Texas Rangers: Grading the Rangers' Offseason Moves
The Texas Rangers have had another busy offseason. They signed Japanese phenom Yu Darivsh and were also rumored to be one of the favorites for Prince Fielder before he signed with Detroit. After signing Mike Napoli to a 1-year deal, Rangers’ General Manager Jon Daniels said Texas has reached its spending limit, and there will likely be no more major moves this offseason. With that in mind, let’s grade some of the Rangers biggest moves.
Not Re-Signing C.J. Wilson
Wilson was a big part of the Rangers’ success the last two seasons. Hindsight shows that the Rangers had the money to resign C.J., but chose not to. He was the best starting pitcher on the free agent market and was paid as such by the Angels (five years, $77.5 million).
It seems the issue that Texas had with the 30-year-old Wilson is that they had already seen the best he could offer, which was a good pitcher, but not an ace. The Rangers instead chose to spend their money on a pitcher who is younger and who they feel has a higher ceiling—Yu Darvish. This move is a high risk, high reward scenario. Texas has not been to consecutive World Series with foolish personnel decisions, so for now I will trust Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan’s decision to move on without Wilson.
Signing Yu Darvish
Speaking of Darvish, he is obviously the team’s biggest acquisition this offseason. The Rangers were looking for an ace to help them compete for years to come, and believe they found him in Darvish.
Texas paid more than $100 million dollars for him to take the hill in Arlington, which is a steep price for a guy who has never pitched in the majors. This makes the grade of this acquisition more difficult. It’s an “A” if he turns out to be everything the Rangers believe, but realistically he probably won’t make that type of impact his first year.
The way I will assess it for now is by looking at some of the things that excited the Rangers’ front office. First, Darvish is only 25-years-old and much bigger (6'5" and 220 lbs.) than the other pitchers who tried to make the transition from Japan. He has been durable and arrives with a variety of pitches he can throw. Darvish will also not have the burden of being the No.1 guy right when he gets to Texas.
Colby Lewis and Derek Holland will take the top two spots, so Darvish can focus on his development and learning to be a pitcher in the MLB.
Signing Joe Nathan
It’s pretty difficult to compete in baseball these days without a bullpen anchored by a good closer. The Rangers were well aware of this when they signed Joe Nathan after moving Neftali Feliz to the rotation. Nathan had a terrific career in Minnesota, saving 36 or more games for six consecutive seasons. He saved a career high 47 in 2009 before injury forced him to sit out the entire 2010 season.
Nathan is 37-years-old, but if he can regain his form from three season ago he can be a huge asset to the bullpen.
Extension for Ron Washington
This one was kind of a no-brainer. Washington has managed the Rangers to consecutive World Series after almost four decades of being fixtures at the bottom of the American League. He made a huge mistake three years ago, but has rewarded Texas’ faith in him. Along with Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels, Washington should be around for years to come helping the Rangers chase championships.
Multi-Year Deals for Andrus and Cruz
New contracts for Elvis Andrus (Three years, $14.4 million) and Nelson Cruz (Two years, $16 million) was big not just because they avoided arbitration hearings, but for other reasons as well.
Andrus is a core player who Texas will need to compete in the future. He is Gold Glove caliber shortstop and one of the Rangers’ best base runners, two skills that Ron Washington values very highly.
Cruz is one of the best hitters in the American League when he is healthy. The American League Championship Series MVP will turn 32 this season, so the Rangers will have him while he is relatively young for at least the next two years without committing to a huge contract. Keeping the Rangers core together will be important if they want to capture that elusive World Series title.
One-Year Deal for Mike Napoli
Mike Napoli exploded last year with the Rangers after five seasons in Los Angeles. Avoiding an arbitration hearing, he signed a one-year deal worth $9.4 million after hitting .320 with 30 home runs and 75 RBI. Napoli was also one of the team’s best players in the postseason, getting clutch hits and throwing out base runners. His one year deal is interesting to grade because he would be a big loss if he left after the contract runs out.
Should he have another year like the one he just had, the Rangers could end up having to make a bigger bid for his services when he becomes a free agent. Napoli can also DH and play first base which adds to his value.
No New Contract for Josh Hamilton
This was probably the most difficult to grade. A second alcohol relapse in three years definitely didn’t help Hamilton’s case for a new contract. This issue and his history of injuries are the two biggest reasons against a multi-year deal.
He is still a fan favorite and one of the most gifted players to ever put on a baseball uniform, which are compelling reasons for Texas to resign him. The risk of Hamilton entering this season without a new contract is that he stays healthy and has the type of incredible season that he is always capable of having.
Knowing the way many teams throw money at free agents, it is not outlandish to assume that someone will offer Hamilton a huge contract that the Rangers will be reluctant to match. Josh has been a big part of the turnaround in Texas, and many fans (myself included) will be disappointed to see him leave. Players like him do not come around very often, so the Rangers' front office will have a big decision to make next offseason.