- The Rangers and Elvis Andrus will avoid arbitration as the two sides reached an agreement last night on a 3 year contract worth $14-15M. The contract is pending a physical. Elvis would have been up for arbitration after the next two seasons as well, so this contract will eliminate that. Elvis will be eligible for free agency after the 2014 season. Richard Durrett (ESPNDallas) provides some more background on Elvis here if interested.
- If you missed the Part 1 of American League West Position Showdown, check it out to see where Elvis stacks up against his peers.
- Next up – Mike Napoli and Nellie Cruz
- The Rangers have hired Shayne Kelley to be Josh Hamilton’s accountability partner. Kelley, a longtime college baseball assistant coach and former coach in the Royals’ system, will also serve as a Major League staff assistant for the Rangers.
Jon Daniels had this to say regarding Kelley and the search, “We talked to a few people, but Shayne was at the top of our list. We had more interest in this position from people reaching out all over the country than all other positions combined since I have been here.”
Kelley accompanied Hamilton to New York on Monday to meet with doctors from MLB and the Players Union.
T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) covered the story with some additional detail here.
- Mitch Moreland reports that he is feeling great after his off-season wrist surgery in November.
Moreland says “Going into Spring Training, I’ll be in some kind of routine, but I don’t think there will be many limitations. They said we’ll go on how I feel. If I feel good, we’ll keep going through it. That’s going to be for me to find out. Nobody will know until we get there but me. Right now I’m feeling good. I know it’s going to be better than last year. It was pretty bad the last month. There were days that I would go into the [indoor batting] cage, I’d just come out for batting practice, take two, three, four swings and see how I feel. We got through it.”
This is great news for the Rangers and Mitch as he looks to take the next step in his progression.
- The Rangers have released their Spring Training broadcast schedule. There will be a good amount of coverage, with 10 games on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM, 10 games on local television and 10 free audio webcasts at texasrangers.com. You can check out the full schedule here.
I recently got into an argument with a fellow Rangers fan regarding how much the Angels improved though their off-season acquisitions. As we talked through Pujols and C.J., it lead to a position-by-position comparison of the Rangers and Angels for the 2012 season. I’ve taken the next step here to bring the Mariners and Athletics into the argument. While they look to have no reasonable chance to contend in the division, there are two reason to include them here:
- You never know.
- Allows us to rank 1-4 for each position. So, even if you are primarily interested in Rangers vs. Angels, you can get an understanding of where the players actually stack up against other peers to give you a frame of reference.
- Catcher & Infield
- Outfield & DH
- Bench & Manager
- Starting Rotation, Relievers & Closer
Nap takes the top spot here easily and get’s the +1 with a 2011 WAR of 5.6, compared to Ianetta who was at 3.3. Even with Napoli’s season being a bit of an outlier when you look at his career, I don’t see Ianetta or Suzuki closing the gap enought in 2012 to argue against it.
The biggest debate here is between 2nd and 3rd place, primarily because Ianetta is changing leagues and may be in adjustment mode during the first part of 2012. That said, Ianetta had a better WAR and OPS in 2011, and will be managed by a former catcher that can certainly help in improve even further behind the plate.
- Albert Pujols, LAA
- Mitch Moreland, TEX
- Justin Smoak, SEA
- Brandon Allen/Daric Barton/Chris Carter, OAK
Similar to catcher, you can’t argue with number one, as Pujols not only takes the prize, but also takes the bonus point with relative ease. Pujols put up a 5.4 WAR last year in the National League with the Cardinals and a .906 OPS, which was a down year for him, compared to a .733 OPS for Moreland and .717 for Smoak.
The battle for 2nd and 3rd is a lot closer than most Rangers fans would like to think, as you can tell by the OPS stats above. Statistically, Moreland and Smoak had very similar years in 2011, with Moreland producing at a slightly higher level than Smoak in almost all categories. Both are still young players that should improve even further in 2012.
