As we sit here during the holidays, there are some teams that are in desperate need of still trying to fill some big gaps that have been created by free agency. Of this group of teams, I believe the Rangers are the one that has the most to replace.
In 2012, the Rangers had, in my opinion, the most dangerous lineup top to bottom in either league. They also had some very strong arms in their rotation. But as we sit here today, let’s look at what they have lost.
First and foremost, Josh Hamilton. How are they going to replace 43 home runs and 128 RBI? Then they lost Mike Napoli, Micheal Young, Mike Adams, and Ryan Dempster. Even with those five guys they were run down from behind by the A’s and knocked out of the playoffs in the Wild Card game by the Orioles. This has to have people in Arlington wondering if Ranger baseball is going to return to what it had been prior to the past five successful years.
There have been many rumors flying around about Texas trading Elvis Andrus to Arizona for Justin Upton. I’m sorry, but that for me is a no brainer! Andrus will be a free agent in two years and his agent is Scott Boras, which means he will not sign an extension with the Rangers. He will be a free agent. As Scott Boras is the only agent that has clients who forget he works for them and not the other way around, Upton would help replace the power numbers that Hamilton provided. The Rangers could bring super prospect Jurickson Profar to the big leagues and make him the everyday shortstop.
That still leaves them with some power issues in their lineup that need to be addressed. I think they need to make a move for a center fielder. Maybe Michael Bourn, who is also represented by Boras. But they could hit him leadoff and move Ian Kinsler to the three hole.
The other problem I see in Texas is the pitching coach. I like Mike Maddux very much. But he has to realize that not every pitcher can be a sinkerball pitcher. His brother, Greg, was probably the best ever. But when they have the ability to throw 97 mph, you can’t ask these pitchers to be sinkerballers. First of all, the two-seam fastball is harder to command than a four-seamer. Also, it is meant for the ball to be put in play, and balls put in play can find holes. There is a time and place to try and get a ground ball. But you can’t take a kid with the ability to throw 97 and ask him to throw 91-92 with less command.
They have an owner in Nolan Ryan who had a “big gun” and he shot it. If you have a pitcher with the ability to blow guys away and have better command, you have to let him be who he is. For the pitchers who command a two-seam fastball, it is a great way to attack a lineup. But for the guys who can’t command it, it is a way to practice backing up third base a lot.
I played 11 years in the big leagues and never threw a single two-seam fastball. I had a hard enough time commanding a four-seam fastball. I know pitch counts are all the rage, but I was always of the belief that if, at the end of the at-bat, the hitter was out. I had done my job. No matter how many pitches it took!
So of all the teams that still have work left to do this winter, I believe the Rangers have the most.
Who do I think made out the best at this year’s Winter Meetings?
There were not a lot of big name deals that were done at the Meetings this year, but there were some deals made that I think were very good moves, some that I thought were not such good moves, and some that made me scratch my head.
I will start with the team that I think made out the best: the world champion Giants. They had two guys who were not what many people might have considered very important. They brought back Angel Pagan for four years at $40 million — not a ton of money. They also retained Marco Scutaro. Those two moves alone tell me that the Giants get it when it comes to how important “complementary” guys are to the success of a team in today’s game. You can buy players, but you can’t buy chemistry! If you look at the Giants on paper, they are not going to scare many people . But they have won two World Series in the last three years.
The move that I thought was the worst took place in Queens. The signing of David Wright doesn’t make much sense. I say this because the Mets have committed $138 million over eight years years to a player that I believe they could have used as trade bait and gotten back some good young talent. I do think Wright is worth the money, but are the Mets in a position to win in the next four years? I don’t see it. Also the mets signed Wright and now we are hearing talks of trading 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. Talk about mixed signals. The man won 20 games.
That brings me to my biggest question signing: the Red Sox signing Shane Victorino to a three-year, $39 million deal. I love Shane . He plays the game hard and plays it the right way. But he didn’t have a great year last year between Philly and the Dodgers. I’m very happy for him, but I would be lying if I said that I thought he would get that kind of deal. He reportedly turned down $44 million to play in Cleveland. It tells me there are some clubs who believe that a down year doesn’t mean a player can’t bounce back. If anyone can, it is Shane. But I don’t think as a businessman I could bet $39 million that it will happen.
Winter Meetings are not where all the big deals are made anymore. It has become a place for teams to get a chance to meet with players and discuss possible trades. But I think the days of big deals taking place there are over. Now it’s more about the middle-of-the-road players.