trade to be made.
There are two key differences, of course, between what Ruben Amaro Jr. faces with Cole Hamels and what Jon Daniels had on his hands with Mark Teixeira in 2007.
First, this is the winter, not July when teams in the race and staring at a two-month sprint to 162+ tend to act a little more desperately and with less of a stubborn attitude when it comes to parting with minor league assets.
Second, Daniels in 2007 was leading a relatively new front office group that had laid the groundwork with ownership for a teardown plan at the time he was hired, and the pitch that spring was more about timing than about the overall concept. Amaro, on the other hand, surely is just trying to survive. The first three seasons of his tenure as Phillies GM went very well, the next three not so much.
A year ago Jack Zduriencik in Seattle was thought to be on a hot seat, needing to win to save his job. He did, and did.
Amaro has no real chance to win in 2015 (a reality he’s clearly accepted, having moved Rollins and Byrd and Antonio Bastardo already this winter for prospects). The test he needs to pass is to overhaul the talent base, to repopulate the top two tiers of his farm system, to restore hope in a franchise that’s likely going to make it four straight seasons without clearing .500.
Amaro can’t get this wrong. He can trade Hamels now. He can trade Hamels in July. He can opt not to trade Hamels.
And he not only has to choose the plan correctly, but in the case of the trade categories, he has to trade him well — far better than he traded Cliff Lee (2009) and far better than he came out net in his two Hunter Pence trades (2001/2012). Tack on the questionable mega-contracts he’s handed out — Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon foremost among them — and the track record stacks up poorly.
Amaro can’t get this wrong.
Texas had the game’s number 28 farm system, according to Baseball America, entering its 2007 teardown season, and that ranking was published a few weeks before the club traded its top prospect, John Danks, to the White Sox. The next four in the system: Eric Hurley, Edinson Volquez (who’d spit up his big league looks in 2005 and 2006), Thomas Diamond, and John Mayberry Jr.
That group was no worse then than Philadelphia’s is now, though the additions of Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, and Tom Windle in the Byrd and Rollins trades help.
If Amaro trades Hamels, he’s going to get three or four prospects, and it’s a safe bet that at least two of them will push Lively, Eflin, and Windle further back in the sentence.
Hamels hasn’t asked to be traded, and though no-trade clauses are in many cases just levers to guarantee a club option or secure some other sort of added compensation, let’s assume the clubs Hamels cannot block a trade to — reportedly the Braves, Cubs, Angels, Dodgers, Yankees, Padres, Cardinals, Nationals, and Rangers (though Bob Nightengale [USA Today] says the Rangers and Yankees are the only AL clubs, which would mean the Angels are in fact on his no-trade list) — are the ones whose systems Amaro has whiteboarded and nearly memorized at this point.
Add the Red Sox, who are among the 20 teams Hamels has on his no-trade list (after they were not on his list a year earlier), because every national writer is.
According to Jim Salisbury (CSNPhilly.com), the teams showing the most interest in Hamels are the Rangers, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Padres. For Texas, St. Louis, and San Diego, Hamels is a four-year, $96 million pitcher. For Boston, assuming it would need to guarantee the lefthander’s 2019 option to get him to allow a trade to go through, he’d be a five-year, $110 million guy.
As for what Philadelphia is seeking in return for Hamels, one National League GM told Nick Cafardo (Boston Globe) two weeks ago that the Phillies “want everyone’s top guys and you can’t blame them. But I think they’re getting more realistic. The team that can offer them prospects and a Major League-ready player or pitcher will get him.”
The articles that talk about the Padres’ interest routinely mention outfielder Hunter Renfroe, catcher Austin Hedges, and righthander Matt Wisler. Surely A.J. Preller wouldn’t part with all three for the San Diego native, though (1) he’s demonstrated zero attachment to the prospects he’s inherited, and (2) you would think he’d need more of a financial subsidy from the Phillies than the other three teams, which would mean he’d theoretically have to part with more talent than a team not insisting on as much cash to help pay Hamels.
The stories about Boston and Hamels talk about catcher Blake Swihart, second baseman-outfielder Mookie Betts, righthander Matt Barnes, and corner bat Garin Cecchini. Most, however, believe the Red Sox consider Betts basically untouchable.
St. Louis: righthanders Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales, and outfielders Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. Not all four, but certainly two and maybe three.
Texas? Salisbury suggests the Rangers “will be very protective of hitters Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara” but “do have a top catching prospect in Jorge Alfaro.” The Ticket’s Norm Hitzges suggested yesterday that the Phillies would want Gallo and Alfaro and more, or a package headed by Gallo and Rougned Odor and Jake Thompson. Not happening, and not happening.
(Daniels said on MLB Network Radio Friday afternoon that while he’s still looking to add a starting pitcher before spring training, there’s no truth to any speculation that he’d trade both Gallo and Alfaro for Hamels.)