I give the edge to Mitch here in a close one. Smoak was the more highly touted prospect, so you might expect him to progress at a more accelerated rate than Moreland, but I don’t think you’ll see that in this case, primarily because of the teams that surround them. Mitch faces far less pressure and will face many more bullpen caliber pitchers because of the extremely productive lineup that he is playing in. Switch their situations, I would lean the other way.
This is by far the best position across the board. Kinsler had the strongest campaign in 2011 and should be the most productive in 2012, but the divide between he and Kendrick is not big enough for the bonus here.
I think the rankings are clear cut, but we could see both Ackley and Weeks close the gap even further during 2012.
All three players had an OPS in 2011 above .761, with Ian leading the pack at .832. There is no weak player in this bunch.
Clear cut number one at the hot corner, as Beltre dominated the group statistically. Beltre’s dominance is enough to get him the bonus point here as well, outpacing Callaspo’s 2011 WAR ranking by 2.1 (5.7 for Beltre to 3.6 for Callaspo).
Callaspo get the nod for 2nd place here, but again, it could be closer than you think, and rumors of Mark Trumbo making the switch to 3rd base cloud the ranking a bit. That said, if Callaspo is the starting 3rd basemen for the Angels in 2012, he’ll be hitting in the much more productive line-up and is better defensively.
This is my biggest decision in the rankings so far, and I have to lean towards Elvis here. Even factoring out my bias, if that’s possible, I see Elvis improving at the plate in 2012 to an equal level of Aybar, and far outplaying Aybar defensively.
Score at the end of Round 1:
- Rangers: 5 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 4 = 21
- Angels: 3 + 5 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 17
- Athletics: 2 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 2 = 8
- Mariners: 1 + 2 + 2 + 1 + 1 = 7
- 15 days folks…
- The Rangers are still working to avoid arbitration with Mike Napoli, Nelson Cruz and Elvis Andrus. Elvis is the nearest to going to arbitration, as his hearing is scheduled for this Thursday, with Cruz on the 15th and Nap on the 17th. T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) provides more information here.
“The Rangers will likely reach a settlement with Andrus before the hearing. Andrus, who is represented by Scott Boras, is asking for $3.6 million; the Rangers are offering $2.65 million.
Napoli has the largest spread — asking for $11.5 million, with the Rangers offering $8.3 million — and could be the most likely to end up in a hearing. Napoli is coming off the best year of his career, setting personal bests with a .320 batting average, 30 home runs, 72 runs scored and 75 RBIs.
Cruz, who hit .263 with 29 home runs and 87 RBIs in 2011, is asking for $7.5 million, whereas the Rangers are offering $5.5 million.
Contract negotiations with all three are ongoing.”
- Here’s hoping the Rangers can get something done and avoid arbitration with all three players. It’s a business…but arbitration can make it personal sometimes as the team is essentially laying out a case for why the player isn’t’ worth what he thinks he is.
- The Rangers have signed left-handed pitcher Joe Beimel and right-handed hitting 1B/OF Conor Jackson to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training. T.R. Sullivan provides an update on both players and their roles here.
“Jackson, 29, played in 114 games for the Athletics and the Red Sox last season and hit .244 with five home runs and 43 RBIs in 352 at-bats. He had a .310 on-base percentage and a .341 slugging percentage. He has a career .283 batting average, .381 on-base percentage and .436 slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers.”
“Beimel, 34, pitched in 35 games for the Pirates in 2011 and was 1-1 with a 5.33 ERA while being sidelined from May 28 to July 15 with inflammation in his left elbow. Opponents hit .321 off him, including .302 by left-handed hitters.”
- The additions of Jackson and Beimel bring the Spring Training count up to 58 .
A few thoughts on Josh Hamilton from Evan Grant (DallasNews):
- On Hamilton’s reliability moving forward:
“ If you listen to Josh’s apology, it’s like he’s talking directly to you. The guy is earnest, the guy is convincing, the guy has a really humble approach in dealing with adversity. And somebody else will listen to that and say, “He’s over it, he’ll deal with it, everything will be fine.” But it is two slip-ups in three years.”
