Category Archives: Josh Rupe

Should the Rangers Sign a Free Agent Pitcher This Winter, or Not?

(View this post at the soon-to-be new home for the Rangers or Robbers blog.)

Similar to early-season views on Torri Hunter, I and many others expected the Rangers sign a Free Agent starting pitcher this next Winter to add to the rotation for 2008. But with the upsides of failing fast now in full effect at the Ballpark, I’m not sure they should.

The earliest the Rangers window for being a true contender will open is 2009. So why not let all the young arms in the Rangers organization get every chance they can with as many innings as possible in the “Bigs” to become winning pitchers for ’09 and beyond?

Millwood and Padilla are the only pitchers (and 2 of only 5 Rangers total) under contract past this season. And, with one of the league’s 5 lowest team salaries after dumping Teixeira, Gagne, Lofton and Mahay’s salaries ($22.2 million annualized), the Rangers certainly have all the flexibility and tons of money available to rebuild their rotation and fill holes in their lineup and bench.

But the Rangers also have a large collection of highly touted prospect young arms. While I’m not at all confident in the Rangers’ ability to turn prospects into winning major league starters, the law of averages has to kick in sometime. Doesn’t it? I mean, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every so often.

So would it be better for the Rangers to let the remaining 3 spots in their rotation be filled by those prospects, instead of filling one with a free agent signing?  (Of course, Millwood and Padilla’s seasons make them less than surefire long-term locks for any rotation and they could be traded away, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

I include McCarthy and Gabbard on the Rangers’ prospects list, as they still haven’t completed a successful transition to the majors and are not bona fide winning starters. Then there’s Tejeda, Loe and Wood who’ve had plenty of chances to get some traction already (not to mention Rheinecker and Koronka – who’re about out of chances). Are they worth more time in the rotation to see what could happen? Or are they meant for the bullpen? And then there’s Volquez, Hurley, Rupe, Harrison, Galarraga and Mendoza coming up from the minors.

That’s at least 13 pitchers who are touted to have various levels of major league potential. At least two or three of them should become major league winners, right? Again, the law of averages has to work in the Rangers’ favor at some point, doesn’t it.

Plus, the list of pitchers who’ll be free agents this winter doesn’t look too exciting and looks pretty old (ages for next season in parentheses: source MLB Trade Rumors):

Carlos Zambrano (27)
Curt Schilling (41)
Jason Jennings (29)
Koji Uehara (33)
Freddy Garcia (32)
Kenny Rogers (43)
Jon Lieber (38)
Bartolo Colon (35)
Joe Kennedy (29)
Tomo Ohka (32)
John Thomson (34)
Kip Wells (31)
Wade Miller (31)
Livan Hernandez (33)*
Randy Wolf (31) – $9MM club option for ’08
Paul Byrd (37) – $8MM club option for ’08
Jeff Weaver (31)
Tom Glavine (42) – $9MM player option for ’08
Kris Benson (33) – $7.5MM club option for ’08
Jaret Wright (32)
David Wells (45)
Eric Milton (32)
Kyle Lohse (29)
Matt Clement (33)
Rodrigo Lopez (32)
Josh Fogg (31)
Byung-Hyun Kim (29)
Odalis Perez (31) – $9MM club option for ’08
Brett Tomko (35) – $4.5MM mutual option for ’08

If the Rangers can sign Carlos Zambrano, they should. He’s a true ace who could at 27 could anchor the Rangers’ rotation for years. But like so many aces before him, why would he come to the Ballpark and the Rangers? It would take crazy money for him to pass on the numerous great offers he’ll get from teams who will be contending for years to come.

So, short of a miracle signing of Zambrano, I think the Rangers best move may be to stick with the arms they have and see how these prospects play out. Then they’ll have the trade deadlines next season and the winter of ’08-’09 – when they’ll have a more clear picture of what they have in the guys they have – to shore up any holes in the rotation.

The problem there is that they’ll likely still have several large holes. But we’ve got time to wait and see.

Trade Rumor of Interest: Dontrelle Willis May Be Avalilable!