It’s reasonable to assume that the Phillies, if Salisbury’s note on Gallo and Mazara was triggered by some intel that any talks between the clubs have moved beyond those two, would expect Alfaro to be paired with either Thompson or Chi Chi Gonzalez, and then another player or two from the tier that includes pitchers Luke Jackson, Luis Ortiz (as a player to be named later), Andrew Faulkner, Jerad Eickhoff, Alec Asher, Keone Kela, and Marcos Diplan, and hitters Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Cordell, Travis Demeritte, and Jairo Beras.
(No chance on Odor.)
It would be a massive price to pay, but it would be for a lefthander who will pitch all of 2015 at age 31, and at four years and $96 million he would offer the controllability that a guy like Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, David Price, Doug Fister, or Yavani Gallardo would not — and at the same time wouldn’t take the years or dollars that Jon Lester just got, Max Scherzer is about to get, and even James Shields is expected to eclipse this winter.
Interestingly, Gerry Fraley (Dallas Morning News) reports that the Rangers have in fact “remained in contact with Philadelphia about Hamels,” and that the “stumbling block appears to be money.”
The fact that Texas would need the Phillies to kick a meaningful amount of cash in is no surprise.
The comment that the subsidy level is the “stumbling block” would seem to imply that Amaro and Daniels have a greater comfort level with the players who would need to be in the deal. (That piece, of course, is likely a moving target — as Fraley notes, “[h]ow much the Phillies would be willing to eat would hinge on which prospects the Rangers would be willing to include in a deal.”)
But still: if the names Amaro seeks and the names Daniels is willing to discuss have enough overlap that the “stumbling block appears to be money,” that’s pretty fascinating.
If the offer were, say, Alfaro and Gonzalez and Eickhoff and Williams — which would surprise me — I would expect the Rangers to insist on a tremendous cash infusion from the Phillies, turning Hamels into something along the lines of a $15-17 million pitcher annually (with most of the subsidy front-loaded), rather than one toting the $24 million AAV that his contract guarantees. (Fraley writes that the Rangers have “about $16 million [to fill] the remainder of the club, under the payroll limit set by ownership. That group has increased the limit in the past.” He adds that if Texas would put Gallo and Thompson in a deal, “the Rangers could have Hamels” and “could get about $30 million in salary savings” — which works out to a $16.5 million AAV.)
The hypothetical Alfaro-Gonzalez-Eickhoff-Williams package would arguably be stronger than Swihart-Barnes-Cecchini (if only because of the difference between Gonzalez and Barnes) — hey, maybe as a sweetener Texas could even waive its right to purchase Odubel Herrera back if he doesn’t make Philadelphia’s roster (though he’s a strong bet to make it) — but then again the Red Sox probably wouldn’t require as much cash from the Phillies.
Though they’d require Hamels’s agreement, something Texas wouldn’t have to secure.
The very first trade Amaro made as Phillies GM was with Daniels. In November 2008, two weeks into his job, Amaro sent outfielder Greg Golson to Texas for Mayberry.
The two have made one trade since then, when Texas sent Michael Young to Philadelphia for righthanders Lisalverto Bonilla and Josh Lindblom in 2012.
Young spent five months as teammates with Hamels, and I’d love to know what he’s recommending to Daniels now as far as loading up for Hamels is concerned. Young’s voice has become a very important one upstairs very quickly, and though I doubt there are many in the game with a bad thing to say about Hamels, Young’s insights in this case unquestionably carry a lot of weight.
As for the timing of any Hamels trade, if that’s in fact the door Amaro chooses, Jeff Sullivan (FanGraphs/Fox Sports) weighs in on the dilemma between striking now and waiting until July:
“This is the dangerous game. By holding on to Cole Hamels, Ruben Amaro raises the stakes. There’s more for him to gain, and more for him to lose. If it’s July, and Hamels has been his usual self, Amaro can get away with demanding one or two upper-tier young players. But Hamels could also very possibly blast his trade value into nothingness. Justin Verlander’s 2014 season literally just happened. There’s an awful lot riding on this move, for Amaro and the organization. By waiting, they’d be at least maximizing the potential upside. That’s the optimistic perspective.”
What if the biceps tendinitis that sidelined Hamels for the first three weeks in 2014 resurfaces? What if he loses his bite the way Verlander did last summer? Lee to Seattle for Phillippe Aumont, J.C. Ramirez, and Tyson Gilles in 2010 didn’t cost Amaro his job, but he just can’t afford to miss on a Hamels deal and expect to continue working for the Phillies — and arguably the odds of missing increase if Hamels continues to get the ball as a Phillie.
Like Sullivan says, by waiting until July to trade Hamels, Amaro would arguably maximize the potential upside.
He’d also be increasing the chances that Hamels’s value plummets from where it sits today.
If there’s a trade offer on the table now that Amaro can’t reasonably expect to improve upon in July — and that’s assuming Hamels has a dominant four months — doesn’t he have to follow the Rollins and Byrd trades up with the bellwether move, the signature deal that instantly ignites his farm system and redefines what the Philadelphia Phillies are and when the window opens, setting up everything else that club does going forward?
