With that, the Rangers entered "Now what the hell do we do?" territory. As if it's not bad enough that Hamilton signed with a key rival, the Rangers now have a waning list of options to add some punch to a lineup that has become awfully punch-less.
...If they can, of course.
The Marlins really, really, really don't want to trade their star slugger, as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported in late November that they're not even entertaining the idea. Stanton is young, cheap, controllable and very, very good, so the Marlins certainly have their reasons.
However, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com wrote on Thursday that the Hamilton signing could lead the Marlins to change their minds. They may never get a better chance to not only get a fair deal for Stanton, but to maybe set themselves up for life with an impressive package of young players.
Hence the reason they should have the Rangers on speed dial.
The Rangers have watched an awful lot of talent get stripped away from their major-league roster this winter, but the club's most talented youngsters are still in place. Teenage shortstop Jurickson Profar—No. 1 on MLB.com's prospect rankings—is still Rangers property, as are third baseman Mike Olt, left-hander Martin Perez, right-hander Cody Buckel and many others.
Texas also has 24-year-old shortstop Elvis Andrus to offer, and it could also deal 26-year-old left-hander Derek Holland or even star second baseman Ian Kinsler. The latter two have long-term contracts for what now qualify as team-friendly rates given how much salaries are rising.
There aren't many teams out there that have the assets to make a legit offer for Stanton, but the Rangers are one of them. And since they clearly have a need for a power bat, the Marlins' brain trust has every excuse to sit down and ponder how much they could get from Texas for Stanton.
And for the record, the Marlins have indeed bothered to put a price on Stanton's head even while they've insisted he's not available. Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reported earlier this month that they would take "three top-level prospects" and likely a couple of other players as well to land Stanton.
In his piece, Frisaro pondered that the Marlins could at least be "tempted" if the Rangers were to present an offer centered around Profar or Olt, or Profar and Olt.
Olt's name has popped up in plenty of trade rumors, but the Rangers may be just as reluctant to trade Profar as the Marlins are to trade Stanton. Elite fielding shortstops with speed and emerging extra-base pop are not so easily parted with.
Stanton, however, is one of maybe three or four players in baseball who is good enough for the Rangers to consider trading Profar. I'd even go so far as to say he's worth Profar and Olt, not to mention several other players.
As talented as Profar and Olt are, they're still prospects who haven't proved anything in the majors (both of them only made cameos in 2012). Stanton, on the other hand, is only 23 years old and he's already an established star who's getting better every year.
In only three seasons and 373 games, Stanton has slugged 93 home runs and compiled a slash line of .270/.350/.553. He led MLB with a slugging percentage of .608 in 2012, and he hit 37 home runs in only 123 games. Had he played in 150 or 160 games, he could have made a run at 50 home runs.
The numbers reflect what the scouts (and one's eyes) say about Stanton's raw power: It's huge. He ranks second in ISO (Isolated Power) and first in HR/FB among all hitters over the last three seasons, according to FanGraphs.
But power isn't the only thing in Stanton's tool belt. He's also an above-average defender in right field, which is reflected in his UZR and DRS totals over the last three seasons (see FanGraphs).
The Rangers need to replace the 67 home runs that have disappeared with Mike Napoli signing with the Boston Red Sox and Hamilton signing with the Angels. Preferably, they'll do so without compromising their desire to be just as much about pitching and defense as they are about power.
To these ends, Stanton is a far better fit for them than anyone who's left on the free-agent market. He's also better than any star players that may be available on the trade market, including coveted Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton.
So...will the Rangers actually look to make this happen?
Judging from Nolan Ryan's recent comments, it doesn't sound like it. Here's what he said after the Hamilton signing, via MLB.com:
You hope and plan at improving the ballclub. We're working toward that goal. It hasn't happened the way we hoped, but we still we have a good ballclub and we're still in good position. We're not under any pressure to make moves. If there is a way to improve the ballclub within our budget, we'll do it.
He's wrong about one thing. The Rangers certainly are under pressure to make moves, from both their fanbase and in regard to the competition they're set to face in the AL West.
The Angels still have weaknesses, but the Hamilton signing made them better. Greg Johns of MLB.com says that the Seattle Mariners really wanted Hamilton, and they may now be willing to spend on other free agents in order to improve their chances in 2013. The Oakland A's have been quiet this winter, but they were better than the Rangers to begin with.
The division around the Rangers is moving forward, while they remain stuck in the mud. It's very true that they still have a quality ballclub, but you can't lose as much talent as they've lost and then do nothing.
No sir, they need to do something. And if they want to go big, they'll get the Marlins on the horn and ask them what they want for Stanton.
Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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