Friday, December 7, 2007

The Definition of Insanity, Part 2

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Earlier I talked about this concerning the Dallas Mavericks. Now I'm saying this about myself and the Texas Rangers. I keep expecting that the Rangers are going to do something smart and then contend and it never happens. Stupid trades on top of stupid free agent signings on top of bad drafts on top of key injuries on top of under performing players on top of bad leadership from the top and so on and so on. I haven't looked at all the numbers, but I'm pretty confident in saying that the Rangers are probably fighting it out with the Rays and the Royals for the worst franchises in all of baseball.

This past year has been a bit of a step backwards for the franchise: trading their best player (Mark Teixeira) for Jarrod Saltalamacchia and a bunch of minor leaguers, big free agent signings of the past couple of years (Kevin Millwood and Vincente Padilla) struggling, a slow start from the FOTF (face of the franchise- Michael Young), injuries to key players (Brandon McCarthy and Hank Blalock), and another questionable trade (McCarthy for Danks). There are a couple of things you can look back on as good things: a couple of very good trades (Kenny Lofton and Eric Gagne for Max Ramirez, Kason Gabbard, Elvis Andrus and David Murphy), a good step forward by some younger players (Ian Kinsler, C.J. Wilson, Travis Metcalf, and Edinson Volquez), and what looks like and excellent draft. For the first time in LOOOONG time outside observers are calling the Ranger farm system one of the best in baseball with a whole lot of prime pitching talent, including some that may impact the big league team this year (Eric Hurley and Matt Harrison).

So the question is about this off-season, preparing for 2008. How aggressive should the Rangers be in free agency for areas of need? What about trading some of their prime minor league talent for established major leaguers like Johan Santana or Eric Bedard?

So far the Rangers have made only very minor moves: stealing an Angels' prospect on a paperwork snafu and trading a barely usable center fielder for a recently released first baseman. Hardly front page stuff. Their stated focus of the off season, Torri Hunter, signed with the Angels and as the top flight center fielders sign elsewhere the Rangers are forced to look at spares like Corey Patterson and Juan Pierre. This hasn't exactly been an off season to get excited about Rangers baseball. When the Royals are more appearing more apt to spend money than you, you know you have problems.

I suggest, however, that the Rangers are making the right moves at this time by not making any major, earth shattering moves. There are two main reasons that I think this:
1. For the first time in years, it appears the Rangers actually have a plan and are sticking to it. That plan is building the team from within, especially in the pitching department. In the top 20 prospect list I linked earlier, 6 are pitchers that were added this last year, either through trade or the draft. They have finally realized that if you want to hold down costs you can't build a rotation through free agency. Also, when pitchers get traded, it's for top notch minor league talent, like when the Marlins traded Josh Beckett for Hanley Ramirez and more. The thing about pitching prospects is the high attrition rate. TINSTAAPP (There is no such thing as a pitching prospect). Injuries happen, guys aren't effective, they go off the deep end mentally. Any number of things can happen. How do you keep that from killing your franchise? By stock pilling as many as possible.
2. They've realized you don't get better by throwing ridiculous amounts of money at mediocre players. For example, after Torri Hunter, Andruw Jones was the best center fielder on the market. According the reports, while he signed for 2/36 with the Dodgers he wanted a long term commitment to change leagues and sign with the Rangers. Now the best center fielder on the market, Aaron Rowand wants five years. If you're operating on a budget, you can't throw good money after bad players. I'm not even sure the Torii Hunter was worth the money the Rangers would have had to pay him to et him hear.

The off season is still going on. There are plenty of time for the Rangers to make moves and screw all this up. Hopefully, they will continue to follow the blue print that they have set out for themselves. They still need to improve the outfield which with Murphy, Byrd, and Catalanotto may be the worst outfield in baseball. I don't think they need a closer or a starter right now, although if you can get rid of Vicente Padilla you gotta do it. Their offense has a chance to be terrible. But 2008 is not what we are working for. We're looking at 2009, 2010, etc.

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