Highly-coveted free agent backstop Brian McCann, formerly with the Atlanta Braves
With the shocking Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder trade on Wednesday night, the Texas Rangers took the baseball world by storm.
Finally—and let me emphasize that—Texas has a premier power bat at first base. Since GM Jon Daniels traded Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves in 2007, the club has tried desperately to fill the position on a trial-and-error basis.
Prince Fielder is a huge offensive upgrade over Mitch Moreland at first. He will boost the Rangers' offensive output immediately.
But Daniels has made it clear: he's not done. Not at all. He's been open about his search to fill the two remaining needs for his club: another catcher and an outfielder.
With that said, here are the moves I think Daniels needs to make to fill out the 2014 Texas Rangers roster.
1. Sign Brian McCann
According to The New York Daily News' Anthony McCarron's piece, the Rangers and Yankees are the front runners for McCann's services.
This was once an obvious "YES!!!" for just about every Ranger fan, but many seemed to have shied away from him a bit since the Fielder acquisition. There is a school of thought that both Fielder and McCann—because of body type and injury history respectively—will eventually need to DH during the back years of their contracts.
Since Fielder is signed for seven years, and it will likely take six years to sign McCann, there could be a logjam of DH candidates. These fans aren't counting on McCann catching full time over the life of his contract. I agree that he certainly won't.
Is $100 million or more for McCann worth that potential knot in a few years?
Also, these Rangers fans will point to 20-year-old catcher Jorge Alfaro in the minors. He's drawn Pudge Rodriguez comparisons with his big arm and elite power.
He could be truly ready to start with the Rangers by 2016, by which time McCann would still have three remaining years on his contract.
These are all fair points, and could ultimately be the reasons Daniels doesn't sign McCann.
But here is why he should.
a. McCann will be 30 for all of next season. Since his birthday is on February 20, he'll never turn a year older during a season. Maybe it doesn't make a difference. Just a thought.
b. Geovany Soto cannot be this team's best catcher. While he is a quality backup with some pop and a decent arm, that's about it. I do not believe he is capable of catching 130 or more games. He's only signed through 2014, and isn't a long-term option behind the plate.
c. All of last season, the Rangers had a serious deficit of left-handed hitting. A.J. Pierzynski was really the only consistent lefty hitter, and it's very likely he isn't returning. Mitch Moreland only hit .232 and carried a .299 OBP, per ESPN. Leonys Martin showed flashes of potential, but seemed like a roll of the dice at times.
McCann would provide a consistent, power and average presence in the middle of the order.
d. Take a look at McCann's resume. Seven-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger, led the National League in fielding percentage in 2012 and has finished top five in the NL in number of games caught in six of his eight career years. Three times, he finished top three in the NL in catcher assists, per baseball-reference.com.
e. Of any catcher available, he's the best combination of offense and defense. While he doesn't feature an impressive caught stealing percentage—just 23.8 percent for his career, per ESPN—he blocks the plate very well.
f. He has shown he can effectively handle a pitching staff over a whole season. His catcher's earned run average last season was 2.98 per ESPN, meaning that when McCann was behind the plate the Braves' team ERA was under three. That's pretty impressive.
With Texas, Soto started just under half the games McCann did in 2013, yet his CERA was 3.67, per ESPN.
g. Rangers fans: can you imagine a 3-6 of Alex Rios, Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Brian McCann? Whoa. That's a loaded mixture of power on both sides of the plate. Balance of lefty and righty hitters is key.
h. As you can see in that video, McCann is also a stand-up guy. This makes for a special addition to the clubhouse and team chemistry. He's a hard worker and wants to win.
2. Sign Shin-Soo Choo
Choo, 31, is perhaps the most complete player on the free agent market. He really does it all—hits for average and power, gets on base, steals bases and is an solid defender in right field.
The price of all of these tools? In his cost projection of Choo, Jay Jaffe of SI.com suggests the right fielder could receive a five-year, $100 million offer.
I'd be all in on a five-year deal for Choo. And I don't mind paying a little more per year if it shortens the length of the contact. This, instead of say a six-year, $115 million deal.
The years and dollars could vary slightly off of that projection, but the fact is that Choo's agent is Scott Boras. You know what that means: Choo will get max money for his skill set. If Jon Daniels signs him, it would be Texas' fourth $100 million plus contract.
I might get some backlash for this, but here's why Daniels should sign Choo.
a. He is an IDEAL leadoff hitter. Per ESPN, he took 112 walks last season, good for a whopping 19.6 percent of his at bats. This was a huge part of his mind-boggling .423 OBP. Once Choo was on base, he stole a respectable 20 bases.
b. He has power—both to the gaps and to the fences. If he played in Arlington, it's fair to assume he would increase upon his 2013 home run total of 21. He hit 34 doubles last season, and that figures to remain consistent. His 2013 .285 batting average is no slouch either.
c. He is at least an average defender in right field, and would join a speedy corps of Leonys Martin and Alex Rios in the outfield. Rios could conceivably move to left, with Choo taking over in right. In 588 career games in right, Choo has a solid .985 fielding percentage, per ESPN.
If Choo isn't signed, it will certainly be because of the hefty contract he is seeking, and that's understandable. He may also scare some potential suitors off with his lefty-righty batting splits. He struggled against left-handed pitchers mightily in 2013, hitting just .215, per ESPN.
But don't let that taint his .317 batting average against right-handed pitchers.
Signing Choo would cost the Rangers a draft pick, since the Reds extended him a qualifying offer. This shouldn't be the tipping point in a decision not to sign him however. The Rangers will get that pick back when Nelson Cruz signs elsewhere.
The Rangers can afford both Choo and McCann. It's just a matter of the front office wanting to. This ownership group is aggressive, has deep pockets and a burning desire to win after being so close to glory in 2010 and 2011. Signing both of these players is entirely possible.
Here is the lineup I'd like to see in 2014 if Daniels hauls in both of these players.
RF Shin-Soo Choo
SS Elvis Andrus
LF Alex Rios
1B Prince Fielder
3B Adrian Beltre
C Brian McCann
DH Mitch Moreland
CF Leonys Martin
2B Jurickson Profar
I truly believe that is a World Series-contending lineup. Look, I know it's ideal to be successful while not spending boatloads of cash. But we've seen how Billy Beane's system works out in Oakland. With cheap, cost-effective talent you can only make it so far.
That Athletics team had problems when it ran into the Tigers, who flat out had more talent.
The Rangers should be ready to spend money to win now.