OK, so this may be the longest of long shots, but it’s also one of the most intriguing in terms of potential trade targets for the Rangers. While Craig Gentry, Leonys Martin and David Murphy are all doing a pretty good job of holding down the third spot in the Rangers outfield with Josh and Nellie, B.J.’s little brother is attractive in more ways than one…
Justin Irvin Upton
If Justin Upton is truly on the trading block, he is by far the most talented offensive player available. The Diamondbacks, after making the playoffs in 2011, are a sub-.500 team this year (44-47) and sitting 7 games back in the NL West of the division leading Giants (and 7 games back in the Wild Card race). Not too far back to make a second half run, which Upton would have to play a key role in, if it were to happen.
Upton is a 24 year-old 2-time NL All-Star who finished 4th in the NL MVP voting in 2011. He was the first pick in the 2004 MLB Draft and made his debut in Arizona at the age of 19 in 2007.
Upton has played right field exclusively since coming up to the big leagues, but some speculate that he could play CF or LF effectively.
Upton isn’t having his best season, after strong campaigns over the last four years. This simply makes it seem even more far-fetched that the D’Backs would consider moving the young star, as it’s definitely not an opportunity to “sell high”.
Upton is also under contract through 2015, which from the Rangers perspective, could serve as an insurance policy against losing Josh Hamilton in free agency after the season. If Hamilton is resigned by the Rangers, it would facilitate his permanent move to LF if Upton could play CF. Upton’s contract pays him $6.75M this season and $9.75M, $14.25M, $14.5M over the next three seasons.
So, a young talented player with a limitless ceiling with proven success at the major league level…locked up through 2015…not currently playing up to his full potential…for a team that isn’t completely out of the playoff race in the National League.
Why would Arizona deal him? While he may not be performing up to his potential so far this season, he’s young and talented enough that it’s not a huge knock on his value. Sure, the D’Backs wouldn’t be selling him at his true “high”, but there is no question of his long-term value. Arizona is a team built to contend, and Upton’s age and potential play right into that.
All that said, the D’Backs know the market is better suited for sellers right now. With the revisions to the Playoffs this year (additional Wild Card team), there are more buyers at the trade deadline than ever before. Sure Upton is young and talented, but if Arizona could exchange him for a slew of young and talented players that fit the current and future needs of his teams…he’d do it.
“I don’t know whether we’ll trade Justin or not,” Arizona General Manager Kevin Towers said. “We’ll have to see if the right deal presents itself. We’re in the information-gathering business. The information we get now may be useful this winter. We’ll find out what teams have interest in him.”
If 2008 through 2011 is a true indication of the potential of Justin Upton, there is no doubt that the sky is the limit for this kid. Keep in mind that he is only 24 this season (turns 25 in late August), so his best years should still be ahead of him.
Looking at similar players, Adams Jones, Jay Bruce and our very own Nelson Cruz make the list. Historically, the most similar player in terms of production through the age of 24 is Ruben Sierra…doesn’t it feel like it was meant to be?
Upton’s current WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is a weak 1.1…again, you can’t put too much value on his performance so far this season given his age and what we have seen over the previous 3-4 years. His WAR in 2011 was 5.7, good for 6th in the National League.
Upton’s name is scattered all over the leader boards for offensive performance in 2011 – WAR, Slugging %, Runs, Total Bases, Doubles, Home Runs, Runs Created, etc.
Could Justin be a Ranger?
OK, I’m officially excited about the thought of this guy in a Rangers uniform through 2015. That said, I view this as the longest of long shots.
Does a trade for Upton fill a need? Yes, while the offense is already strong (outside of recent performance), Upton provides another dynamic threat to the line-up and provides an everyday OF for the Rangers (Hamilton-Upton-Cruz).
Does dealing for Upton fill the team’s top need? That’s debatable, but my thought is if you have an opportunity to get a player of this caliber for a price that you deem fair, you pull the trigger.
As far as what Arizona would require in return for Upton…the price tag is going to be higher than that of say Cole Hamels or another other player who is eligible for free agency after the season. Again, Upton is locked up through 2015. I think it will require a group of top level prospects (2-4 of them) along with a current major league player (if only to provide the Arizona fans with something new for this season).
So, what is the “right deal”? You know Jon Daniels has a different idea from Kevin Towers as to what the “right deal” is. Hence, the reason this deal more than likely won’t happen.
If you consider Jurickson Profar to be untouchable, the deal would more than likely center around Mike Olt and Martin Perez (or a pitching prospect of similar value), and could include a 1-2 more minor league players from a notch or two below these two…possibly someone like a Julio Borbon.
So, would you (yes, you) make that move? Olt and Perez represent a big part of what is considered the future (near future is more like it) of this team. The difference with a deal like this, as opposed to Cole Hamels or a soon-to-be free agent, is Justin Upton would also be considered the future of this team…as well as be more impactful this season.
