By Sean P. Bloodgood
As we made our way into the long baseball off-season following a disastrous end to the 2012 campaign, the Texas Rangers organization faced a plethora of tough decisions to make. That is to say, they had options.
What to do about Josh’s impending free agency? Publicly, they said all the right things. “Of course we’d love to resign Josh”. But we can easily deduce that they had privately grown tired of his act. His performance following a supposed energy drink-induced fiasco, the fumbled lazy fly ball at O.co., and the 0-4 performance while seeing only 8 pitches in the one-game wildcard round created a hatred unseen here since the days of Adrian Dantley. Their options were to overpay to keep him here, or to let him go. So far, it looks like they made the right choice with regards to God’s Gift to Baseball.
Nap and the hole at the 2-spot
A beloved teammate and fan favorite, Nap-Oh-Lee headed into the off-season with major questions about his physical condition. The Rangers chose not to make him a qualifying offer, which after the news of his failed physical with the Red Sox, looked like the correct move yet again. He verbally agreed to a 3 year, 39 million dollar offer, but ultimately signed for just 1 year, 5 million. He had made his proverbial bed with Boston. Barring an extension, Napoli, who’s playing at a torrid pace in 2013, will be a free agent at the close of the season. Unless Mitch Moreland consistently proves himself against left handed pitching this season, Nap would be an interesting option for the Rangers at first base. Mike’s days behind the plate are likely over, and while AJP provides a level of attitude this team hasn’t seen in a while, the condition of Nap’s hips relegate him to being strictly a first baseman or DH. What this team will do at catcher remains to be seen, but they have options. Jorge Alfaro is several years away, but by all accounts, he’s been anointed as the catcher of the future by none other than Mr. Catcher himself.
Robinson Chirinos, acquired from Tampa on April 8 just after the start of this season, is playing really well in AAA thus far, so if Pierzynski continues to showcase his age, fragility, and weak arm, don’t be surprised to see Chirinos behind the plate at RBiA within the next few months.
The Golden Child
Speaking of anointed, towards the end of the 2012 season Jurickson Profar homered in his first ever at-bat at the tender age of 19 years and 195 days. He joined a list of only two other teenagers to do so – Whitey Lockman in 1945 at 18 years and 345 days, and Ted Tappe in 1950 at 19 years and 224 days. It’s feat that hadn’t been done in 62 years. I know most of us have tried to forget the end of 2012, but he was one of the bright spots. The Rangers have plenty of options with the phenom. They could have traded him (or Andrus or Olt depending on the source) for @JUP_8TL. Right now, Upton is tearing it up for the Braves. But there’s one question you have to ask yourself – why were the Dbacks so damned eager to get rid of him? The Rangers just let one head case move on to a real baseball town, but they had the option of adding Upton. In the long run, is he really worth Profar? Most folks, including me, don’t think so. Giancarlo Stanton (@Giancarlo818) is younger and has more years of control remaining (through 2016) than Upton did at the time when the Braves finally acquired and extended him. David Price would be a magnificent addition to this rotation, and those rumors will keep growing as we move towards the July trade deadline.
Keeping Profar provides the Rangers with mouth-watering options. You’ll need plenty of towels.
President of Baseball Operations
Nolan Ryan is the face of the Rangers. No one argues that undeniable fact. If they did, they would deserve to be placed into a Texas-sized headlock on the mound in Arlington and repeatedly punched in the face. But Nolan is not the brains of the Rangers. I know. It seems blasphemous for me to even write that sentence. However, that distinction belongs to Jon Daniels, Thad Levine, AJ Preller and company. The Rangers sustained success has led to a raised awareness around the league of the cyphering abilities of the young front office personnel. What could the organization do to ensure they had options when and if some rebuilding franchise comes lustily calling on one or more of the young protégé Jedi knights? The option they went with was to promote JD and create room for advancement. It was a brilliant move. Was it handled in the best of ways? Obviously not. The promotion led to a consideration of options for Nolan. Would he leave? Would he stay? If he stayed, what would his role be?
In the end, obviously he stayed, thanks be to whatever higher power you choose to believe in. Losing Nolan would have been a public relations blow to this team, no doubt. But ask yourself this – Would the Rangers still be averaging the highest attendance in the AL if the Ryan Express has decided to take his talents elsewhere? Probably so. Ownership stepped up and reassured him of his importance. Good. He belongs here. But so do the young baseball minds who have helped shape this team into a perennial contender – arguably the best franchise in MLB. JD is the head of what happens on the field, while Nolan is the face and the embodiment of The Texas Rangers as a whole – Mr. CEO. They both are vital to this thing.
The Rangers have plenty of it. They don’t owe Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, or C.J. Wilson nearly half a billion dollars, although they had the in-your-face options to sign at least two of the three. I’ve read where a few fans are starting to call the front office “cheap”. Stop. But while that opinion might be up for debate, you can’t argue with the added fiscal freedom they have because of the options they chose with the Head & Shoulders boys. Off subject, but Ceej and Josh do both have magnificent heads-of-hair. I do not. Just ask my daughters.
But, back on topic, if you look at where the Rangers are and then compared them with any other team in MLB as far as talent on the MLB roster, minor league system, revenue and cash flow, fan base, from the front office down to the parking lot attendants, which team would you choose above the Rangers? I dare you to name one. If you said the Angels, your headlock and face punches await you.
The Rangers, for good and bad, have had to make many other tough choices in recent years. Wash used cocaine. Chuck Greenberg versus Nolan Ryan. Michael Young was the center of many options the Rangers have been faced with. Cliff Lee. But through it all, this team has come out on top more than it hasn’t. I’ll never forget the Newberg Report night at the ballpark in 2010. When JD was announced to a standing ovation, he reminded the crowd, “I’m still the guy who traded away Adrian Gonzalez.” He gets it. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time when presented with options. We can’t predict the future. When we fail, it’s all about how we deal with those failures. This organization learns from right and wrong decisions and moves on. They, and we as a fan base, are better off because of it. There’s no crying in baseball. (Until we win the World Series.)
Now and Later
Options are a good thing, and this team has more than most, if not all. The Rangers at times seem to hesitate. I don’t think that’s really the case though. We as fans, want to see the big splash. We want to see Sports Center lead with a story involving the team that Chris Berman once referred to as “The Strangers”. I was 14 years old in 1984 when I first heard that. I’ve held that grudge for a long, long time. I still do. The Rangers aren’t a joke anymore and they won’t be moving forward. They have too many options available. Keeping your options open is what you do when you are certain better things are or will be available. When Colby Lewis and Martin Perez return from the DL, what will JD do? When Profar’s play demands his arrival, what will JD do? This farm system is rich with talent. I’m reminded of The History of the World when Dom Deluise decided to take a Treasure Bath. Google it. Google it now. You won’t regret it.
When the stupid amount of talent, so #wanted by many is ready, what will JD do? The talent, money, farm system, front office, and ownership and fan base alike provide this team with all the parts, pieces, and options needed to rise to the pinnacle of not just baseball, but all of sports. World Series Champions. I trust JD and Nolan and the rest of the front office and ownership and Wash and this team and its fans. How could you not? It’s all about options, buddy.