I’m not suggesting Amaro needs to trade Hamels to Texas (especially without knowing what the deal would look like — though, yeah, this would be the Triple Word Score), as opposed to Boston (which would really amp up Boston-Philly on Opening Day in Citizens Bank Park, huh?) or anyone else.
I’m not suggesting I’d have an easy time — as much as I love the idea of a rotation headed by Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, and Hamels, with Martin Perez half a season away from returning — wrapping my head around the thought of Jorge Alfaro getting to the big leagues in someone else’s uniform, and I’m not making plans yet to recreate the title banner on these emails.
Really, I’m not suggesting, at least in the context of this morning’s report, that we break down the concept of overlaying four years of Hamels atop two or three years of Darvish (at least) and four of Holland and more than that of Perez (plus at least two years of Adrian Beltre) and of Thompson and (or?) of Gonzalez — really, the idea would be to maximize the Beltre/Darvish window — because for now I’m not really focused, for once, on whether this makes sense for the Texas Rangers, and I’m asking you, for the moment, to step out of those shoes yourselves and consider this from a different perspective.
I’ve been working on a project lately that’s led me to dig up lots of memories from 2010 and 2011, and it’s been pretty great.
There are lots of baseball things I remember from those two years, but as far as 2010 is concerned, foremost among them is not Justin Smoak’s first season in the big leagues, or C.J. Wilson’s first season as a big league starter, or Vladimir Guerrero’s one season as a Ranger.
The things that stick out from 2010 are the shockingly awesome strike in early July to go get Cliff Lee from Seattle. Elvis Andrus and his teammates running wild the first week in October. Cliff Lee jumping into Bengie Molina’s arms in Tropicana Field. Cliff Lee vs. Andy Pettitte, with that laugh after he’d beat a sliding Brett Gardner to first base. Lotsa Cliff Lee.
And that disastrous eighth inning in San Francisco, Game Two.
The great moments persist, and so does the pain.
2011: I don’t really remember Alexi Ogando, All-Star, or the Torrealba Era, or that, behind Neftali Feliz, the Rangers’ relief innings leaders were, in order, Darren Oliver, Mark Lowe, Yoshinori Tateyama, Michael Kirkman, and Dave Bush.
What I remember is the arrival of Adrian Beltre, the Year of Napoli, the Andrus-Kinsler fist pump at second base in the Trop, Nellie’s throw in Detroit, Elvis’s impossible glove-flip in Busch Stadium, Derek Holland in Game Four, and Napoli in Game Five.
And, yes, a hundred things about Game Six.
From 2007, because of what it all led to, I remember Texas trading Mark Teixeira and Eric Gagne and Kenny Lofton, and drafting Blake Beavan, Michael Main, Julio Borbon, Neil Ramirez, and Tommy Hunter, and signing the best international pitcher available, a 16-year-old from Venezuela named Martin Perez, about two decades after the Rangers had last been considered a force in Latin America. I don’t really remember Sammy Sosa’s second run with Texas, or the 5.50 rotation ERA, or that Ramon Vazquez was the club’s primary third baseman.
In 2009 the Rangers finished 10 games out but won 87 games, and I do remember the feeling that something special was coming together, and part of that had to do with the arrival of Andrus and Holland and Feliz.
The flip side of that is, in 2012, what sticks with me is that lazy Yoenis Cespedes fly ball to Josh Hamilton in Game 162, and that Hamilton first-inning at-bat against Joe Saunders two days later. Those memories crowd out the four bombs Hamilton hit against Baltimore one night in May. Because sports.
When I think of 2011, I hear “Written in the Stars” in my head, not Josh Hamilton’s walk-up music or Feliz’s coming-in music or Pat Green’s “I Like Texas” after a win. And that’s OK.
In the wake of the demise of the Cowboys season on Sunday, someone reminded Bob Sturm about something he’d written back in 2008, after the team’s loss to the Ravens dropped its record to 9-6, en route to 9-7 and a failure to reach the playoffs:
As I was leaving a frigid Texas Stadium after the game, I was walking right behind a Dad and his boy. The boy must have been 7 or 8 years old and was crying about the result. Some people might roll their eyes, but I knew how the boy felt. When you are young, and you love a sports team, you believe the games and the seasons will all have the happy endings of the Disney movies that you watch. Guess what, son, if you are going to pledge allegiance to a team as it appears you have with the Dallas Cowboys, I want to welcome you to the fellowship of the die-hards. Understand, that once you do, you are not allowed out of this commitment, and you should also understand that most seasons are going to end in tears. A favorite team is the only thing a male human feels the same about when he is 5 and when he is 45 and when he is 75. You will change your mind on everything else. Girls, money, hobbies. But, you will always still feel the adrenaline rush of a win, and the gutting sadness of a horrible loss. I didn’t say anything to the boy, as his Dad was handling it (and he might not have welcomed my advice) but I felt for him. Welcome to sports, young man. Someday, you may live to see a championship or five, but most years will end with your guts spilling onto the floor.