If JD could find a way to make this deal happen while not dealing away Profar and Olt, I’d be on board. I like Perez, but we have good pitching depth at the Major League level as well as down on the farm. I’m sure the Rangers will do their due diligence and see what’s here, but a deal for Upton just seems unlikely…but it’s fun to ponder.
Regardless of what happens, this type of deal, whether the Rangers are the D’Backs’ trading partner or not, would likely occur at the 11th hour. Should be fun to watch!
The Rangers showed some signs of life yesterday, as they avoided the sweep in Anaheim and beat the Angels, 7-3. After a painful loss on Saturday night, Ron Washington called a team meeting in an attempt to get the derailed Ranger team back on track.
“It was something teams that aren’t doing the right things do,” Washington said. “It had to change.”
With Sunday’s win, the Rangers hold the Angels at a deficit of 4 1/2 games. While this isn’t what many Rangers fans were hoping for going into the weekend series, there is now a feeling of content with having at least salvaged one win given the poor execution and mental mistakes from games 1 and 2 of the series. Hopefully what we saw yesterday was the reemergence of “Rangers baseball”.
“We were happy with the way we played,” designated hitter Michael Young said. “It was just one game, but there were some things we want to make adjusments on and we did a pretty good job.”
Elvis Andrus, who had a mental lapse to be outdone by no other on Saturday felt that the focus was better on Sunday.
“Our focus today was at a whole different level than the last few days,” said Andrus. “Yesterday’s talk opened everybody’s eyes.”
Hat’s off to Wash for realizing it was time to close the doors and get this team re-focused. Should this meeting have happened prior to the first two losses in Anaheim? Perhaps, but time will tell if the timing was right.
Not going to rehash yesterday’s game blow-by-blow, but has Nellie’s home run landed yet?
Ride the Scooter
Scott Feldman takes the mound for the Rangers tonight in Oakland as he attempts to showcase his abilities as a starter a few more times before the arrival of Roy Oswalt. Feldman, who is 0-3 with a 4.61 ERA in his last three starts, needs to prove that he is more than just a long-reliever. While he is extremely valuable to this team in that role, the Rangers need to know what they have as far as starting rotation insurance and with his name already floating around out there as trade bait, it’d be nice to see him increase his value with a few solid outings.
Getting beyond the 5th inning is a good place to start. The 5th inning has proven to be fateful for Scooter in his last 3 trips to the mound, giving up 8 runs in that stretch.
“I know I can pitch more than five innings,” Feldman said. “I know it’s happened three times in a row, but I’ve been working on a starter’s program between starts, and hopefully the third time is the charm. I can go deep in a ballgame and give the bullpen a break.”
Oakland will counter with Jarrod Parker (1-2, 2.88 ERA), who despite some good performances recently, hasn’t picked up a win since May 1st in Boston.
Rangers Uber-Prospect, Jurickson Profar, had his run of games reaching base ended at 50 yesterday.
Mike Olt continues to demolish minor league pitching as he homered twice yesterday for the third consecutive game.
Vote for Josh Hamilton to be the “Mane Man of the Month” here.
Be sure to check out our most recent podcast. Jasen and I discuss the current state of the Rangers, get into the impact of the Roy Oswalt signing and propose a fun activity for the upcoming Field Trip.
The Baseball Do Forum’s are up and running. Get signed up and get involved. This is your chance to get your point across with more than 140 characters.
We recorded our 2012 Season Preview podcast last night and will have it up on the site later today.
Bold Prediction #2 – Elvis Andrus will be the starting short-stop for the 2012 American League All-Star team.
This builds on yesterday’s prediction of Ian Kinsler winning the 2012 AL MVP. As I wrote yesterday, I think one of the keys for Kinsler is going to be the improvement of Andrus’ offensive performance in 2012 which would help provide Kinsler with more line-up protection – aka, can’t pitch around Kinsler if Elvis is hitting the ball well. Elvis worked to build his upper body and core strength during the off-season and that, along with his experience, athleticism and advancing maturity and discipline a the plate are going to make him a threat in the 2-hole for the Rangers all season.
The best part about this prediction is that my fellow Rangers fans can help me make it come true by voting for Elvis when the voting commences this season. No doubt the Yankees and Indians fans will vote in droves to try to get their short stop the starting role, but Elvis will prevail…and it won’t be because Rangers fans have stuffed the ballot boxes because Elvis is simply a Ranger. It will be because Elvis has deserved and proven he is the top player at his position.
Nolan Ryan spoke with media yesterday before the Rangers and the AAA Round Rock Express played. Ryan addressed a number of hot topics including the Angels, Josh Hamilton and Yu Darvish.
