Though Texas' offseason is still incomplete, John Stathas, Jonathan Tjarks and JP Starkey take the time to analyze Jon Daniels' 2012-13 offseason.
Are you disappointed with Texas' offseason to date? Why or why not?
Stathas: I wouldn't say I'm disappointed, but I'm certainly frustrated. As are many fans I'm sure. Missing out on almost every big name is not fun to watch, but Daniels and company aren't stupid. (We think). So fans don't need to panic. The Rangers have made several solid moves this offseason. Best being the Michael Young trade. I know a lot of fans are saddened to see his departure. But this is addition by subtraction and there won't be that lingering akwardness of having to play him through another extended slump. The Rangers also got an interesting prospect by the name of Lisalverto Bonilla. The 22-year-old right-handed reliever adds depth to a depleted bullpen and there's a good chance you cuold see him this season (even before September). All in all, I think the Rangers can have a very successful offseason if they were to snag Michael Bourn or Justin Upton. But even if they don't, fans still have some things to look forward too. Profar is coming...
Tjarks: It's hard not to be disappointed with all of the names they were linked to but didn't get and all of the players they lost. That being said, how often does winning the off-season translate to winning in October? Look at Anaheim and Miami last year. MLB free agency, without any restrictions on length and size of contracts, seems like the classic case of a "winner's curse" -- auctions with "incomplete information" (how a player will age) -- where you are better off losing. The one worry I have is that with all of the money coming into the sport due to cable TV deals and all the restrictions on the way it can be spent in terms of signing amateur players, the market for players has changed drastically and the Rangers haven't yet caught on. The Dodgers are getting a TV deal worth $6-7 billion. From that perspective, missing on a $150+ mil contract may not be as big a deal.
Starkey: It probably stings Rangers fans knowing that they were in on Zack Greinke until the very end, and knowing that Josh Hamilton will call Los Angeles home for the foreseeable future. As much sense as Greinke would have made for Texas, they don't need a starting pitcher. At all. When you can add somebody like Greinke, of course you'd want to, but it's not a need. Letting Hamilton walk was smart, as is not surrendering Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar for Justin Upton. So, no, I wouldn't be disappointed if I were a Rangers fan -- I'd be relieved that the GM is smart enough to avoid bad contracts and bad deals.
How do you feel about Josh Hamilton not only leaving the Rangers, but signing with the Angels?
Stathas: Good riddance and I hope the Angels can strike some sort of deal with Passages Malibu. Dr. Drew is probably licking his chops.
Tjarks: Hamilton could have a great first year/honeymoon period and make the Rangers look bad, but there were a lot of good reasons to pass on extending him. For one, he's a guy whose never been healthy and doesn't play with a lot of discipline -- how is that going to look in his mid-30's? Another, how is he going to respond to living in LA? Not exactly the market where you can avoid temptation easily. They're going to miss his bat a lot obviously, but there's a good chance they weren't seeing the Hamilton of 2010-2012 again even if they did bring him back.
Starkey: Indifferent. It's Hamilton's right to play wherever he wants after he hits free agency, but sure, it's a little salt in the wounds for Rangers fans as he heads to Anaheim. Hamilton will make Los Angeles better in 2013, but by 2014, that contract could look pretty bad, and by 2015, it will look really bad.
A.J. Pierzynski rubs a lot of people the wrong way -- including fans and peers. What do you think of his signing?
Stathas: It solidifies the Rangers' weakest position in the lineup. I don't see how Pierzynski puts up worse numbers than the position's production in 2012. It's also nice to have a guy with a ring hanging out in your clubhouse and potentially assuming a leadership role. The Rangers haven't had a lot of guys like that these past few seasons. And now, they have one at a critical position.
Tjarks: I'm always hesitant to talk about a guy's character that I don't know and have never met, but he certainly carries himself like a real dick. However, that's also a thing that tends to mellow as people gets older. More importantly, he's a left-handed bat who gives them power and production from the catcher's position, which is always nice. Even better, there's no real risk since he's on a one-year deal. Seems like a good signing, but they clearly do need to figure out more of a long-term solution at catcher eventually.