The Cowboys’ 2014 season hurt more than the four ugly years that preceded it, but I’ll take it every time. Sports pain over sports indifference, in a blowout.
I’m not giving October 2010 or October 2011 back, no matter how much those two months, and especially one of them, hurt. Still.
Rangers Baseball 2014 will soon be forgotten, mercifully. Gone will be memory of the 95 losses and the record number of players and DL days and Mike Carp hitting third and Saunders getting the ball — to start the game — eight different times.
The resignation of the manager won’t be, though.
And I hope, years from now, we also remember 2014 for the arrival of Ryan Rua, the acquisition of Jake Thompson, the breakouts of Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara and Keone Kela, and the Dawning of Odor.
Some of you, like me, are both Rangers fans and Cowboys fans, and while 2014 was a tough year for both, it was tough on completely different levels, and I’d rather be talking 20 years from now about Dez’s overturned catch or Nellie in Game 6 than about the year the Rangers needed 40 pitchers to get through 162.
I’m counting on much better baseball in 2015.
And more pain, if that’s what’s in store.
Pain for us, that is. I’m not up for another year of 26 disabled list assignments.
Bring on the chance at more sports heartbreak, at guts spilling onto the floor. Because without it, the winning — and I mean the winning — wouldn’t be nearly as awesome.
Pitchers & Catchers: 38 sleeps.
You can use that X right now, and spell JINX.
Or you can wait a bit to see if you pick another E from the box of tiles so you can drop DELUXE into the empty stretch that ends with that provocative Triple Word Score space winking at you from the bottom of the mildly populated board.
There’s nothing wrong with JINX. Solid score.
And it’s not like the game is almost over. Still plenty of tiles in the box, plenty of plays to be made and points to be piled up.
Yes, you’re behind at the moment, but for a good while the tortoise trailed the hare, too.
And if you wait, that Triple Word Space could get taken up anyway.
But, man, DELUXE — tripled — is a game-changer.
And there’s only one X. You don’t want to regret playing it too soon.
Whatcha gonna do?
On a completely unrelated note — as if anything I were to type now wouldn’t be unrelated — if you’d like to have a copy of the 2015 Bound Edition in digital format (PDF), it’s available now for $9.99 at this link. Hard copies are still available, too, here.
Back in the late ’90s, there was a four-month stretch at the end of each year when I’d roll into work Monday morning, sometimes Tuesday, and dump a few hundred or more words about the Cowboys game played the day before into an email that would scatter out to a few dozen fellow lawyers at Vial Hamilton Koch & Knox, and maybe a dozen or two others outside the office. The reply-all’s to the Roundtable volleys would pretty much wipe out a bunch of folks’ mornings, starting with boos on that day’s email title (“Big Apple Turnover” . . . “Redbird Maul” . . . “Jason and the Gruden Fleece”) and branching out from there into the finest displays of Monday Morning quarterbacking.
That was shortly before I started writing the Newberg Report, which for so many reasons was a fortunate decision for me, not the least of which is my family life. I’m fairly sure Ginger wouldn’t have had any shred of interest in me if she’d been around me during a bunch more Cowboys games than she was when we were dating, and once she married Dr. Jekyll (untroubled by the prospects of living with Mr. Hyde), if I’d gone on to act during Rangers games the way I do when the Cowboys are on TV — or if football was on every night — the trophy for her sticking around . . . well, I don’t even want to think about that.
Or maybe I’m not all that bad when the Cowboys are on.
(Or maybe she’s just unbelievably forgiving.)
Just before yesterday’s kickoff, I tweeted: “Whatever happens, I love this and miss this. This is why.”
Baseball will give that to us again, soon.
Four hours later, during most of which I was in Hyde mode, once my blood pressure had settled back down I could think of only one word, and it’s the one I slap down as the title of this morning’s report.
(As I continue to resist the 17-year-old urge to trick the titles up, and believe me, back in 1998 a huge win like that one over a team called the “Lions” would have been fertile ground.)
My Sunday started, as I’m sure it did for lots of you, with the Stuart Scott news, and I ended up watching ESPN for more hours yesterday morning than I had the last however-many months combined.
Sports brings out the best of us, and the worst, and other things, too. Not all of it is good, and there’s pain and anger mixed in with the edge and the drama and the thrill, but I’ll take all of it.
Especially since I can now comfortably resist the urge to abbreviate “Hitchens” so that I can morph “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” into awesome, awful, impossibly terrible email title fail.
The 2010 Winter Meetings came to a close with the defending American League champion Rangers having made one move: Giving the Cubs nominal cash considerations to draft Angels minor league righthander Mason Tobin for them in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning, December 9.