“The Angels have stepped up and helped themselves,” Ryan said. “It’s going to be a tough division for us. They are very competitive, and it will come down to who stays healthiest. They have real strong pitching, so we know we have our work cut out for us. It should make it interesting. It should make it a good rivalry. I’m looking forward to it. I still think we have the best ballclub.”
When asked if the Rangers-Angels rivalry compares to the Red Sox-Yankees, Ryan said “Are we the West Coast version of it? I don’t know. I don’t think a lot about it. Obviously, the fact that we’ve won the division the last two years and they felt like they had a lock on that. [Angels owner] Arte [Moreno] stepped up and tried to do something about it. It will be good for our division and baseball, and it’s going to stimulate more interest, obviously, with Pujols and C.J. over there.”
“[Center field is] where he wants to be,” Ryan said about Josh Hamilton. “It’s where he is happiest. It’s where his focus is. He’ll be fine there.”
“He has a good feel for pitching,” Ryan said about Yu Darvish. “He tried to make some adjustments. Each start he had he worked on things. I saw improvement. I thought that was a positive. We don’t have any numbers we’re putting with him. We think he’ll pitch in the rotation and he should pitch a lot of innings. I think he’s at the point in his career where he’s accustomed to throwing 200-plus innings. Somewhere in that neighborhood, I think, would be the expectations.”
Josh Hamilton hit his first homer of the Spring yesterday against Round Rock, blasting a 426 foot 2-run 3rd inning home run to center field.
Derek Holland started the game and threw 78 pitches, giving up a 2-run home run to Yangervis Solarte. Holland felt good after the start, despite the long ball.
“I’m ready to go for sure, despite the home runs,” Holland said. “I thought everything was good. I left a couple of pitches up for strikes. That’s part of getting ready for the season.”
Matt Harrison pitches tonight at the Ballpark against Mexico City, 7:05pm first pitch.
The Rangers have rounded out their roster, sending Julio Borbon to AAA to start the season. Alberto Gonzalez, Brandon Snyder and Craig Gentry all secured the final bench spots on the team. Snyder gives the team a lot of flexibility as the 3rd catcher, 3rd baseman and corner outfielder.
Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar will be starting for the Frisco Rough Riders to start the season. Maybe the next Field Trip will be to Frisco to see these two budding stars.
The Rangers and Nelson Cruz reached an agreement on a contract yesterday, avoid arbitration and locking the slugger up for the next two seasons. Sources say the contact is ~$16.5M after incentives.
Cruz is looking forward to a big 2012, saying “I feel like I’m in better shape right now than in the past. I expect a big performance of myself and nothing less than going back to the World Series.”
Cruz was in the Dominican Republic dealing with a stomach bacterial infection over the off-season that hampered him for a couple of months. Since returning to the U.S. for treatment, he has started working out at the same gym as Mike Napoli in Miami.
Richard Durrett (ESPNDallas) wrote a short column on Cruz moving on from Game 6. Cruz had this to say concerning Game 6, “You always want to complete a goal, especially back-to-back years and not making it. You’ve got to get over it. You don’t always get what you want. The whole team, the coaching staff, we have to make sure we get better, whatever we need to do to get better to make sure we get back to the World Series and win it all.”
Keith Law (ESPN.com) has published his prospect rankings and four Rangers made it into the top 100.
#7. Jurickson Profar
#20. Martin Perez
#75. Michael Olt
#99. Neil Ramirez
You can read a small write up about each prospect here.
Law also put together a top 10 for each Organization. Here is the Rangers:
1. Jurickson Profar, SS (7)
2. Martin Perez, LHP (20)
3. Mike Olt, 3B (75)
4. Neil Ramirez, RHP (99)
5. Robbie Ross, LHP
6. Rougned Odor, 2B
7. Leonys Martin, CF
8. Cody Buckel, RHP
9. Leury Garcia, SS
10. Jorge Alfaro, C
Randy Galloway (Star-Telegram) wrote a good article on the continuing battle that Josh Hamilton faces as an addict. This story feels like it wants to run it’s course, but the looming thought of a video that could surface at any moment is a little disturbing.
Derek Holland was on with Ben and Skin (103.3FM, ESPN) recently, and spoke about leaning of Hamilton’s relapse, “First I didn’t even know anything was going on. I was out and surprised, so I had no clue what was going on. Once I had found out me as a person I wanted to give Josh all the support I can. He’s one of my teammates. He is like a brother to me. Those guys are people we look up to. It’s like Washington said he is one of those people that when we are on the road I played Xbox with him and stuff. We interact with him, so he doesn’t feel like he is left out. We make him a part of this team because he is. He is a key member to this team, but at the same time it is all about supporting him. This is a tough thing for him to go through and it’s our job to be behind him and show that we care about him and that we are there for him.”
If you missed Round 1 of our Position-by-Position American League West Battle, check it out here. Round 2 will be posted today.