Starkey: I wrote when the Rangers signed him that I don't know him, and never will, so it's difficult for me to speak about somebody's character that I don't know. I do know that his peers voted him the most hated player in baseball, but whatever. Maybe his teammates will love him in Texas. If he produces, his personality won't be a problem, and his signing was necessary to fill out the lineup.
What would you be willing to give up for Justin Upton?
Stathas: I don't want to see them spend too much, but I would love to see Upton in Texas. I think he would explode in the Ballpark. But I think Michael Bourn is a guy the Rangers should look hard at. It would be nice to have a true leadoff hitter at the top of the lineup and move Kinsler down to a more traditional power spot in the order. Bourn and Andrus would be nice to see in front of Beltre, but an Upton-Beltre 3-4 would look pretty sweet too.
Tjarks: That's a tough question. He'd obviously fill a huge need, but I don't think I'd deal Andrus or Profar for him. Think of the middle infield defense those two could play! Plus Beltre? Groundball pitchers would be incredible with those three behind them. Profar, given his position, skill-set and contract status, is probably one of the most untouchable assets in baseball. Andrus is a 23-year old shortstop with a great glove and an improving bat. What if he put on 10-15 pounds as he got older, which has never been a huge problem for Texas players, and adds some power? That's a guy you're only going to lose because you're being outspent; it wouldn't be at all like Hamilton's situation. Texas is a big-market TV team which gets 3+ million fans a season; they shouldn't be outspent for their own guys in the prime of their career.
Starkey: Andrus and Profar are entirely off limits for me. Dealing Andrus could very well end up being a lateral move WAR-wise, and then you're forcing Profar to start 2013 as the team's starting shortstop -- and that's just not fair. I'd be willing to send Michael Olt, Martin Perez and a window-dressing prospect like Roman Mendez for Upton. If Arizona is intent on dealing him, that package would have to be pretty appealing, and if they prefer a middle infielder to Mendez, then you could twist my arm for Luis Sardinas, who is blocked in every way possible in the organization.
Is there anything the Rangers absolutely need to be a realistic World Series contender in 2013?
Stathas: They need to get back to their offensive fundamentals that was their identity in 2010 and 2011. You didn't see a lot of double steals or guys scoring from second on bunts or infield singles. But we all saw the abysmal batting average with runners in scoring position that plagued the Rangers in August and September. Guys striking out with bases loaded and less than two outs is not how you win a World Series.
Tjarks: Maybe offense from their outfield and 1B? There are questions about all four positions: Does Kinsler get moved off 2B to give Profar a spot? Can Nelson Cruz stay healthy? Is Murphy more of an 4rth OF? And then there is probably more uncertainty about CF than any other spot headed into spring traing. This might be a spot where you grab an OF at the deadline. Beyond that, there are a whole lot of things that would be nice to have, but they still have the core of an 87+ win team, which puts them in a position to get into the post-season, and as long as you get in, you're a legitimate contender for the World Series. Am I confident that they'll finally take home a World Series? Of course not, but you should never be confident of something like that in baseball.
Starkey: Yes. The Rangers need to pick up another bat, but it doesn't have to be now; they can wait until the middle of the season and see what exactly they need, and what exactly is available. I'd let an infield of Adrian Beltre, Andrus, Profar and Ian Kinsler play out, and see how it affects the starting pitching, since that's four premium-range defenders in the infield. The outfield clearly needs a bat, but if Upton can't be had now at a reasonable price, then Daniels may be better off waiting until June or July when the D'Backs inevitably fall out of contention. On top of that, Texas needs another arm for the bullpen. Counting on Joakim Soria is risky, as is Neftali Feliz. I don't think Joe Nathan is a bad ass again this year. Ogando had a rough World Series after shifting to the bullpen after a year of starting, so it's tough (and unfair) to pencil him in as a dominant reliever come October.