For years, I’ve been saying that the Rangers should make the Marlins an offer they can’t refuse for Dontrelle Willis.  At only 25, Dontrelle is THE premiere young-but-developed lefty in the game today.  The Rangers need a lefty. In his column today, Ken Rosenthal mentions that now that Mark Buehrle is off the market, the D-Train’s value hasn’t been higher in some time, which could open the Marlins’ ears to trade offers.

The same was said last season.  And I have to believe that if Little Jon DanielsHart had put a package together out of some combination of John Danks, Fransisco Cordero, Laynce Nix, Kevin Mench, Nick Masset and Jacob Rasner, Willis would be a Texas Ranger right now.  Instead, we have McCarthy and Cruz left from deals that sent those guys packing.  Wouldn’t you gladly take Willis for as many as four from that list and not have McCarthy or Cruz? 

Before you accuse me of using hindsight that’s 20/20 – I said this last year, in repeated posts on T.R Sullivan’s blog and elsewhere.  When the Rangers didn’t try and the Marlins pulled back from shopping Willis, I suggested the Rangers turn their eye toward acquiring the next-best, developed young attainable lefty – Mark Buerhle (who they had and missed a chance to get).

It’s rare to get a second chance.  If the Marlins’ door is even slightly cracked open, Hicks and Daniels ought to kick it in with whatever it takes.  They should go “All In” if they have to.

Seriously, if it takes sending the entire Oklahoma Red Hawks roster to the Marlins to get Willis, that’s what the Rangers should do.  I truly believe that they’d be more successful over the next 5-7 years with Willis (assuming they resign Dontrelle after 2009 and he stays healthy for most of that time) than they would be with all of the prospects they have at AAA (maybe 3-5 of whom will ever make any meaningful contribution to the Rangers).

OK, that’s nuts, and I am exaggerating to make a point.  But if it took packaging Hurley, Rupe and Botts – I’d do it in a heartbeat.  Botts would be the hardest to let go of, but the Rangers don’t seem to want to bring him up anyways.  Hurley and Rupe – they’re still prospects.  We have NO idea what will become of them, but history shows the odds are stacked against them ever developing their full potential as Rangers or in The Ballpark.  A bird in the hand is worth two prospects in the bush leagues – easily. 

In fact, that offer may not be enough for the Marlins.  OK.  We’ll throw in Tex (we’ll pay 30% of his salary next season) and the Marlins’ choice of Cruz, Tejeda or Kasey Kiker but they have to throw in Mike Jacobs.

Many say Willis is over-rated.  He does need to do better against righties, but he would immediately be the Rangers’ ace… head and shoulders better than any pitcher they’ve had this millenium.  He’d make the entire rotation better by pushing Millwood to #2, lowering the need to sign a free agent this winter from a top-of-the-rotation guy to a mid-rotation winner, while McCarthy, Loe, Padilla, Volquez, Wright, Wood and Mendoza compete for the last two spots.

Robbers Evidence: Bye Bye Buehrle

In several previous posts, I’ve mentioned how Mark Buerhle could have already been a Ranger(https://rangersorrobbers.wordpress.com/2007/04/19/robbers-evidence-exhibit-a-revisited-no-buerhle-no-no/) and should be the free agent pitcher the Rangers sign this winter (https://rangersorrobbers.wordpress.com/2007/06/27/announcing-the-2008-texas-rangers-25-man-roster-2/).

Well, all that’s a pipe dream now as the White Sox resigned Mark Buehrle to a 4-year, $54 million contract

That narrows the field of starting pitchers the Rangers should consider signing this winter (Buehrle topped my list, and I think only Carlos Zambrano could be argued to be a better signing amongst the would-be class of winter free agents).

And without a single starter with a winning record or an ERA under 5.30 going into this week’s All-Star break, a shrinking free=agent pool increases the pressure on Ron Washington and pitching coach Mark Connor to develop at least one (if not two) of the young or trying-to-comeback Rangers pitchers into a contributing starter who can win more games than he loses (in order of liklihood at present:  Loe, McCarthy, Wright, Tejeda, Hurley, Wood, Koronka, Rheinecker, Rupe).  It also makes the return to form of Millwood and Padilla more important, because the caliber of free-agent starter the Rangers can sign this winter just went down unless they ink Zambrano, which I don’t think is likely nor do I think he’d be worth the price as he’s not a great fit for the Rangers or The Ballpark.  That probably means Millwood will be the Opening Day starter again, and he’s really a #2 at best.  Finally, it puts more importance on Jon DanielsHart and Hicks getting a trade done (and done well) with Teixeira – as Tex is the only chip they have left to acquire a pitcher with top-of-the-rotation talent (Chad Billingsly is looking really nice at this point – maybe too nice for the Dodgers to part with after going 1-0 in 2 July starts with a 2.25 era and 14 Ks in 12 IP). 