Flight tracker Twitter was in full force later that day, with rumors swarming that Ray Davis, Chuck Greenberg, and Thad Levine were en route to Arkansas — where Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan had been a week earlier — for a second turf visit to Cliff Lee and his wife and his agent about a return to the Rangers, whom Lee had just helped log a first-ever playoff series win, and then another.
I’m not sure we know what Texas offered Lee during that visit, but it came a day or two after the Yankees reportedly put seven years on the table, leaving the baseball print world convinced the 32-year-old would jump to New York (#behooves) or extend with the Rangers.
A few days after that, Lee called Daniels, and Lee’s agent called the Yankees, letting them know Lee’s return would be not to Texas, but to the Phillies, for whom he’d pitched late in 2009, including in that club’s own World Series run. He was taking five years and a guarantee of $120 million, with a club option for a sixth year (that will vest if he’s relatively healthy these next two seasons) that would make the deal worth $135 million. He was joining a starting staff that already included Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and a still-dominant Roy Oswalt.
At his Philadelphia presser, Lee said: “To get an opportunity to come back and be part of this team and this pitching rotation is going to be something that’s historic, I believe.”
The vibe was understandably electric in Philly, where fans had just seen their club come two games short of a third straight World Series appearance and were now adding one of the game’s best starting pitchers.
It was somewhat less so in Texas, where a first-time World Series franchise had just lost its October ace in mid-December, and had added Mason Tobin.
Philadelphia committed at least $120 million to lock Lee up.
Three weeks after that, Texas committed $80 million to Adrian Beltre (also five years plus an option).
Three weeks after that, Texas traded for Mike Napoli, who was primed to make about $2 million more than the similarly arb-eligible Frank Francisco whom the club traded to Toronto to get him.
The Phillies won 102 games in 2011 but their post-season lasted a week.
The Rangers, meanwhile, returned to the World Series.
With Napoli and Beltre posting the two highest OPS’s on the club.
At almost $40 million less than the Phillies used to lure Lee away from the Rangers.
Beltre was available only because Boston, the day before those December 2010 Winter Meetings, made a trade with San Diego to get Adrian Gonzalez, which meant Kevin Youkilis would slide across the diamond to third base, effectively bouncing Beltre out of the Red Sox’s plans.
Beltre was available to Texas only because the Angels declined to sign him — even though he reportedly begged to join that club — and actually withdrew their five-year, $70 million offer before Beltre had decided on his new team.
Napoli was available to Texas only because the Angels, having failed to sign Beltre and still believing they needed a bat, traded Napoli and Frosty Rivera to the Blue Jays for Vernon Wells — who was owed $80 million of Angels money (and $5 million from Toronto) over the ensuing four years.
Yes, $10 million more (and one season less) than they presumably could have signed Beltre for (and kept Napoli, who lasted four days with the Jays before they flipped him to Texas, something Los Angeles had refused for years to do).
Two of the best moves Daniels or this franchise has ever made, and they were apparently fallbacks to an effort to re-sign Lee.
A.J. Preller wanted to give Pablo Sandoval a reported $100 million-plus, and then, when Sandoval chose Boston instead, Preller targeted Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, who eventually took $68.5 million from Arizona.
If he’d succeeded in signing Sandoval or Tomas, would he have traded for Matt Kemp and traded for Derek Norris and traded for Justin Upton and traded for Wil Myers?
At least some of them were fallbacks.
Like Monta Ellis was when that whole Dwight Howard thing didn’t work out.
Like Tyson Chandler back in 2010, when Dallas tried first to trade for Al Jefferson, and failed.
Maybe I’m seduced by the awesomeness of the reacquisition of Chandler when I daydream about the idea of reacquiring Lee (who would certainly command a less exacting package of prospects than teammate Cole Hamels), but I’d be lying if I said it’s not something I’ve been thinking about, and now I’d better get back to the point before I get carried away.
Pick a trade. Any trade. Pick out any one of the deals made in this frenetic winter around the league, and it won’t take long to find a columnist somewhere high-fiving Team A, and another one fist-bumping Team B.
One national writer who does a great job said this in the last couple days: “The Mariners make it official: Trade Brandon Maurer to [the] Padres for Seth Smith. The Mariners clearly are the team to beat in [the] AL West.”
Because they added Seth Smith?
It’s easy to get carried away when a team makes a trade or signs a free agent, and hard sometimes not to. I’m regularly guilty; you have no idea how much restraint it has taken me not to go ham with a couple thousand chest-bumping words on the non-roster contract Texas has given Kyle Blanks and the roster spot flier the club is taking on Kyuji Fujikawa. (I like those deals.)
But not every team that changed its roster in December got better. It doesn’t work that way.
If all it takes to win the winter is to make a big trade, then, yeah, Texas isn’t winning the winter.
Some of those teams who made headline-grabbing trades or signings before the New Year, likely unwittingly, just got worse.