- On if Hamilton’s relapse will cause the Rangers to lose him:
“ If he walks away from the Rangers after this year, I don’t think that the Rangers will have “lost” him. I think the Rangers will be OK with that at this point in time because he will have kind of come to the end of the road here. I think if Josh sits back, looks at everything, goes through this year with all the support that the Rangers give him and he chooses to go somewhere else, I think that the best will have been behind Josh Hamilton.”
- On how Hamilton’s relapse will affect his contract negotiations with the Rangers:
“This plays out that Josh plays a year as a potential free agent because they’re not going to negotiate any time before the season starts. And I think the Rangers now are going to take the approach that they’re not even going to approach him. With most players, they don’t talk during the season and I think right now, there’s no reason for them to talk. People want to talk about leverage in this situation, but leverage is a moot point at this point. It’s gone from this: the Rangers were asking Josh previously to give them a hometown discount. I think now the Rangers will be discussing whether or not they want to put up with this burden long-term. But with Josh, the question is not just .320 average versus a guy dealing with alcohol abuse. With Josh, it’s a guy who is now 31 years old, as opposed to most free agents who may be a year or two younger. It’s a guy who annually misses at least 30 games a year. There are other factors involved in that burden.”
- On the type of contract Hamilton could get as a free agent:
“If he goes out there this year and hits .320 with 35 bombs, plays 150 games and wins another MVP, there will be plenty of clubs that sit there and say, “Josh Hamilton is a risk. Over a six-year contract, it’s a risk that’s not going to pay off, but over the next two years, we’ll take that and pay the extra freight.” It only takes one team to think that way.”
Unfortunately, the only real news today is bad news. As most of you are probably aware, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning news broke the story last night that Josh Hamilton had relapsed with alcohol at a local area bar. Here are some links for useful data on what we know at this point:
- Original story that broke last night by Dallas Morning News reporter Gerry Fraley.
- A Long-Term Deal for Hamilton just took a Hit by Kevin Sherrington (Dallas News). This is one if for Dallas News subscribers only, so many probably won’t be able to read the full story, but you get the idea…
- ESPN coverage including video and article by Richard Durrett.
- Rangers Aware of Hamilton Drinking Reports by T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. This article is posted on TexasRangers.com.
- CBS Sportsline article & CNNSI article - both of these at just more of the same, but could be worth looking at for the comments from fans if you’re interested.
Jasen and I are going to discuss our thoughts on a special podcast later today that we’ll have up on the site tonight or tomorrow morning at the latest in addition to another article with a different approach to how all this went down from a Rangers Fan’s perspective.
On to non-Josh news, which is very little:
- T.R. Sullivan feels there is a good chance the Rangers and Mike Napoli will not be able to avoid arbitration, saying “Actually there is a real chance Napoli will be the first Rangers player to go to an arbitration hearing for the first time since 2000. There is a significant gap between the Rangers’ offering of $8.3 million and Napoli’s asking price of $11.5 million. The two sides had discussions on a long-term contract but did not get anywhere. Look for Napoli to be a free agent after the upcoming season.”
This sucks, as we know arbitration can create hard feelings and a very tense environment for both the team and player involved. We have long been proponents of getting Mike Napoli locked up (see Extend the Ankle of Steel). While the gap in money is pretty wide, as Sullivan says, I’m still hopeful that something can be worked out.
- Sullivan highlights some more good topics in his inbox here.
- Roy Oswalt still undecided – feels old and stagnant already. C’mon Roy, make up your mind already!
- Yu got what you wanted…now what are Yu gonna do with it?
- The Rangers will officially introduce Yu Darvish tonight at the Ballpark at 7pm CST. The press conference should be quite a spectacle with media from across the country and Japan present.
