It doesn’t matter who you ask, they’ll tell you the Rangers off-season has not gone according to plan. The subtractions (Hamilton, Napoli, Adams, Uehara, Feldman) certainly outweigh the additions of Soria and Pierzynski. There are still holes in the Texas roster, questions left to be answered.
But it’s December 21st, and people are acting like it’s the end of the world.
I’m trying to discern just where exactly this kind of outburst and criticism would come from. For the last five years, the Rangers front office has been easily in the top five of all of baseball, and arguably in the top three, at times being the best. Now, after eight weeks of off-season, the insinuation is that their operations are falling apart and it is time to panic.
Perhaps the issue these writers have with how the off-season has unfolded is that the media’s narrative turned out to be entirely incorrect. It was the Rangers who “dominated” the winter meetings, and were “holding everyone hostage”, after all. But then in the end the Rangers didn’t hold anything up, and didn’t grab any of the biggest free agents from this year. Disappointment is a result of unmet expectations. Perhaps the disappointment is so great, because the expectations were artificially inflated.
I can’t imagine the anguish over the Rangers off-season is a result of believing they should have out-bid and out-bartered their opponents for the names that have come off the board.
Did anyone want to sign Zack Greinke for six years and $150 million? That’s what it would have taken for him to sign here, and maybe more. Who knows how high the Dodgers were willing to go to not miss on him? Greinke didn’t choose LA because Ned Colletti is a better guy than Jon Daniels, or because of sunny LA, or because of the Texas heat, or the Rangers ballpark. He chose LA because of money. And it was the kind of money that could cripple baseball operations in Texas if Greinke isn’t an ace for the next six years. Considering he has one ace season in his career, $150 million is a lot to gamble expecting Greinke’s actual performance to finally catch up with his stellar peripheral stats.
Did anyone want to sign Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal? I know Daniels expressed disappointment with how those discussions ended, never receiving notification of that offer to Hamilton until it was a done deal. But there was no way the Rangers were going to match that deal, nor should they have. Hamilton won’t be worth that contract when it’s all said and done. Texas just traded a 36-year old with too large of a contract, they weren’t about to re-create that issue. The Angels need to win in the next two years, and they’re sacrificing their future to do so. The Rangers aren’t and shouldn’t be in that position.
Should the Rangers have pushed harder to trade for James Shields or Justin Upton or RA Dickey? Those are good names to put on the white board, but look at what it would have taken to acquire them. Andrus or Profar would have needed to be dealt in any of those deals. If you’re trading an Andrus or a Profar, is a Shields or an Upton or a Dickey really the return you want? You only get to use those trade bullets once, so you better not miss.
By my estimation, there are only three moves that have been made this off-season that I regret that the Rangers didn’t do, upon seeing what it took to close the deal. The full list is: Melky Cabrera (two years, $16 million), Koji Uehara (one year, $4.25 million), and Sean Burnett (two years, $8 million). None of these are even big impact moves, but would have filled a hole at a reasonable cost.
The discontent with the Rangers off-season rings of entitlement. It’s as if three seasons of winning baseball in Texas has created an air of arrogance not in the Rangers front office, but in some of the Rangers media members and fans.
Just because the Rangers have won over the last three years, and are still in a position to win again in 2013, and just because they have some money to spend because of a new TV deal, doesn’t mean that as Rangers fans we should become accustomed to them signing the biggest free agents in the off-season. What the Rangers front office has shown us over the last five years is that we should become accustomed to them making the right baseball decisions at the right times.
The Rangers haven’t lost any assets this off-season. They haven’t committed any significant portion of payroll to one player. They haven’t traded away any top prospect from their top-three farm system. The powder is very, very dry in Texas, with plenty of bullets in the bag. Just because the Rangers haven’t made any major moves doesn’t mean that this has been a bad off-season. It would be a bad off-season if they made major moves that they would later regret, and would hamstring the club. Besides, the dry powder of December makes it a stronger likelihood that Texas makes an explosive move in July.
The way the events of this off-season have transpired also doesn’t mean that the Rangers are incapable of making a big splash. The Rangers have made one big splash each year for the last three years: Cliff Lee in 2010, Adrian Beltre in 2011, and Yu Darvish in 2012. Jon Daniels is batting 1.000 on their big moves. The way I see it, if Texas didn’t push the hardest for a player, then someone else overpaid. If the Rangers pay a big price, they’re going to get a big return.
Lastly, haven’t we learned that winning the off-season doesn’t mean anything yet? Don’t we also realize it isn’t even Christmas yet? Just because the winter meetings ended, doesn’t mean the Rangers are in hibernation until pitchers and catchers report. It’s actually become a rarity for the Rangers to make any major moves until January.
Andrus or Profar might still be traded, but if they are, it won’t be for a Shields or an Upton, it would be for a Price or a Stanton. Palpable impact.
The Rangers may not even make a big move this off-season. And that will be okay. This is still a very good team here. The two most obvious holes left to fill are two of the easiest to do so: outfield and bullpen. The subtractions they’ve endured only create opportunity for others to step up, especially amongst the more youthful members of the club. It’s going to be a very different team in 2013, but after watching the Rangers in 2012, I’m not sure I’d want to see that team again anyway.
No, it isn’t fun to see other teams grabbing headlines in December. I guarantee you the Rangers front office isn’t enjoying it either. But the Rangers front office also has the foresight to not become desperate. The Rangers are the ones that benefit from the desperation of others (see: 2007 Braves and 2010 Mariners), not the other way around. There are 29 teams that would love to prey on any signs of panic from the Rangers front office, but that won’t happen.
You can trust the pundits that the Rangers have failed this off-season if you like. As for me, I’ll trust in JD and company.
Peter Ellwood is a Senior Staff Writer for Shutdown Inning. You can email him at Peter.Ellwood@shutdowninning.com or reach him on Twitter @FutureGM