So congratulations to Buehrle and the White Sox, and to Tom Hicks, the Rangers front office and coaching staff and their pitchers aspiring to be worth a spot in a competitive major league rotation:  TIME TO GET ROLLING!

Vicente Padilla Going on the DL… and That’s Great!

No, I’m not the type to be happy when someone is hurt.  I wish Padilla a quick, full and easy recovery.

But the reality is that he’s not doing the team any good right now – and I’m not just referring to his struggles. 

If it were possible, I would send Millwood and Padilla down to AAA anyways, giving all the starts possible to Loe, McCarthy (assuming he does indeed return soon), and Tejeda plus some combination of Wood, Koronka, Cruceta, Rupe (when he’s ready) and by August – Hurley.

The upside to failing fast is there’s no reason not to give these young arms experience and a chance to break through now.  If just 1 or 2 of them become winners by late next season, the Rangers could be ready for contention again as early as 2009.

In the meantime, Millwood and Padilla need to get healthy and figure some things out.  They’re veterans who don’t need big league innings to do either.  Plus, as Jamey Newberg points out, I won’t be surprised to see both of them suddenly improve in late ’08 and all of 2009 when they’re in money years of their contracts.  I’ve been having similar thoughts on that, and while I won’t go as far as Jamey and predict a division crown for the Rangers in ’09 (there are too many things Hicks and Daniels can and likely will screw up between then and now), I do believe it’s a real possibility.  If…

In the meantime, enjoy a good rest, Vicente.  See you in a few weeks, months, next year – whenever, really, take your time!

Fighting to Be Patient with Rangers Pitchers (Especially Kameron Loe)

After another bad Kameron Loe start earlier tonight, I started to write this post with the title “Time for Loe to Go… to the Bullpen.”  I’m weary of him only having 3 pitches, and I keep thinking that the Rangers should stop the bullpen-rotation musical roles and once-and-for-all put Loe in the bullpen.  I think he could become a great set-up man.

But then I remembered that he’s pitching for the worst team in baseball so far in 2007 and quite likely the worst team in baseball history when it comes to developing pitchers.

So why rush?  Loe would be more valuable if he became the starter he showed signs of becomming in 2005.  I looked it up on baseball-reference.com, and this was Loe’s record as a starter just 2 seasons ago:

KLoe’s 2005 Stats as a Starter

And in his 4 wins as a starter, he had an amazing 0.89 ERA.  His 2 losses featured a 8.10 ERA, but that was under Buck “I’m Too Lazy to Stroll to the Mound” Showalter who never seemed to know when to get a guy out of the game.  So, with a better manager, Loe’s bad outings could have been less dreadful and his stats would be even better.

I like Kameron Loe (click the his name listed in the tag below or the tag cloud to the right for previous K-Loe posts).  I like his intensity.  He’s got a Ranger spirit. 

But he is pitching for the Rangers.  The best way to develop him would be to ship him to San Diego, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New York, Atlanta – heck almost anywhere but here or Colorado – and then bring him back in free agency in a couple years.  Short of that, patience is a virtue that’s hard to develop.

And, IF just one guy between Loe, McCarthy, Wood or Tejeda (or Rupe or Hurley or Herrera or Koronka or etc.) could develop into a reliable, winning starter – then the Rangers could be just one free agent signing and one good Mark Teixeira trade away from having a – dare I say it – competitive rotation next year. 

After 35 seasons and only 1 playoff win, that would make being patient through more outings like tonight’s worthwhile.

Believe It or Not – Rangers Are Performing As They Usually Do

If you’ve been a Rangers’ fan for any time at all, you know that the team has always needed better starting pitching. 