- With the wait over and Darvish officially part of this organization, the Rangers can now start to focus on what the impact of this signing really is on the ball club. How will Darvish fit in? Where will he fit in? How long will it take him to adjust to the small differences (ball size, mound heighth, etc.)? How long will it take him to adjust to living in the U.S.? T.R. Sullivan wrote a good piece on all of the “dominoes” and how they’ll fall from Yu’s signing, which addresses some of the questions, but many of them will be answered during Spring Training.
- As we Tweeted yesterday, the addition of Darvish bolstered the Rangers starting rotation up to 3rd in ESPN rankings by David Schoenfield. Wasn’t able to find any rankings prior to the Darvish signing by Schoenfield, but have to believe they would have been on the outside looking in at the top 5.
- Great article by Kristi Dosh (ESPN Business Reporter) on the rarity of a Darvish-like signing. She touches on the posting process for Japanese players and writes “Despite there being no expiration date on the agreement with NPB, Major League Baseball officials do plan to discuss the posting system as a part of ongoing meetings of its new International Talent Committee. The committee was formed as part of the new collective bargaining agreement to explore current and proposed regulations regarding the signing of international talent.”
- Richard Durrett reports that Mike Napoli is up and running on this ankle (of steel).
“The ankle felt pretty good,” Napoli said. “I ran with a sled to put a little weight behind it and it came out pretty good. I think it’s jus tme trusting it again. I’m going to have to work through some pain and feel some things, but it’s feeling good. I still have to get some more strength in it, but it’s definitely on its way.”
Durrett also states “Napoli expects to be ready for when pitchers and catchers report for spring training in Surprise, Ariz., on Feb. 22.”
- Napoli regarding Yu Darvish: ”I’m really excited that they signed him. Last year, I was trying to learn everybody on the Rangers staff in spring training. I’ll do the same with him, learning what he likes to do in certain situations. That means a lot of talking about the game.”
- Napoli also told Durrett that he feels like a 2012 deal will get done to avoid the arbitration process. ” Napoli and the club exchanged figures this week and there was a $3.2 million gap. Napoli submitted a figure of $11.5 million and the Rangers countered with $8.3 million. The midpoint between those is $9.9 million and the clubs have until a hearing (sometime in the first three weeks of February) to get a deal done.”
- We have long been calling for a contract extension for Napoli, given the rarity of a power-hitting catcher that is strong defensively and a fan favorite. If you missed it, check out “Extend the Ankle of Steel”. After seeing much of the talk around an extension since, the money seems higher than what most others in the baseball media project, but I’m a firm believer that if he were to produce in 2012 at a level close to where he was in 2011, he would garner such a contract on the open market as a free agent.
- Michael Young spoke with Calvin Watkins and gave his vote of confidence to teammate Mitch Moreland: ”To be honest with you, I have a ton of respect for Prince Fielder. He’s a great player and he’s had an incredible career. At this point, Mitch Moreland is our first baseman and we stand behind Mitch. He’s a great young player, a great teammate and he hasn’t scratched the surface of what he’s capable of doing. In our clubhouse, he’s scored major points last year playing through injuries knowing his numbers were going to take a hit, but he played through a tough wrist injury and he gutted it out. But from our standpoint, as teammates, that’s something we have a lot of respect for.”
- It’s Yu Deadline Day! We’ll know by 4pm today if the Rangers and Darvish were able to reach an agreement. Richard Durrett & David Schoenfield face off on ESPN’s Hot Button explaining why they feel the Rangers should sign (Durrett) or pass (Schoenfield). That link also displays a Jim Bowden video that provides nothing new, but if you’re wanting to drown yourself in Yu Darvish today, give it a watch.
- Tim Kirkjian feels that “one way or another, Yu Darvish is going to sign with the Rangers”, and that seems to be the general sentiment of much of the MLB Media.
- David Murphy, Matt Harrison, Mark Lowe and Mike Adams reach deals with the Rangers to avoid arbitration yesterday. This leaves Mike Napoli, Nelson Cruz and Elvis Andrus as the three remaining players that could go to arbitration if a deal is not reached. T. R. Sullivan provides some more details on this matter here.
