Editor’s note: Welcome Adam Staloch to the NASORB staff. Adam is a smart guy that is very SABR-aware, and took some time away from debating about baseball on Facebook to write here.
Did the A.L. West truly get a whole bunch better last night when word came down that the Texas Rangers would be acquiring Prince Fielder? While the reactions from opposing fan bases would suggest they have moved into the AL West driver’s seat, the answer to the question is no. The Rangers offense is in no way better today than it was 6 months ago, its actually worse.
No, I am not suggesting Prince Fielder is a downgrade from Mitch Moreland, because that’s dumb. Also, although Kinsler has been a nice offensive piece for the Rangers and should continue to be for the next couple years in Detroit, I would guess the list of people that prefer Kinsler with a bat in his hands over Fielder is nearly non-existent. The reason they are worse today is based purely on players that they have counted on to carry them in the past are now free agents. This move does not add Prince Fielder to the middle of the Rangers lineup that they have ran with for the past few years of offensive success. This lineup is minus Nelson Cruz, and now Ian Kinsler, they are also without A.J. Pierzynski who contributed last year and David Murphy who contributed quite a bit outside of last year.
All is not lost, and it should be noted that they will enter spring in 2014 with Jurickson Profar (as of now) and Alex Rios, who they did not have on their 25 man roster to start the 2013 season. Also, it is November 21, so assuming the Texas Rangers are done adding to their roster would be foolish. As a matter of fact, this move suggests quite the opposite. If a team is willing to take on the majority of the bad contract that Prince brings with him, it signifies that this team wants to win in a division that they feel is absolutely winnable, because that’s just what it is.
So, while this move in a vacuum should not cause Mariner fans to go cry in a corner, it’s the way the Rangers handle their winter from today forward that will be a bit more telling. Does it mean they add Brian McCann? Jacoby Ellsbury? Shin Soo Choo? This move does not prevent them from doing any of those things at all. The move that seems ridiculous to most, but very real on paper is the chance the Rangers could add Robinson Cano. Initially people want to take that $300 million figure that Jay-Z has reportedly said he is looking for and pencil that in as what he will make. Odds are, its not going to be close to that, no matter how weird baseball can get.
What about Jurickson Profar? He is moving to 2B and is young and controlled financially for the near future. Sure he is, and if he is the 2B for the Rangers on opening day, that’s not a bad thing for them. The opposite side of this situation is what if the Rangers can turn a young, controlled middle infielder into a young controlled corner outfielder? Which is valued more in Texas? On paper, the Rangers should without a doubt be more interested in a controlled corner OF bat. This team has a glut of middle infielders, even after moving Kinsler, so why not flip that surplus, which there is a market for, into a corner outfielder, which there are good ones available?
The consensus seems to be the match with Brian McCann, and while it makes sense, is getting Dioner Navarro at a fraction of the cost a bad thing? A switch-hitting catcher to pair with Geovany Soto is a tandem that is absolutely respectable no matter who you are.
C – Soto/Navarro
1B – Fielder
2B – Cano
3B – Beltre
SS – Andrus
LF – Giancarlo Stanton/ Oscar Taveras
CF – Gentry/Martin
RF – Rios
DH – Moreland
Does this lineup suck? Nope.
Is it realistic? Without a doubt.
The Rangers 2014 payroll is sitting just north of 100 million dollars today. People want to point to pitching as a place to add, and while it wouldn’t hurt, its not a pressing need for me. The Rangers played with a payroll of around $125 million last year. That has grown from $92 million just two seasons prior according to Cots numbers. If the Rangers are willing to pencil in a payroll of $140 million, they can do a lot of things, and this is just one option. Also, while it seems a bit more difficult to do, let’s not act like there aren’t teams out there that would take Elvis Andrus in a heartbeat, assuming he has a decent sized check safety pinned to his jersey. As a Mariner fan, this would be a bit more deflating of an option, since this gives them a much more even blend of elite players now and elite potential down the road. In the scenario that moves Profar today, they will still be very good today, but in a few years that may be a different story as Fielder and Cano approach the backend of their contracts.
At the end of the day, the trade is not a failure for either team, however, the immediate impact it has on the landscape of the A.L. West is almost non-existent. The Rangers can have interest in all the free agents they want, and call any team they want about a trade, but until it happens, it hasn’t happened yet. The Rangers have the ability and means to put themselves out in front of the rest of the west by quite a bit, but that is the same “what if” boat that everyone else is in. The Mariners offseason plan, whatever it truly is, should not have altered one bit based on this move. While the M’s have more work to do than anyone not named the Astros to truly compete in the west in 2014, the options and scenarios are just as realistic and reachable as the Rangers. The problem is, the Rangers have talked and then acted in the past, so far, the Mariners have truly only talked. Whether that’s justified or not is a whole different conversation.
Regardless, it is put up or shut up time for this organization, and their deficiencies are so glaring that those deficiencies in no way get worse based on what teams around them doing. Step back from the ledge, but re-evaluate in January.