Category Archives: Torri Hunter

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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To Torii or Not to Torii? That (Seems to Be) The Question

After a couple of days of posting rest after the deadline, it’s time to start watching our Young Rangers team develop, refocusing on Tom Hicks’ failed ownership and looking toward the future.

As T.R. Sullivan posted earlier this week, “The number one question surrounding the Rangers for 2008 is if Torii Hunter will be their centerfielder. That’s No. 1.”

So let’s start there.

I’ve thought for a while, that the Rangers should sign Torii in the off-season. Other than pitching, a near consistent need of the Rangers’ has been a CF who can play defense and contribute offensively. According to Wikipedia, “ESPN called Hunter a “daily web gem,” referring to ESPN’s nightly highlight reel. He has won six consecutive Gold Glove Awards for his defensive prowess.” And his production has been consistently around a .270avg/.800 ops (with a bit of a power surge over that in the past two seasons). Plus, he lives in The Colony and is a decent guy.

But now, I’m not so sure.

I don’t like signing guys after they have career years, which is what Torii seems to be having (although after a hot start in April-May, he’s actually been hitting under his career averages).

Second, he’s just old enough to be concerned about whether he’ll be a real contributor when the Rangers window for contention (’09-’12) is open. It can be done (remember that Lofton guy who just left here). But it’s rare for a guy to perform at or above career numbers at 35+ (Torri turns 35 in 2010).

Third, the Rangers are missing a long-term leadoff hitter, and that could also be addressed with a CF free agent. Hunter is more a fit in the middle of the order.

Fourth, with Teixeira gone, the Rangers need a clean-up hitter or better protection for Botts if he proves he can hit cleanup. I don’t think Torri is the answer there.

Fifth, there are a lot of CF free agents this winter, including Corey Patterson, who is 4 years younger, would cost less, plays Gold Glove- caliber D, (UPDATE: suggesting Patterson could lead off was a big oversight on my part. He could be a contributor, but definitely not a lead-off hitter.) could lead-off and steals bases like crazy (which would allegedly fit Washington’s style), and is Lefty whose numbers (which are just a notch under Torii’s) would almost certainly get a boost in the Ballpark and with Rudy Jaramillo’s tuteledge. Plus, we just picked up a promising CF in Left-handed hitting 27-yo David Murphy who should be a September call-up.

So while I’m not ready to say signing Torri would be a mistake. I am backing off my previous position that he should definitely be a Ranger next season and taking a wait-and-see approach.

Besides, I agree with the T.R.’s suggestion that the top question about the Rangers, “really should be … if the Rangers will have the discipline and patience to follow through with what they’ve started…” and see how their young talent can develop. (At least I agree with that on the offensive side of the equation – pitching, I’m not so sure).

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.

Teixeira Traded to Tigers! Texas Takes Three!

As outlined in the previous post, the Tigers would benefit A LOT from taking Teixeira from Texas.  But what could Texas get for him?

Of course that depends on a few variables.  Do they pair Tex with a bullpen arm?  Are Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson back and playing well when the trigger is pulled on the trade?  Is Tex injury free and in good form at the time of the trade?  Are Tom Hicks and Little Jon DanielsHart finally going to be focused and smart enough to make a trade that benefits their team at least as much as the one they deal with (unlike recent deals with Milwaukee and San Diego)?

For the purposes of this post, let’s assume the answers to the last three questions are all yes (I know that’s a stretch for the last one).  For the first question, let’s assume they trade Tex straight up, although a commenter to the previous post made a great point that adding Gagne (for contractual/financial/health reasons, it would be Gagne, not Otsuka) to the deal would make it extra rich for Detroit as they need bullpen help.

So who does Texas take for Tex?

First, Texas would have to take Sean Casey.  The Tigers won’t carry an under-performng Casey (.341/.345/.280 with no HRs and only 19 RBIs in baseball’s most productive lineup this year) and Tex through the end of the year.  Texas will do Detroit the favor of not forcing them to waste a roster spot or any AAA at-bats with Casey who’s contract ends this year.  And, Casey may actually perform decently in the lefty-batter friendly Ballpark, although Comerica Park isn’t exactly unfriendly to lefty batters.  Also, maybe Casey can share some wisdom for Jason Botts (if DanielsHart ever pulls his head out of his keister and gets Botts up to Arlington), who should get a shot at earning the 1B job for the long-term.