- Would you want the Rangers to sign Prince Fielder, if it meant that they would not be able to resign Josh Hamilton after the 2012 season? Jasen posted a good article last night examining the scenario, and Jean-Jacques Taylor sided with Hamilton in an article posted on ESPN Dallas this morning. Decide for yourself, and leave a comment below.
- Greg Maddux kicked-off his career as a Ranger yesterday getting up to speed with some of the minor-league pitching talent within the organization. According to Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram, “While Greg Maddux will familiarize himself with the pitching prospects this week, one area that he will surely be involved with throughout spring training is the pitchers’ fielding technique. The Rangers’ pitching staff combined for 16 errors last season, including four each by Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis and three by Derek Holland. Greg Maddux, on the other hand, won 18 Gold Gloves during his career, committing 53 errors over 23 seasons.”
- Former Ranger Curtis Wilkerson is coming back to DFW. This time as a manager, as he’ll oversee the Ft. Worth Cats in the 2012 season.
- The Tigers took a serious shot to their line-up yesterday as news broke that Victor Martinez would likely be out for the 2012 season after tearing his ACL during off-season winter workouts. Doesn’t seem likely the Tigers would jump in the Prince Fielder sweepstakes as Prince said he has no interest in being a full-time DH.
- Cole Hamels and the Phillies reached a 1 year agreement yesterday ($15M) to avoid arbitration. The Phillies are said to still be working on a long-term deal with the lefty. If a deal is not reached, Hamels would surely be one of the top free agents next off-season.
OK, I know that none of us want to start talking about the 2011 World Series yet, but during Episode 1 of Baseball Do, Jasen and I talked about the catcher position in our off-season position round-up, and obviously Mike Napoli was a very large part of that discussion. I hate the to include the picture, but it still makes me cringe on the inside every time I see it and thought it’d be nice to share that feeling.
In Episode 2 of Baseball Do, I asked Jasen to put himself in Jon Daniels’ shoes and restricted him to extending the contract of only one of the two – Josh Hamilton or Mike Napoli. Jasen took Hamilton, and it’s almost impossible to argue with that, even though I went the other way. But it’s crazy to think that it’s even that close. Had I, at the beginning of 2011, told any of you that the question would even be valid, you would have broken my ankle off and beaten me with it (look at it).
It’s time to get an extension in place for Nap. His short time here has been filled with big contributions and his 2011 performance exceeded all expectations. His final line from the 2011 season is very impressive, especially when you consider the limited AB:
- Total 2011 – .320/.416/.631 with 30 HR, 75 RBI in only 369 AB
But, what will Nap’s role be in 2012? Similar to what we saw in 2011? I can’t think that will be the case simply because he is too good to limit to 369 AB. Extend that line above out over 550 AB, and you’re looking at 45 HR and 112 RBI. There would be numerous arguments against my simple math approach here, but I think 40 HR and 100 RBI would have been attainable. So, is he the full time catcher? Looking at offensive splits in 2011 based on what position he played (or didn’t play in case of DH) makes it look like he should be:
- As C – .364/.449/.694 with 19 HR and 43 RBI over 209 AB
- As 1B – .265/.345/.551 with 7 HR and 20 RBI over 98 AB
- AS DH – .263/.411/.561 with 4 HR and 12 RBI over 57 AB
The splits are too lopsided to ignore. Clearly, he performs better at the plate when he is playing behind it defensively.
So, we’ve established that Nap needs to be full-time catcher with a target of 500-550 AB (600+ plate appearances) which is a reasonable level for a starting catcher.
Now, how much to pay and how long of a contract? He’s 30 years old now (won’t be 31 until October ’12). He debuted when he was 24 years old and played a limited role over his first 3-4 years with the Angels. It’s reasonable to think Nap could serve as the full-time catcher for the next 4-5 years, after which he could transition to 1B or DH. If the Rangers have a more than serviceable back-up (like Torrealba), which would allow for more breaks from the catching duties, I think it’s posssible that you extend his time behind the plate to 6 years. All that said, I think it’s a 4 or 5 year deal with the Rangers that makes the most sense.