(A good spot, perhaps, to note that not only did the Royals give $11 million to Alex Rios two weeks ago — they apparently, according to Joel Sherman [New York Post], had agreed to a trade for Rios in July, only to have Rios veto the deal when Kansas City refused to guarantee his $13.5 million option for 2015. The Royals had every opportunity to consider that a bullet dodged when Rios proceeded to hit .186/.210/.268 in 100 Texas plate appearances in August and September before shutting down with a bad thumb, but whatever.)
Actually, the Rios note is relevant for another reason that warrants an absence of parentheses.
Did we know in July that Texas and Kansas City had agreed to terms on an Alex Rios trade?
Did we know until Sherman reported it two days ago?
Do we know there haven’t been red zone trade talks for Texas over the last month that, for one reason or another, just didn’t come together?
Or just haven’t yet?
I’ll never forget the winter-winning, red-carpet, paparazzi-infested joke of a press conference the Angels held to announce the signing of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson at the conclusion of the Dallas Winter Meetings following the 2011 season.
The Angels, trying to erase the sting of missing out on Beltre and seeing Napoli star for Texas, and finishing 10 games behind Texas not only in the 2010 World Series season but in the Rangers’ 2011 World Series as well, finished third in the division with Pujols and Wilson in 2012, and third in the division with Pujols and Wilson in 2013, unable to slide the December 2010 Medal down in the trophy case until winning the West (but zero playoff games) in 2014.
The Angels didn’t have to trade Napoli in a deal for Wells just because they didn’t get Beltre.
Toronto didn’t have to trade Napoli for Francisco.
They didn’t win those trades.
I’m not convinced the Rangers have gotten worse because it’s January 1st and they haven’t made a big trade.
I’m also not convinced they don’t have a big move or two in them this off-season, still.
Stated another way, as I publish my Top 72 Rangers Prospects list (which is in the 2015 Bound Edition, along with writeups on each player) like I tend to do on New Year’s Day, I think there’s a very real chance that the top quarter of this list, if not the top tenth, has names on it that, when Texas reports to Surprise in seven weeks, will no longer be part of the organization.
Anyway, here we go (I went to print before the Rangers lost Herrera in the Rule 5 Draft, traded De Los Santos and Chris Bostick for Ross Detwiler, and waived Rowen):
1. Joey Gallo, 3B-1B
2. Jorge Alfaro, C
3. Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez, RHP
4. Nomar Mazara, OF
5. Jake Thompson, RHP
6. Ryan Rua, OF-1B-3B-2B
7. Luke Jackson, RHP
8. Luis Ortiz, RHP
9. Lewis Brinson, OF
10. Nick Williams, OF
11. Andrew Faulkner, LHP
12. Ronald Guzman, 1B
13. Marcos Diplan, RHP
14. Keone Kela, RHP
15. Jake Smolinski, OF
16. Alec Asher, RHP
17. Ryan Cordell, OF-1B
18. Jerad Eickhoff, RHP
19. Corey Knebel, RHP
20. Brett Martin, LHP
21. Travis Demeritte, 2B-3B
22. Yohander Mendez, LHP
23. Spencer Patton, RHP
24. Tomas Telis, C
25. Jairo Beras, OF
26. Phil Klein, RHP
27. Hanser Alberto, SS
28. Jose Leclerc, RHP
29. Michael De Leon, SS
30. Alex Claudio, LHP
31. Abel De Los Santos, RHP
32. Odubel Herrera, 2B-OF
33. Lisalverto Bonilla, RHP
34. Pat Cantwell, C
35. Jon Edwards, RHP
36. Josh Morgan, 2B-SS
37. Yeyson Yrizarri, SS-2B
38. Sam Wolff, RHP
39. Chris Bostick, 2B
40. Will Lamb, LHP
41. Jared Hoying, OF
42. Ti’Quan Forbes, 3B-SS
43. Samuel Zazueta, LHP
44. Chris Garia, OF
45. Kelvin Vasquez, RHP
46. Cole Wiper, RHP
47. Jose Valdespina, RHP
48. Victor Payano, LHP
49. Connor Sadzeck, RHP
50. Jose Trevino, C-3B
51. Akeem Bostick, RHP
52. Josh McElwee, RHP
53. Frank Lopez, LHP
54. Evan Van Hoosier, OF-2B
55. Matt West, RHP
56. Trever Adams, 1B-OF
57. Martire Garcia, LHP
58. Preston Beck, 1B-OF
59. Luke Tendler, OF
60. Cody Kendall, RHP
61. Drew Robinson, OF
62. Eduard Pinto, OF
63. Cody Ege, LHP
64. Seth Spivey, 2B-3B
65. Brett Nicholas, C-1B
66. Ben Rowen, RHP
67. Jose Almonte, OF
68. Luke Lanphere, RHP
69. Kellin Deglan, C
70. David Ledbetter, RHP
71. Sherman Lacrus, C
72. David Perez, RHP
I guess the point of this report, which I will admit is self-directed in part, is that you don’t win the winter in December, and don’t really win anything in the winter.
