Category Archives: Matt Harrison

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.

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Teixeira Traded to Braves in Wasted Opportunity for the Rangers

Looks like Little Jon DanielsHart was just schooled by yet another GM – Atlanta’s John Schuerholz – in a deal, apparently pending only physicals being passed, sending Teixeira AND Ron Mahay to the Braves for C/1B Jarrod (Salty) Saltalamacchia and 18-yo Venezuelan SS Elvis Andrus plus two players to be named later – both likely young, not-major-league-ready pitching prospects (one still rumored to be 21-yo AA Lefty pure prospect Matt Harrison).

If true, this is a massive failure on the part of the Rangers and Little Jon DanielsHart!  Unless the other player-to-be-named is a major-league ready arm (which is highly unlikely), this trade fails to address the Rangers top need – Starting Pitching that has at least begun a successful transition to the major leagues. That is a failure that may well doom the Rangers to mediocrity beyond next year and into the next decade.

Meanwhile, this is a GREAT trade for the Braves. They add a power bat to spark a lineup that needs more production and they improve their bullpen immediately with Mahay’s left-arm in their bullpen.

This deal is worse than the Chris Young trade.  At least with that trade, at the time it was made, we thought we’d get a good ready-to-contribute starter in Eaton (who could have known he’d pitch so few games for the Rangers) and a closer in Otsuka. Giving up Young was short-sighted. He’d have been a major contributor here, although not the phenom he’s become in a pitching-friendly park in the pitching-friendly NL. And at the time, Adrian Gonzalez was blocked by Tex, whom the Rangers then thought would be around a lot longer. So it took a season and a half to fully see how bad that trade sucked.

This trade sucks now. It will suck tomorrow. It will suck next year. And unless the Rangers luck out and one of these very young, need a lot of work pitching prospects become our team ace, it will suck 3 and 5 years from now.

What long-term need does this deal address for the Rangers? Last I checked, we have a great SS who’s locked-up through 2013. Salty won’t be the long-term answer behind the plate according to reports of his defense and game-calling abilities.

When you have the BEST big bat on the market at the trade deadline, you MUST do better than this. Look at what the Rangers gave up for Carlos Lee last year. I guess there just aren’t any owners/GMs who are as stupid as Hicks and Daniels.

This is another deal where you have to wonder who Daniels is working for: the Rangers or the other team? It’s his third major deal (after San Diego and Milwaukee) that will make the trading partner better and do little for the Rangers.

Teixeira to Go to the Braves (or Angels… or Diamondbacks… or Dodgers… or last minute entrant)?

Just more than 32 hours left until the non-waivers trade deadline at 3p EDT tomorrow, and it’s still anyone’s guess as to where Mark Teixeira will go and for whom in return.  Based on various reports across the Internet and TV, here’s how things look at this point (with the contenders listed from most to least likely to grab Teixeira):

1. Atlanta Braves (40% likely) – Local media in Atlanta are reporting the deal as all but done. The deal appears to be Catcher-Firstbaseman Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Matt Harrison. A sticking point is whether the Braves will also give up Elvis Andrus or Brent Lillibridge in addition to Salty without getting a mid-reliever (they’ve been asking for C.J. Wilson but would take less).

I’m not jazzed at all about this trade as rumored. It’s way too light on pitching in return. I’ve said it dozens of times, and I’ll say it dozens more unless I’m proven wrong. The Rangers can’t develop top-of-the-rotation pitching, they can’t get top free-agent pitchers to sign up to play in The Ballpark, so they’re only real hope to develop a rotation that is championship caliber is to TRADE FOR PITCHING. Teixeira is the last best hope on the radar for the Rangers to acquire stand-out pitching in a trade, and this deal doesn’t do that. 

Harrison is pure prospect. A 21-yo Lefty at AA with a losing record. That’s not going to get the Rangers the rotation they need by ’09, which should be their target for contending.

Salty is over-rated in my book. Sorry. He skipped AAA – in my view rushed to the majors to increase his trade value. He’s done alright in 47 games for the Braves, but he’s not blowing anyone away (.284 avg, .744 ops with 4 HRs). He may be pretty good some day, but that’s a gamble. And for Tex, the Rangers should get a sure thing, not a “we think maybe.” Plus, spelling the guy’s name is a chore!

Elvis is an 18-yo Venezuelan SS playing A ball – and not hitting all that well yet (.241 avg, .659 ops. with 3 HRs in 98 games). If the Rangers are wanting to find Young’s replacement for 2014, I suggest the draft in around 2010 is a more appropriate opportunity.  

Brent Lillibridge is 23 at AAA, but also a SS who’s hitting so far is mediocre (.283 avg., .757 ops with 5 HRs in 52 games).

If the trade goes down Tex for Salty and Harrison, I’d give it an F.  If it goes Tex for Salty, Harrison and Elvis or Lillibridge, it’s a D-. And if the Rangers throw in even Mahay (much less Benoit or Wilson) to get three of those guys, it’s a surefire job-losing F- for Daniels. 

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (30% likely) – I really hope this is the deal that Little Jon Daniels and Tom Hicks are holding out for.  Word has it that 26-yo Lefty SP Joe Saunders and 24-yo lefty 1b Casey Kotchman are already on the table. Compared to the Atlanta deal, just those two (who are major-league tested) represent a better deal that what the Braves are offering. Plus, there’s been rumors that the Angels may add a third prospect (names vary) to the deal.

Saunders is in his third partial season at the major-league level, and he’s a proven winner in the AL West whose improved every year (11-3 lifetime in the bigs, with a 4-0 record and 3.16 era in 7 starts this season). That would immediately put him ahead of everyone but Millwood on the Rangers starting rotation (and yes, I’m saying he’d be ahead of Padilla – right now). 

Kotchman is hitting well and judging by his road numbers and the fact that lefties love the Ballpark, his numbers would get a quick boost as a Ranger (currently hitting .300 with an .858 ops in 89 games).

Tex straight up for those two would be a B++ trade in my book, and if JD gets any other prospect worth anything at all added in, make it an A+!

3. Arizona Diamondbacks (20% likely) – late entrants whose name popped up publically for the first time just this Saturday, Arizona will have to poney up value fast. But what they may be offering is more cloudy than other teams’ probable offers. 

Grade if it happens: incomplete.  Still too many unknowns here, but things could get interesting.  Again, the pitching offered should be the key.

4. Not-Currently-Suspected Darkhorse (7% likely) –  the Yankees losing ways probably killed the chances of them or the Red Sox trading for Tex. But after a trouncing sweep this weekend by the Angels and Cleveland not cooling off, I still won’t be shocked if the Tigers make a last minute play. But since the Mets, Brewers, Cardinals, Phillies, Indians and Twins all have 1b well manned, that leaves only the Mariners as a current contender who could use Teixera’s services but haven’t been heard from. So a last-minute late entrant looks very unlikely.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers (3% likely) – a month ago, as Nomar was being moved to third, and Loney and Billinglsly were still human, this looked like the deal to do. But injuries to the Dodgers rotation have shifted there priorities, just as Loney’s performance has shifted there view of their needs while Billingsly has pitched himself into the untouchable range.

Updates to follow as more is learned.