Based on his full body of work, last year could be viewed as a bit of an anomaly, but I tend to think 2011 Napoli is more likely than ’06-’10 Napoli. I say this, because it’s very natural for catchers to take a few years to develop to full potential offensively, because of the demands defensively. The power was always been there – it’s the BA and OBP that are the new toys under the tree. Given this, a club option in the final year or even two years of his contract would make sense, in the off chance that he is really just a .250-.270 hitter with a sub .375 OBP.
Here is my proposal - 6 years/ $81M, with club options in the 5th and 6th years of the contract, structured as follows:
- Year 1 – $12.0M
- Year 2 – $12.5M
- Year 3 – $13.0M
- Year 4 – $14.0M
- Year 5 – Club option at $14.5M
- Year 6 – Club option at $15M
Hopefully, we’ll see something get done prior to the start of the 2012 season.
This time of year it always fun! The speculation sometimes can be overwhelming, yet exhilarating at the same time. And it’s nice when your team is involved in so much of the speculation, as the Rangers are.
With all the Hot Stove talk, I’m going to put my own plan/scenario out there for the 2012 Rangers.
- Extend Mike Napoli – Arbitration eligible this year, and free to walk after 2012. This guy became a fan favorite over the course of 4 months, and his development (at the plate and behind it) has been astounding. Nap should be the full-time catcher (as discussed in Episode 1), and locking him up now might bring some savings rather than waiting until the end of 2012 when the Rangers would have to deal with signing him in free agency.
- Extend Josh Hamilton – No need to elaborate on this one. The guy has been a huge part of the resurgence and like Nap, is a fan favorite. He needs to remain in a Ranger uniform throughout the remainder of his career for more reasons than production.
- Sign Prince Fielder – I’d love to see $147MM – $160MM over 7 years, but given Prince’s agent and the competition in the bidding, it may require upwards of $190 over 8 years. Prince will turn 28 this season, so that would lock him up through age 34-35, which should be right on the backslide of his prime years.
I think this move makes sense long-term as Prince will be ready to slide to DH right around the time that Michael Young is ready to retire (3-4 seasons?), which could allow Nap to transition to 1B permanently at the age of 33-34, which should help preserve him offensively.
- Trade David Murphy to Oakland for Andrew Bailey – may very well take a little more to make this happen, but I’d think it’d be a marginal prospect at best. Oakland has said that they want an OF in return for Bailey, and while it you don’t see inter-divisional trades that often, I think this make sense for both clubs (given the moves above). Bailey is another right handed arm in the bullpen (along with Adams and new closer Nathan), but gives you some insurance for Nathan and is someone that can close, so he could transition back into that role after 2013 when Nathan’s contract is up.
This move would mean that Mitch Moreland needs to work as an OF more frequently to maintain his usefulness with the big league squad. I think he’s capable.
- Let the current starting pitching rotation ride…for now – I want to see how Feliz is going to work out in the rotation and how Holland, Harrison, Ogando and company are going to continue to develop before throwing a big contract at CJ Wilson or Mark Buerhle. If we could get either of those guys at a good rate, I’d be all over it, but I think both are going to get contracts that are bigger than what the Rangers would be comfortable with.
If Feliz is not working out or injuries decimate the staff, then make a bold move before the trade deadline. The one thing the Rangers have a surplus of is strong prospects, which are better than money during mid-season deals.
I know this increases the payroll, but the time to strike is now, and the revenue generated over the last two seasons (playoff runs, increased fanbase) should be able to finance this.
Thoughts? Post comments and let me know what you think.
Episode 1 is finally here…
Jasen and I discuss the foundation of “Baseball do”, the acquisition of Joe Nathan and the catcher position for the Rangers.
We’ll be highlighting a different position each week during the off-season, with 1B on deck in Episode 2.
We’d love to hear your comments, and remember, everyone deserves a second chance.