There’s a message of hope, and of better things ahead, wrapped up in any Happy New Year wish, and while we all deserve a massive helping of that this year on the baseball front — Prince and Derek and Matt and Martin and Tanner and Elvis and Jurickson and Yu and you and me — the science isn’t always crisp on the correlation between off-season headlines and winning baseball games.
I’m just happy that there’s no more 2014 baseball.
Here’s to 2015.
(Hat tip, Nick Pants.)
Happy New Year.
A friend pointed me the other day to something Dwight Gooden just published online, a short 900-word essay he called “Letter to My Younger Self.” It’s very good.
Naturally, when I read the following paragraph . . .
Eighty percent of your drive will come from your desire to make dad proud, while the other 20 percent will be for you. Do your best to flip those numbers around, otherwise his absence will cause you to spiral. There are steps you can take to stop this decline, but you’ll have to discover them the hard way.
. . . I thought about me and my Dad, and me and my kids, and then, because I can’t help it (and because I’d been teeing up a story on him anyway), I thought about Delino DeShields Jr., and his father, the greater part of whose big league career overlapped with the greater part of Gooden’s.
It would be silly to call the older DeShields’s big league career, which lasted 13 seasons and included more than 1,500 base hits and over 450 stolen bases, a disappointment, considering that by the time he was the age his son is today, he’d been runner-up for National League Rookie of the Year and was halfway into his second season as Montreal’s everyday leadoff hitter and second baseman, a year in which he would hit 10 home runs, walk 95 times, and steal 56 bags.
But Delino Sr., in those 13 seasons, would hit more homers just once, would never again steal as many bases or draw nearly as many walks, and would never make an All-Star Team or win a single playoff game with any of the five clubs he played for.
The lead bullet point detailing his career was that he was traded, at age 24, for a 22-year-old Dodgers middle reliever named Pedro Martinez.
Delino Sr. was a high school kid taken with the 12th overall pick in the draft in 1987 (seven picks before Texas took Brian Bohanon).
Delino Jr. was a high school kid taken 8th overall in 2010 (seven picks before Texas took Jake Skole, whose Georgia hometown was 20 minutes from DeShields’s). Keith Law (ESPN) had him falling to the Rangers, but Houston didn’t let that happen.
Five years earlier, Baseball America had named Delino Jr. the top 12-year-old baseball player in the world (ahead of, among others, Bryce Harper), calling him “a game changer both at the plate and on the bases, with a combination of raw power and speed.” One national high school scout suggested to BA that he was the fastest 12-year-old he’d ever seen, and one of the strongest.
And yet, after the Astros invested that high first-round pick and five years of player development on the younger DeShields, not to mention the $2.15 million signing bonus, they not only left him unprotected in advance of this winter’s Rule 5 Draft — but, leaving one spot open on their 40-man roster so they could participate in the draft, took Class A righthander Jason Garcia and promptly traded him to Baltimore for cash. According to the Houston Chronicle, the Orioles paid the Astros $75,000 for the rights to Garcia, with $50,000 of that cost going to Boston as the draft fee.
So Houston, obviously in a building phase and in no position to be making decisions to reduce its inventory of young players with upside, kept its 40th roster spot vacant rather than protecting DeShields — and used that empty spot to add a meaningless $25,000 to the club coffers.
Maybe the Astros will get DeShields back, without having to take up a roster spot. But DeShields and his new team clearly hope not.
One of the reasons the Gooden piece made me think of DeShields was that first line I pasted here, about the idea of playing for your father, or for yourself. Even when Baseball America was projecting DeShields as an early-to-mid-first-rounder out of high school, they routinely paired with talk about his loud tools the common sentiment that he played with “low-energy body language [that] put off some scouts,” and there were occasional whispers questioning his effort and his makeup. When DeShields was days away from being drafted at age 17, BA went so far as to suggest that, “[l]ike many big league progeny, DeShields doesn’t play with a ton of energy.”
Gooden’s letter made me think about that.
To be fair, it was probably production more than any questions about DeShields’s effort between the lines that led to his exposure to the Rule 5 Draft this month. After a record-setting 2012, when he became the first player in minor league history to hit more than 10 home runs (12) and steal more than 100 bases (101) in a season, followed by a .317/.405/.468 breakout year with High A Lancaster in 2013, he hit only .236 and OPS’d just .706 last year with Corpus Christi, a season that was marred in mid-April by a Phil Klein fastball that fractured his face and cost him three weeks on the shelf. Houston had tried moving him from center field to second base after his draft season, but when that didn’t completely take, he returned to center field in 2014, and while there’s probably more promise there defensively (even if his arm will never be a weapon), it wasn’t the cleanest transition.
DeShields was ranked by BA as Houston’s number two prospect after the 2010 season.
Number eight after 2011.
Number six after 2012.
Number 13 after 2013.
