Category Archives: Nelson Cruz

Why Plug Botts Straight into the Clean-up Spot? And Go Cruz!

Botts may have been cleaning up in Oklahoma, but why in the world would Washington put him in the 4 spot in his 2007 debut in the majors? Your first game up is pressure enough. Throwing him into the cleanup role straight away is ridiculous.  And it’s showing as so far tonight, he’s clearly pressing and is 0-4 with 2 stikeouts and 7 LOB against Cleveland.

Meanwhile, Nelson Cruz is hitting well again tonight. It’s nice to see that, and I have a feeling he may just be around to stay this time.

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.

Trade Rumors Heating Up for Gagne and Otsuka

Now that July is here, trade talks are turning much more serious, and Gagne and Otsuka have become the focal point for the Rangers while Teixeira’s on the mend.

I hope the Rangers keep Otsuka.  He’s got enough in the tank to remain an effective closer for several year – long enough to contribute more on the team than through a trade to the Rangers’ chances of becomming contenders in 2-3 seasons.

So let’s talk Gagne first, especially because he’s definitely going, and while he’d be a rent-a-player for team making a run down the stretch, he offers a bidder the added value will be 2 draft picks to wherever he goes when he walks as a free agent this winter.

According to T.R. Sullivan’s article last week, “…the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have shown the most interest in Gagne.”

Gagne, another Boras client, has a list of 12-teams the Rangers can trade him to without his prior consent.  The best I can gather is that the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets and Angels, are on that list. The other eight are being kept secret.  Who knows why. And, MLB Trade Rumors is revealing more every day about Gagne’s limited no-trade clause.

So far, only two teams match T.R.’s “interested” list and Gagne’s “allowable” list: the Yankees and Red Sox – the two teams everyone wants to have interested in the same guy because they’ll spend the money, have prospects and major-league ready talent to spare, and will bid up the price on each other.

But, what do the Rangers need that they can fill through a Gagne trade?

To turn the Rangers into a championship caliber team, the need (besides a new owner), starting pitching, a firstbaseman to replace Teixeira when he leaves, a center fielder, at least one corner outfielder (assuming out of Byrd, Cruz, Diaz and Botts the Rangers can produce one capable everyday starter in one of the corners and one bench/DH player) and an upgrade at catcher (pretty much in that order).

There will be a lot of free agent outfielders on the market this winter, and the Rangers will have plenty of money to sign a starter and an outfielder (preferably Torii Hunter to finally give the Rangers a bat and – as important – a glove out of center field – see the post and subsequent comments about next year’s team two posts below). So with Gagne, I think the Rangers should focus on a corner outfielder, a catcher or a firstbaseman – in that order.

Getting a major-league ready guy who can play and contribute every day at one of those three spots will make a significant impact for the team’s future. Additionally, by addressing one of those needs with Gagne, Little Jon DanielsHart should then be able to focus solely on starting pitching for the Teixeira trade.  And, a younger, lower paid outfielder from a Gagne trade also frees up cash for the free agent market.

Announcing the 2008 Texas Rangers 25-Man Roster!

Well, since tonight’s game was rained out and the 2007 season has long been over, I thought I’d finish a post I’ve been thinking about for a while. 

I doubt I’m the only Rangers fan looking ahead to what might be in the cards for Texas in 2008.  If I were GM – and bi-POD Tom Hicks was willing to quit his hypocracy and take some meds for his bi-polar owner disorder to put some smart money where his mouth is – then this is what the Rangers would look like in 2008 (how new additions got here explained in parentheses):

Starters:

  • C –  Adam Melhuse
  • 1b – James Loney (Teixeira Trade) or Nate Gold
  • 2b – Kinsler
  • SS – Young 
  • 3b – Blalock
  • LF – Cruz
  • CF – Torri Hunter (FA)
  • RF – Marlon Byrd
  • DH – Sosa???????

Bench:

  •    C – Laird
  •   U – Catalanotto
  • OF – Botts
  •  IF – Ramon Vazquez

Rotation:

  1. Mark Buerhle (Free Agent)
  2. Kevin Millwood
  3. Zack Miner or Chad Billingsley (Teixeira Trade)
  4. Padilla
  5. McCarthy or Loe

Bullpen

  • R – Vasquez
  • R – Mahay
  • R – Benoit
  • R – Eyre
  • R – Murray
  • SU – Wilson
  • CL – Otsuka

The bullpen looks to be shaping up well.  Otsuka will likely be gone, but I’d keep him unless the offers are too good to refuse (and would then sign one of several FAs that will be on the market this offseason).

