Rangers can afford to play market with patience
After adding Prince to strong club, Daniels doesn't need to rush into next deal
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It's been three whole weeks since the Prince Fielder trade was consummated.
Hey, maybe that doesn't sound like very long to you. But three weeks is a lifespan for the average monarch butterfly and, more to the point, feels like an eternity in our tech-savvy, Twitteriffic world and in a baseball industry that has seen ample player movement -- especially in the American League West -- in the time since.
So it is that people have been pestering Rangers general manager Jon Daniels this week about when he's going to make a "big move," to which Daniels offers a rational response.
"We're good," Daniels said Wednesday.
Note that that's "good" as in good, not "good" as in done. The Rangers continue to keep in touch with Nelson Cruz, and, more pertinently, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reported Wednesday night that they have been putting "a lot of work" into signing Shin-Soo Choo.
The Rangers have been believed to be one of the teams in the best position to land Choo ever since they made the Craig Gentry trade with the A's, and Choo would immediately augment the top of their order.
But Daniels has to be careful not to go overboard in that particular pursuit, because, with or without Choo (a great U2 song, by the way), he is correct in his assumption that this Texas team is in a pretty good position to improve upon last season's lackluster run production and, ergo, win the West.
"I think the reality is we've made a lot of big moves over the years," Daniels said, "so there's this expectation that we're going to be involved with everything. Not everything makes sense for us to be involved with."
Indeed, if Cruz wants anything beyond a two-year guarantee, that doesn't make a great deal of sense for the Rangers. I'm not going to pile on Cruz because of his Biogenesis-related suspension, because, frankly, that's not nearly as pertinent a point as the fact that he turns 34 next summer, and the regression in positive contributions from mid-30s players whose value is derived solely from their bat can be steep.
That said, the Draft-pick compensation attached to Cruz affects his market and could wind up benefiting the Rangers. Cruz's asking price could come down to a much more manageable level in the coming days or weeks.
The Rangers would also be wise to be patient with Choo, whose market has been difficult to gauge even by the standards of Scott Boras clients. Choo's value, after all, has been impacted by a lot of other activity in the industry, including not just the seven-year, $153 million Jacoby Ellsbury deal but the D-backs' trade for Mark Trumbo, the Yankees' agreement to sign Carlos Beltran and the Mariners' moves on Wednesday that included a trade for Logan Morrison and the signing of Corey Hart.
I am on record as Choo's biggest supporter. I've never covered a player who worked harder or cared more, and his durability has been superior to that of Ellsbury. For much of his career, Choo has been wildly underrated. But this wild winter -- and that Ellsbury contract, in particular -- has the effect of overinflating Choo's free-agent price, at present, particularly given his well-documented struggles against left-handed pitching. So the Rangers would be wise to stand their ground on this one, lest they wind up bidding against the dreaded "mystery team."
If the Rangers lose out on Choo, it would be hard to characterize it as the end of their word. They'll still entertain realistic expectations going into 2014. No matter how much we analyze this thing up and down in the here and now, the truth of the matter is that a club's holes are going to more accurately reveal themselves in-season, and the good news for the Rangers is they have the trade chips to address those holes in-season. They have a farm system widely regarded as one of the best in baseball, because they are loaded with middle-infield depth (second baseman Rougned Odor and shortstop Luis Sardinas are advancing up the ladder) and pitching (Luke Jackson and Akeem Bostick are highly regarded arms in a system that already has a strong bounty of Major League options at starter).
"I don't mean for this to sound arrogant," Daniels said. "I think it's more a reflection of the job our scouts and coaches have done. But we have the ability to acquire just about anybody that's put on the marketplace. We're not the only team that can say that, but we're in that position, if we want to part with the talent. For the most part, we don't. But you can't ignore some of the opportunities out there, either. We have given them and will continue to give them consideration."
The Rangers are also giving consideration to Masahiro Tanaka, who, if posted and acquired, would support a rotation sturdy on paper but wobbly in terms of recent injury history.
This winter's primary goal, though, was to boost the offense. And the Fielder trade, which solved the dual goals of adding a power bat and opening an everyday opportunity for Jurickson Profar, did just that.
Choo would provide another big boost. But the Rangers don't necessarily have to sign him at any cost.
They don't have to make another "big move" just for the sake of making a big move.
"Bottom line is we like our team, we like some of our options, we like our young players coming and we don't feel a sense of desperation or urgency to make a move or a deal that we don't like," Daniels said. "We've put ourselves in a position where we can be a little bit picky."