Bet the publication has him lower than that after the 2014 season. He was definitely outside the Astros’ top 10 before the Rangers drafted him away.
DeShields has always run — in his last three seasons he has 101, 51, and 54 steals, at an excellent 80 percent success rate — but in order to stick in the big leagues all year with the Rangers, which he’s required to do (or else Texas will have to run him through waivers and, if he clears, offer him back to Houston for half the $50,000 draft fee), he’ll need to be more than a late-inning baserunner. He’ll need to catch the ball, do something with the bat, and never let the Rangers question his energy, or his effort.
There’s a huge opportunity here for Delino Jr.
And for Texas.
As Stefan Stevenson (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) put it, “DeShields has something to prove. And it’s a trait manager Jeff Banister loves to see because it reminds him of himself.” Banister, reflecting on his own career, told Stevenson: “I was that guy. I didn’t reach the level of what these guys have, but I know when you have something to prove and have that burning desire inside of you you’re going to be the guy that pushes yourself. You don’t typically need a lot of other people pushing you along.”
You don’t want to make too much of the two home runs DeShields hit in the Puerto Rican Winter League the day after Texas drafted him, but this is a player who also went deep twice in his first game back after the Klein beaning (this is not a fun house mirror image), and was the MVP of the PRWL All-Star Game a few days before Texas called his name. Maybe he’s the type who’s at his best when the spotlight glare gets brighter.
We’re about to find out.
Baseball America, which has long thrown red flags up on DeShields as a prospect, did call him “[m]aybe [the] most talented position player available” in the Rule 5 Draft after the Rangers used the third overall pick on him. And while the publication suggested “he has everyday starter potential if he comes close to tapping into his potential,” the follow-up comment was that “[s]ome scouts are skeptical he ever will, as they have been turned off by his consistent lack of effort.” BA’s conclusion was that his chances to stick with the Rangers all season are low.
There’s that effort thing again — Daniels acknowledged to local reporters shortly after the draft that “[w]e’re aware of that . . . [h]e’s got a unique opportunity and we’ll sit down and talk about our expectations” — and right now I’m thinking about a dozen eye-to-eye conversations between Banister and DeShields.
And just as many between Jayce Tingler and DeShields.
And a couple between Michael Young and DeShields.
And one between Russell Wilson and DeShields.
Minutes after the draft, Banister tweeted: “If you’re the greatest, someone [else] wants to be the greatest, and so if you’re not constantly improving your game, somebody else is . . . . Every single day, someone’s coming for your job, coming for your greatness.” It doesn’t take a Newberg Report-esque stretch to connect the Banister tweet with the move his club had just made to acquire a new candidate to back up Leonys Martin and give him a versatile weapon off the bench.
After years of DeShields as the high-profile, high-first-round, baseball progeny whose job someone else was coming after, now he’s the other guy, doing the chasing. Maybe that’s exactly the situation he needs, the one that brings out the best in him, that sets the stage for a little potential fulfillment. In Arlington.
Delino Sr., looking to get back to the big leagues in a new role, reportedly turned down Paul Molitor’s offer a month ago to serve as Twins first base coach, opting to remain as a manager in the Reds organization. He’ll join AAA Louisville in 2015, after managing at lower levels in the Cincinnati system from 2010 through 2014.
Interestingly, Delino Sr. managed rookie ball in 2010, his first year managing, the same year Delino Jr. started his pro career, also in rookie ball.
In 2011, both father and son spent the year in Low A.
In 2012, both were in Class A.
In 2013, the Reds moved Dad to AA, while Delino Jr. repeated High A.
In 2014, father and son both toiled in AA.
In 2015, Delino Sr. turned a big league opportunity down. Delino Jr. will get his first.
Six months ago — really, six weeks ago — the safe bet would have been that Dad would have gotten back to the Major Leagues before Junior got there himself.
It’s widely believed that Delino Sr., who just finished managing the Arizona Fall League’s Surprise Saguaros, which included the Rangers’ AFL delegation, will eventually manage in the big leagues. Maybe his ultimate big league legacy is yet to be written, after a playing career that was supposed to turn out better than it did.
I wonder what Delino DeShields Sr.’s “Letter to My Younger Self” would look like.
Or his letter to his 22-year-old namesake.
But not as much as I’m imagining the message Delino Jr. will be getting, over and over again, from any number of people in Rangers uniforms between now and the end of March, when a big decision will need to be made. I’d like to think it’s a message he’ll get loud and get clear, and that he’s going to grab this opportunity, put some things together in Surprise, and make his last organization regret using that last November roster spot not on its former first-round pick but instead on 30 seconds on the draft clock it basically sold for $25,000.
Let’s kick it.
Now that the party is jumping
With the bass kicked in, and the Vega’s are pumpin’
Quick to the point, to the point, no faking
Finally, you should click this link if you’re an Emily Jones fan, or a fan of things that are awesome — seriously, click this:
Ice Ice Baby.
Word to #Derek’sMom.