If Yu ever had a doubt, Yu failed to trust in JD…6 years, $60M. Yu Darvish is a Texas Ranger.
This is a monumental signing for the Rangers, representing well more than, but most importantly, bringing on board the potential ace of the pitching staff. It’s about the Rangers taking the next step…which was a Texas-sized step…in solidifying themselves as an aggressive organization willing to spend smart money to compete and put a winning team on the field.
Jon Daniels - ”We saw a guy that we felt was built to pitch innings. It’s a classic pitcher’s build. He has a real commitment to his conditioning and work ethic and a lot of intangibles that lend him to pitch a lot of innings at a high caliber for a long period of time.”
Nolan Ryan - ”There’s a lot of unique things about Darvish. Obviously his body type, his size, his durability, I think his feel for the baseball, the fact that he’s as comfortable throwing his breaking ball as well as his fastball and to me that he has several really quality pitches. I think, when you look at him, you realize pretty quick that he is special.”
Arn Tellem (one of Yu’s agents) – “The Rangers, more so than any other club, showed not only a scouting interest in Yu but also really developed a relationship with him. There was an intimate connection between Yu, his family and the Rangers organization that was a positive going forward. It’s also a great team that is intent on taking the next step, and with Yu, hopefully they can achieve that goal. Yu is excited about helping them get there.”
Farsad Darvish (Yu’s Dad) - ”You are talking about [a] different culture. It would be nice to give it a little time and don’t judge things so fast. I know Yu will find his way. I think the fans are looking forward to the team getting another chance at the World Series, and I really hope Yu can be a member when they get there.”
Keith Law of ESPN – “The Rangers’ fallback options weren’t quite as dire, but I’d rather pay Darvish whatever it takes to get him under contract than sign the best remaining starting pitching option, Edwin Jackson, for four years and $40-odd million.”
Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas – “It took years of scouting, a gaggle of frequent flier miles, a face-to-face meeting in Arlington between Darvish and Rangers personnel a few weeks ago, a recruiting video and gallons of coffee. Oh, and a willingness by ownership to send a check for $51.7 million to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters to go along with the $60 million they’ll be sending to Darvish. The Rangers need to be right about his one.”
Matsuzaka & Darvish Stats from Japan
Joe LeMire of CNNSI – “Perhaps most compelling is that Darvish’s career ERA (1.99) is better than best single-season ERA (2.13) Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka had in Japan before coming to the major leagues in 2007. There is too much hang-up on the recent failures and middling successes of recent Japanese starters in the majors — Matsuzka with the Red Sox and Kei Igawa with the Yankees, to name two recent examples — as Darvish is a very different pitcher.”
Evan Grant did a good Q&A related to the Yu signing here.
In non-Yu news, if there is such a thing today:
Several sources have reported that it’s doubtful that the Rangers will pursue free-agent slugger Prince Fielder at this point and Jon Daniels’ comments from yesterday’s press conference were in line with this belief – “After going through this process, I’m intimately familiar with our budget. It’s very unlikely.”
Just keep in mind that JD has an excellent poker face, and even if the Rangers were wrapping things up with Prince at that moment, he wasn’t going to tip his hand.
Rangers SS Prospect Jurickson Profar was ranked as the #2 SS prospect by MLB.com for 2012. Profar just continues to get better and has some loft expectations in terms of his potential. He represents a strong trade chip or the future at the shortstop position for the Texas Rangers. We’ll track his progress closely in 2012.
Ryan Madson, who the Rangers were rumored to have some interested in, is off the table as he came to a 1 year agreement with the Cincinnati Reds that will pay him 8.5M.
Rangers have invited 8 Minor Leaguers to their Major League Spring Training camp including Mike Olt, Tommy Mendonca, Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross. This and more is covered in a minor league update from T.R. Sullivan here.
Sullivan also writes about the possibility of prospects Ross and Martin Perez earning a spot in the bullpen due to the need for a left-handed reliever after the departure of Darren Oliver.
And lastly from the same update – Jurickson Profar receives the Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year and Robbie Ross receives the Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Profar (pictured) is the Rangers top prospect according to MLB.com.
In case you missed Evan Grant’s article regarding Prince Fielder, be sure to give it a read. The general attitude from many baseball people seems to be that the longer Prince is available, the more sense it makes for the Rangers to be a major player and make an offer. While 10 years, which is what Scott Boras wants for his client, would still have to be out of the question, Grant poses some good compromises in his article.
“Sources” have told CBS Sports that the Rangers and Darvish aren’t close on a deal. It’s believed that the Rangers offered something similar to what Dice-K got from the Red Sox 5 years ago. Darvish’s camp see Yu as younger and more talented and is looking for more – don’t hit the panic button – it’s all part of the process.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is expected to receive a contract offer that would extend him 2 more years (Buster Olney article)