Dec 302011

Oliver headed to Canada, need to fill the void...

Darren Oliver is headed to Toronto on a one-year contract with a club option for 2013.  The 41 year-old left-handed specialist spent the last two seasons with the Rangers, where he served as a productive late-innings reliever.  In 2011, Oliver was 5-5, with a 2.29 ERA, 44K’s and 11BB’s over 51 innings of work (4.0 K/BB, 7.8 K/9, 1.137 WHIP).

The thought was that Oliver would be back with the Rangers in 2012, with many sources citing that his residency in the DFW area would lead to only two options – Rangers or retirement.

It appears this isn’t the case, as Oliver prepares for his 11th stop in this career, heading to Toronto.  The Blue Jays will be his 9th different team in his career.

TEX – STL – TEX – BOS – COL – FLA – HOU – NYM – LAA – TEX – and now TOR

He’ll be missed as he played a vital role in the way Ron Washington and Mike Maddux game-planned late in close games.

Any potential trade opportunities or free-agents out there to fill the role left by Oliver’s departure?

The first option would be re-signing Mike Gonzalez (age 33).  It has been rumored that he wants to be back in Texas in 2012, and the Rangers have met with his agent, Scott Boras – remember, it was all about Gonzalez and Prince Fielder was never discussed…

While his overall line doesn’t look as good as Oliver’s, keep in mind he is 8 years younger and when you look at their splits side-by-side, you could argue that Gonzalez was a little better than Oliver solely against left-handed hitters.  So, if we can get Gonzalez signed, that should fill the void adequately.

If Gonzalez signs elsewhere, and the trade market becomes the best viable options, Matt Thornton of the Chicago White Sox seems like he could be a likely trade target for Daniels & Co.  Thornton (35 years-old) was rumored to be on the trading block during late-November, but there hasn’t been much out there about him lately.

What kind of package would Chicago demand for Thornton?  It’s hard to say, but he would clearly call for less than what Oakland just netted for Bailey.  And, while he’s under contract for the next two season, he’s not cheap at $5.5M per (there is also a team option for a 3rd year at $6m).  He also seemed to take a small step in the wrong direction in terms of his statistical performance in 2011 (ERA up to 3.3 from ~2.7 the previous 3 seasons; WHIP up to 1.36 from ~1.03 the previous 3 seasons).  Could 2011 be the anomaly?  If he’s a Ranger in 2012-13, hopefully so.

We’ll see what the Rangers front office has in mind, but regardless of age, Oliver played an important role and that role will need to be filled.


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