Year-in, year-out it’s the same thing.  The offense produces at or near the top of the league.  The bullpen is decent or better, but spotty.  The defense is average or a bit worse.  And the anchor around the team’s neck is the starting pitching.

But it seemed as though this year was different in that things are bad on all fronts.  Well, further investigation says – not really.

The truth is, it’s really just a bad rendition of the same old story for the Rangers.  The team actually ranks 5th in the majors in runs scored.  As T.R Sullivan pointed out yesterday, “Rangers relievers entered (last night’s) game with a 2.95 ERA for May and a 3.63 ERA for the season.”

Defensive has been poor – worse than usual, but the starting pitching has be atrocious.  Not a single starting pitcher has an ERA below 5.00.  Tejeda leads the ratty pack with a 5.18 era.  Padilla = 5.52.  McCarthy = 6.35.  Loe = 6.38.  Millwood = 6.62.  And Wood = 7.02.  As a result, again as T.R. points out, the bullpen has alreay, “pitched 173 innings, the most in the American League.”  And thus, when they had a chance to keep a game winnable last night, they couldn’t.  Looks like things are more normal than they look at The Ballpark. 

So with pitching that bad, why aren’t Rupe and Volquez up here yet?  They couldn’t do any worse. 

More on the Upside of Failing Fast

A week ago, in a post that included some venting about my frustrations with WordPress, I wrote about the Upside of Failing Fast:

“At least they’re collapsing in May so Hicks, Cogen and DanielsHart can’t string us out until the usual Rangers August-September fade out.  One lesson about risk taking, is that if you’re going to fail, fail fast.  The Rangers have almost always dragged us through a gradual failing.  Failing fast could be the best thing this team has done in years.  It would make Little Jon DanielsHart a seller around the deadline (not that he’s kept a lot to sell – except Tex, but more on that later), and prevent him and Hicks from making some stupid deal that costs us dearly in the long-term just to keep the Rangers close enough that they can keep selling more tickets.  And then the young guys can play. ”

(Hey – if “journalists” can quote themselves sometimes, why can’t I?”)

As the Rangers went 3-3 since that post, I thought more about the concept.  And I found myself worried that they were winning.

Let me explain.

What would the Rangers possibly gain from playing .500 or slightly better ball the rest of the season?  They’re just not good enough, not to mention healthy enough, to make up a 9.5 game deficit against the Angels who apparently OWN them this season (remember Hicks views the Angels as “our partners”).  And if they win just enough to keep us – and Hicks and DanielsHart – hoping against hope, we risk seeing management make some hare-brained trade to try to win now at the expense of the long-term picture/pitching and the further erosion of talent from the system (see previous posts about the could/should-be team comprised of recent ex-Rangers).

Even Dale Hanson got it right on the radio yesterday when he compared the Rangers recent history to that of the Cowboys – where management continues to make moves thinking they can contend now at the expense of longer-term success.

As a 27-year fan of the Texas Rangers, I can wait another year or two for someone to finally put together an organization that is built to win a championship.  And maybe, just maybe, failing fast will be enough for Hicks and DanielsHart to do some things differently now that will help the team in the long term.

AND, in the meantime (if Hicks and DanielsHart are serious about stability), it gives new manager Ron Washington the time to develop the young talent we do have while gearing up our core guys (e.g. Young and Kinsler, and… well, that may be it) for a serious run at championship-caliper baseball from ’08-2010.  It can be done – just look at Detroit (more on that another time…).

So let the young guys get their at bats and throw their innings.  Let’s see if McCarthy, Tejeda, Loe or Rupe can be winning starters in the major leagues.  Let’s see if Cruz, Botts and so on really do have the stuff to have long prolific careers ahead of them.

And, like the Cowboys in 1989, let’s have our 1-15 season so we can build for the future and turn things around in big way!  The Cowboys starting seeing real improvement by the end of 1990, made the playoffs in ’91 and won the first of three-out-four Super Bowls in 1992. 

There are significant differences in how to build a winning football versus baseball organization, but the long-term focus is needed in Arlington.  And with that in mind, let’s root for the real winning to start taking root late this summer giving the Rangers momentum into next year and beyond.