How quickly the last three years have flown by for Texas Rangers fans. How quickly expectations change for a team.
Just three years ago, the Texas Rangers were a week or so removed from the end of a strong 2009 campaign (85-77) in which they finished 10 games back of the Angels in the AL West and well short of the Wild Card clinching Boston Red Sox (8 games back) (Note: the Rangers would have made the playoffs as the 2nd Wild Card in ’09 if current layout had been in place).
Something special was on tap for this young and exciting team. Behind the talented core of Josh Hamilton, Ians Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Nelson Cruz, the Rangers were going to be a force to be reckoned with in the very near future.
Fast forward three years and the Rangers have accomplished what many franchises haven’t accomplished in a lifetime; both on and off the field.
Here’s a quick look at some of key moments along the way (to be read with banjos playing along):
- Ownership change - Welcome back Nolan
- Cliff Lee
- Hambone win’s the MVP
- 2010 AL West Champs
- First Postseason series victory
- Nefti stuck out A-Rod
- First World Series birth
- So long Cliff
- Welcome aboard Adrian
- Napoli Ever After
- 2011 AL West Champs
- One strike away…twice
- David Freese
- So long C.J.
- The collapse of 2012
Over the course of the last three years the Texas Rangers have broken new ground and have been labeled as a “model” franchise – the ground work for such was being laid several years prior by team management and franchise leadership.
From the fan’s perspective, the Rangers have gone from mediocrity on the brink -> to one step from the mountaintop -> to crashing back down with great disappointment. Such devastating disappointment is often met head-on with change – something we can expect from the Rangers over the course of the coming off-season.
Baseball history is littered with examples of this, most recently the collapse of the 2011 Boston Red Sox which resulted in the firing of manager Terry Francona and the eventual trade of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett.
So, what change could be in store for the Rangers this off-season? How different could this team look by Opening Day 2013? Let’s examine some of the potential changes in Arlington:
While Wash has opened himself up for plenty of criticism, I don’t think this is very likely.
The heat could be on if the Rangers don’t bounce back from their poor finish in 2012 and they continue to play uninspired baseball in 2013, but I think the team’s ownership and front office still believe in Wash.
While the manager is ALWAYS part of the problem when a team is playing poorly, I think Wash get’s some leniency due to his success over the last 3 years.
Besides Wash, the coaching staff could take a hit if Mike Maddux is lured out of Texas for a managerial role somewhere else (Boston perhaps).
Let Josh walk…
Josh was widely seen as a big part of the problem over the last 1-2 months of the season. While he wasn’t the only player that demonstrated a lackadaisical approach as the season came to a close, none seemed less interested than Josh.
While I have no inside scoop on what went wrong, my theory is that the team revisited an extension with Josh and his agent at some point in June or July which left Josh feeling bitter. My guess would be that the contract negotiations weren’t real close in terms of length and Josh felt unappreciated. Whether it was intentional or not, Josh let his feelings regarding the negotiations impact him on the field and in the clubhouse.
Is it likely that Josh is playing his home games somewhere other than Arlington next season? I think it’s a foregone conclusion.
How big of an impact is Josh leaving on the team and the line-up? Well, when Josh is playing up to his potential, he has the ability to carry a team on his back as we have seen many times during his time here in Arlington, but…when Josh is frustrated and uninterested, he can become a distraction that can poison a clubhouse.
Plan and simple, this is very well a situation where both parties will benefit from a change. Something has clearly gone awry in the relationship.
Dustin Dietz will have a article up in the next few days that analyzes Hamilton’s potential contract situation and sheds some light on the risks involved with giving a hefty contract to a player north of 30 years of age.
Hamilton isn’t the only Ranger entering free agency, but will be the biggest story. Tim Howell is taking a closer look at each of the free agents from the 2012 Rangers squad to determine who the Rangers should make a push for and who they should just let walk away (Hamilton here, Napoli here, more to come).
Shake-up via trade
- Ian Kinsler – Kinsler is the most polarizing player on the Rangers, according to Jasen and the rest of Twitter. With the arrival of Jurickson Profar, Kinsler could be moved to make room at second base. The 30 year-old plays a offensively scarce position, can hit anywhere from 1st to 5th in a line-up and is under team control through 2018 (option in ’18) – so there would be plenty of interest from around the league.
- Elvis Andrus – For the same reason cited above for Kinsler, Elvis is a little more expendable now if the front office truly believes that Profar can be a transcendent player. Andrus’ age (24), position and talent ceiling would make him more valuable than Kinsler to any potential suitors. He’s under contract through 2014, so he’ll never have more trade value than he has right now coming off season in which he posted career high in almost every offensive category.
- Nelson Cruz – Again, the Profar factor is a part of this as the Rangers would more than likely need to make room in the outfield if Kinsler were to be relocated. Nellie is signed through next season, so if the Rangers felt they weren’t going to be in position to resign him – or – felt the interest wouldn’t be there after 2013 due to the youth movement, now would be the time to move him for maximum value.
- Jurickson Profar – This is the least likely to happen. According to multiple reports, it would take something to the tune of Felix Hernandez or Clayton Kershaw to pry the young phenom away from the Rangers.
- David Murphy, Mitch Moreland, Mike Olt – You never know.
- I don’t think there is anyway the Rangers would or could deal Michal Young heading into the final year of his contract. Young will be 36 later this month and is due $16M.
- Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz, Martin Perez, Alexi Ogando….and them – Current value isn’t equal to potential for all of these guys, so I doubt we’ll see Dutch moved. Really aren’t too many Rangers pitchers in general that would have good value and make sense from the Rangers standpoint.
The list could go on and on, but the bottom line is, there will be change. Hopefully this change will bring some renewed life to a team that sputtered down the stretch, but only time can tell.
What do you think?
Looking at the potential trade bait above, give me a realistic trade that you’d like to see the Rangers pursue. Do you want to see Josh back with the Rangers in 2013? Do you think it’s time for a managerial change? Use the comments section below.