The Texas Rangers could not have come any closer to making the playoffs in 2013, losing in game 163 for the fifth and final American League spot. It will be tempting to make a play for a big free agent this offseason to put them over the top, but the Rangers’ front office should be wary to avoid signing the wrong guy this winter.
MLB's free-agent signing period is the quickest way for a team to make improvements. It can also set a franchise back a few years if it hands out too much money to a player that doesn't pan out like planned.
Teams like the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels can't be too happy about the contracts they handed out to B.J. Upton and Josh Hamilton, respectively. Texas is surely disappointed with the way the Lance Berkman experiment turned out this past season.
Signings like that happen every year and are just a part of professional sports. Obviously, not all risks turn into rewards.
Here are three free agents that are set up for a big pay day, but that the Rangers would be wise to pass on.
There have been some rumors floating around that there is a chance Texas will go all-in on Robinson Cano this offseason. ESPN's Andrew Marchand listed the Rangers as Cano’s top destination and Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News also believes it is possible.
And quite frankly, that doesn't make much sense for the Rangers, who already have a log jam in the middle infield. Texas already has to figure out how it is going to handle Ian Kinsler and Jurickson Profar at the second base spot, so why would it add Cano to the mix?
Cano would undoubtedly be an upgrade over Kinsler or Profar at this point. He is, after all, the best second baseman in the major leagues. But what Texas has at that position is more than serviceable.
Cano is not enough of an upgrade to warrant anything close to the $300 million mark that he and Jay Z are said to be seeking, as reported by Fox Sports' Andre Vergara.
It is baffling to think Cano could actually get that much money, but there is only one team that might get in that neighborhood. And that's the New York Yankees.
Texas will be much better-served going after a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays for David Price or using that money to bid on Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
Cano might be worth a huge deal for a team with a glaring hole at second base, but that’s not the case in Texas.
McCann is undoubtedly among the best catchers of the last eight years, but he has too many question marks to warrant a big deal at this stage in his career.
He is rumored to be in the market for a contract exceeding $100 million, per SportingNews.com. The Rangers have the resources to swing a deal like that, but the risk outweighs the reward in the case of McCann.
Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors helps break down the kind of value McCann has provided for the Atlanta Braves.
McCann has averaged over 21 home runs per year the last eight seasons in Atlanta. He is decent at throwing base-stealers out, but he is among the best in the league at framing pitches.
But none of that matters if McCann's career follows the same path as that of a comparable player in the past, Charles Johnson.
Johnson was among the game's best catchers until the age of 30, but after that, his career quickly fizzled out because of injuries. McCann appears to be on that same track.
McCann turns 30 in February and he has caught a decreasing number of games since 2010. The last two seasons he has struggled with shoulder injuries, which is obviously a big concern for a catcher.
McCann’s value plummets if he isn't able to catch. He would still be able to serve as designated hitter if he came to Texas, but that isn't exactly what the Rangers are looking for.
The Rangers should only sign McCann if they believe he can stay behind the plate for several more years. That isn't likely to happen.
Texas would be better off going with A.J. Pierzynski or Geovany Soto for the next few years while they groom top prospect Jorge Alfaro as the backstop of the future.
Jimenez was mainly a big disappointment for the Cleveland Indians, but the last five months of his season will be enough to make him one of the highest-paid pitchers out of this offseason.
Ironically, had his run of mediocrity extended further into this season, he might be a more viable option for the Rangers. He would be viewed as a back-of-the-rotation guy with a chance to break out and be a nice surprise for a playoff contender.
That kind of expectation would command a one-year deal and be considered a shrewd move that could pay big dividends for a small price.
However, Jimenez went off and had one of the best seasons of his career. His 3.30 ERA in 2013 was second only to his Cy Young season with the Colorado Rockies. Additionally, he posted a career-high strikeout rate (9.6 K’s per 9 innings) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.43) according to baseball-reference.com.
It's highly unlikely Jimenez will accept a one-year deal this offseason. Instead, he will command a multi-year deal worth close to $10 million a year, according to Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors.
That should put the Rangers out of contention.
Texas already has the top four slots in its rotation locked up with Yu Darvish, Derrick Holland, Martin Perez and Matt Harrison. That fifth spot is up for grabs, but the Rangers should be able to fill it with an in-house guy.
Jimenez had a great season in 2013, but it’s not likely he will do it again. If the Rangers were to sign him, he wouldn't be much of an upgrade over the other options they already have.
Kudos to Jimenez for peaking at the absolute perfect time—as he becomes a free agent—but the Rangers front office should stay away from him.
The only move Texas should make as far as its pitching rotation is concerned is to re-sign its own postseason hero in Colby Lewis or to make a move for an ace like Price or Tanaka.
Sometimes the best move is the move you didn't make. That motto should apply for the Texas Rangers when they are tempted to sign Cano, McCann or Jimenez.