The rotation is much better with Buerhle taking the top spot and Miner or Billingsley in the middle, putting Millwood at #2 and Padilla at #4, which are spots they’re more suited for.  Buerhle would be my big signing.  I know his velocity is down.  But we need a lefty, and he keeps reminding me of Kenny Rogers (with a better attitude).  The guy just knows how to pitch and win.  Is it a Championship caliber rotation – no.  But it’s a big step in the right direction.

The offense will be better.  I worry about no big bat to replace Teixeira, but if Hunter could repeat his current season, he’d make up for much of the lost production.  Also, Sosa is listed as a question mark.  He’d have to cut down on his K’s for me to keep him.  If he can’t do that, I’d sign an aging power bat to come in, provide some production, and be a veteran presence while contributing to a building sense for winning.  But knowing next year is a stepping stone toward real, sustainable competitiveness, I like the look of the order and the opportunity for some prospects to show if they can bust out.  If not, I’d chase a big signing after the ’08 season.

My expectation would be for this team to finish somewhere just north of .500.  But expectations for 2009 would be to contend in the West, win it in ’10 and make real runs into the playoffs from 2010 – 2012.

BTW, I also happen to think this is Hicks’ plan because it syncs with his business interests, but more on that another time.

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.

Rangers Evidence: Last Night’s Game: That’s More Like It!

Last night’s game displayed many of the things we expected to see more of this season.  Things the Rangers need to continue to turn things around.

Back-of-the-rotation pitcher Mike Wood allowed 4 earned runs over 4 innings (plus one unearned) – on 7 hits and one walk.  That will suffice more often than not.  And if he can avoid the 3 long balls, it would more than suffice.

Then the Daniels-labelled “competitive advantage” bullpen took over for 5 innings of 6 hit, 1 run baseball.  They did their job of keeping the game winnable – in fact, they kept it tied up for the final three innings as, for the first time all season, Otsuka and Gagne made it a 7-inning game for the opponent’s offense by slamming the door shut in the 8th and 9th innings.

Meanwhile, the same players that have been killing the team on offense and defense (Wilkerson, Laird and Cruz – see Saturday’s Morning News wrap up for details of that ugly outing), stepped up big time.  Maybe they knew they were approaching a now or off-to-OKC with you point and responded well, as Wilkerson homered, Laird scored a run and of course, Cruz woke up at a great time to hit his first HR of the season – a solo, walk-off shot in the 9th.

Almost everything about yesterday’s game is very encouraging – most especially that it came against the Angels.

And while one game does not make a season, it can help a team turn a corner.  Let’s hope that today’s contest shows more evidence that the Rangers are ready to turn the corner and make a run at a very winnable division, because I still believe it’s now or never.  If the Rangers are not pulling close to the front of the pack by the end of May, it will be time to re-assess the team’s goals for the season: win this year – or build for a real championship run in 2008 (or more liekly, 2009)?

Lack of Focus

I was sitting in a hotel lobby bar in Austin Tuesday night, watching the Rangers get thrashed again by the Yankees.  Saw Tex take a ground ball right in the keister.  That seems very symbolic of the Rangers’ season and the treatment Hicks is giving us fans.

That game and tonights showed signs of a disconcerting lack of focus from the Rangers.  Kinsler cost us the game with horrible error on a ground ball.  Lofton looked dazed and confused in center on more than one play.  Laird, Cruz and Wilkerson were as bewildered at the plate as usual.  Even Third Base Coach Don Wakamatsu failed to give Lofton a clear stop sign; Lofton’s resulting pause at third almost led to an out instead of the first run of the game had it not been for an odd play at the plate.

All of this against the division leaders, rivals and Ranger-killing Angels Who Don’t Know Where They’re From.  Guys, if you can’t focus and at least look sharp against the Angels at home, then we have to wonder if you’ve given up?  Lackey’s good, but you made him look like Clemens tonight.

And, I wish I didn’t have to say it, but this all leads to questions about the manager.  What has Wash done to spark this lineup?  Cruz, Laird and Wilkerson should all be on a bus to Oklahoma City.  Or, in Wilkerson’s case – on a plane to whatever team will give us anything for him (he’s a career .251 hitter currently hitting .234 and on his usual pace of striking out 18% more often than he gets a hit).  Ron, it’s time to stop worrying about being a “player’s manager” and start working on getting more out of your team.  I believe you can, but you need to start by getting the entire team focused.

BTW, Tex went 5 for 8 with 3 RBIs and no Ks in two games after taking one in the rump.  I think that disloged his head out from his bum for a spurt.  Maybe Wash should give a swift kick to the derriere as part of warmups before every game.