The Rangers took a step back a little bit in 2012 – though the first half of the season didn’t look like it would end that way. For the first 4-5 months of the season, the Rangers were clearly the best team in baseball, and looked to be well on their way to a 3rd consecutive World Series appearance. Then, the wheels fell off. Josh Hamilton went through a couple slumps, and they eased down the stretch, going just 15-15 their last 30 games. They managed to get swept by the A’s in the final series of the season, leaving them in 2nd place in their division, and having to play in the Wild Card play-in game – a game they lost to Baltimore. A quick exit for a team with such high expectations. Especially since we’re talking about the team with the 6th highest Opening Day payroll in 2012 – just over $120 million. Residing in the 5th largest TV market in America, and making two consecutive World Series appearances the last two seasons has certainly helped them to afford such a high payroll. And, continued success will allow them to remain near the top, since they reached 3rd in all of baseball this season in attendance. So, with questions about guys like Hamilton and Napoli, what will the 2013 team look like?
Who’s Under Contract?
- The Rangers have 9 players already under contract for 2013 – Ian Kinsler ($13 mil.), Adrian Beltre ($16 mil.), Michael Young ($16 mil.), Yu Darvish ($9.5 mil.), Derek Holland ($3.2 mil.), Nelson Cruz ($10.5 mil.), Joe Nathan ($7 mil.), Elvis Andrus ($4.8 mil.), and Colby Lewis ($2 mil.) – accounting for $82 million in payroll.
- As for pre-arbitration eligible players, the Rangers will have Brandon Snyder (utility player off the bench), Tanner Scheppers (bullpen), Alexi Ogando, Robbie Ross (bullpen), Craig Gentry, Michael Kirkman (bullpen), Mitch Moreland and potential Rookie of the Year candidates Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt able to contribute in 2013. Profar can contribute in a crowded middle infield, and Olt will have opportunities at 1B and the OF in 2013, and could possibly move to his natural 3B position as early as 2014. Wilmer Font may also be a rookie name to keep an eye on, as he looks ready to possibly compete for a bullpen spot in 2013. And, depending on how things go in the Spring, Martin Perez could be taking the 5th starter role vacated by Feliz who will miss most of 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery. So, the Rangers could have as many as 11 pre-arbitration players contributing significant innings in 2013. Let’s say 9 of those guys are on the Opening Day roster, which would account for about $4.5-5 million in payroll.
- Josh Hamilton – that is, unless he’s willing to come down considerably on his asking price. He’s likely going to make $20 million or more per season, and Texas has way too much talent coming up through their system to spend that kind of money on Hamilton, when they can spend it more wisely elsewhere.
- Scott Feldman – it appears that Texas has already exercised their opt-out option on this up-and-down starter, paying him $600K now, rather than going into arbitration.
- Mike Napoli – he’s a free agent, and is going to cost too much for what he provides. He’s not exactly an every-day catcher (just 78 games behind the plate in ’12), and he’s a lot of power without much of anything else (.227 avg., 56 RBI, .812 OPS in 2012). All for a hefty $8 million price tag, if not more. Not worth it on this team, when you have the #6 catching prospect just a year or two away from the big leagues (Jorge Alfaro).
- Yorvit Torrealba – there are substantially cheaper back-up options, if you have a good every-day catcher.
- Roy Oswalt – failed experiment.
- Koji Uehara – with the young prospects they have, I don’t think Texas needs both Uehara and Mike Adams. Both are free agents, and I think if Texas was to re-sign one of them, it should be Adams. He is younger, and pitches in more games, and they were similarly effective the last couple years. I love Uehara – but, not for the future of this franchise.
- Mark Lowe – the Rangers simply have too many other options that are cheaper and just as good as Lowe in the bullpen.
- Geovany Soto & Ryan Dempster – rental players for their playoff push. Dempster helped out, but Soto struggled mightily. Dempster is a free agent, and there’s no reason to pursue him. Soto is arbitration eligible, and there’s no reason to keep him.
- Mike Adams – see Uehara discussion above.
- Arbitration eligible players include Neftali Feliz ($3 million), Matt Harrison ($6 million) and David Murphy ($5.5 million). Other than Soto, these are the only guys Texas has that will be arbitration eligible in 2013. And, based on these estimated salaries that they would receive, I see no reason for the Rangers to do anything other than offer arbitration to each of them.
Who Do They Go After?
- At this point, it looks as though the holes in the lineup are at catcher, starting pitcher (until Feliz is back), and bench players. My proposed outfield would be Murphy, Gentry and Cruz. The infield would be Beltre, Profar, Andrus and Young, with Kinsler at DH, and filling in when needed in the infield. Moreland would no longer be your everyday first baseman, and would fill in along with Snyder and Olt from the bench. The starting pitchers would be Darvish, Holland, Lewis and Harrison. The bullpen would include Nathan, Ross, Ogando, Kirkman, Adams and Scheppers. That leaves 2 bench spots (including your back-up catcher), your everyday catcher, and one starting pitcher to go get, and a payroll of $107.3 million up to this point.
- Anibal Sanchez – Greinke is likely going to cost $20-25 million per year, which is probably too much for Texas. But, a guy like Sanchez, who has proven he can do well in the AL, is going to be more in the $13-15 million range. In that price range, the Rangers actually have a couple options including Sanchez, Kyle Lohse and Brandon McCarthy. Any of these would be fine, but I think I would go after Sanchez first.
- A.J. Pierzynski – Pierzynski accomplishes a number of things for the Rangers. 1) He’s cheaper than Napoli (around $5-6 million); 2) He’s an everyday catcher; 3) He puts a little more pop into the lineup that you’re giving up by replacing Hamilton with Murphy in LF; 4) He’s a left-handed bat with pop, which the Rangers need; 5) He’s a nice stop-gap until their top catching prospect is ready in a couple years.
- Kelly Shoppach – a nice back-up option at catcher, who won’t cost but about $1 million.
- Cody Ross – an excellent fourth outfielder option coming off the bench, who will cost around $3 million.
After it’s all said and done, this team would have a payroll around $130 million. That shouldn’t be too difficult for them to handle. Plus, after 2013, Young & Cruz come off the books, and you have more room for your talented prospects, and can then spend more money on quality pitching, if needed.