Next, the Rangers turn to the mound.  Remember that Texas can’t develop pitching, so they don’t want to take any of the Tigers’ pure prospects.  Texas needs pitchers who have developed past prospect status and already turned the corner into becomming a bonified major league pitcher.

That’s why the Rangers take Andew Miller.  He’s a lefty, which the Rangers need and which matters in The Ballpark, who’s young but has already had some success at the Major League level.  Texas would be better to get someone with at least a full year of major league starting experience, opposed to just two starts and some bullpen work last season.  But Miller nearly made Detroit’s World Series roster, and all accounts have him on track to become a stud.  He’s signed through 2009, which means the Rangers would get at least 2 meaningful years of service out of him.  And, by the 2009 season, he and the Rangers could both be ready to reach new heights.

But wait, there’s more!

As Miller is just barely out of prospect status (actually he’s still listed as a prospect by Baseball America – #10), it’s going to take more for Texas to part with Tex.  Casey’s a throw-away throw-in that amounts to addition by subtraction for the Tigers.  And Teixeira for Miller straight up would be a Jon Hart caliber deal (that means it would suck for Texas).  That’s why Texas also takes Zach Miner. 

Too much, you say?  Not if the Tigers really do want to win it all now and maybe next year.  They need help at first base, and with no notable firstbasemen heading toward free agency this winter, 1b talent may demand a premium since there won’t be any good rent-a-player deals to be had.  With the surprising emergence of Chad Durbin’s career-best early performance (he’d be the Rangers’ fall-back request if the Tigers balk at Miner), Zach’s already been relegated to the bullpen, even without Kenny Rogers in the rotation.  So when Kenny returns and another starter loses their place in the Tigers’ rotation (likely Nate Robertson), then Zach’s heading backwards fast.  The Tigers are hurting in the ‘pen, but when Joel Zumaya and Roman Colon return to health and Robertson heads to the ‘pen, they’ll be looking a lot better and can get by without Miner who can’t really be happy out there.  Plus, the Tigers will still have chances to grab more relief help through another trade (or maybe this is where Gagne comes into the picture, but the Tigers would then need to add a decent near-ready outfield prospect – not quite Cameron Maybin, though).

So it comes down to this – are the Tigers willing to part with two pitchers who would never be more than 3rd or 4th in their starting rotation (that’s how loaded they are with starting pitching) to have a terrific shot at possibly two World Series titles?

I was in Detroit for my grandfather’s funeral last fall when the Tigers were making their post-season run.  In fact, my family and I visited Comerica Park the afternoon of October 14th.  Game 4 of the ALCS was scheduled that night, and downtown Detroit was already abuzz by late morning.  Later that evening, I was watching the game at a bar playing quarter video poker in the MotorCity Casino while waiting for a seat at a Texas Hold ‘Em table when Magglio Ordonez hit his 3-run walk-off homer to complete the sweep of the A’s and send the Tigers to the World Series.  The place went nuts.  The city went nuts (but remarkably no cars were burned that night). 

Detroit’s had a taste of what championship baseball feels like, and that can be addictive.  I think they want to complete the worst to World Champions fairytale that the Cardinals rudely interrupted last year.  And I think they may want two bites at that apple.  With Tex adding switch-hitting power and a solid average to their lineup and Gold Glove defense at first base, I think the Tigers do the deal, and win at least one World Series because of it.

And, don’t discount the fact that Scott Boras, Teixeira’s agent, would probably love to see this deal happen.  As most other contenders have first base covered, getting Tex probably the best opportunity available for him to ride in and make significant contributions to one or two championships would make his value skyrocket by his free agent winter in ’09 when the Yankees would be primed to snatch him up at a ridiculous price.  (I don’t see the Yankees having what it would take to get Tex this season – and I don’t think Tex is ready to play in New York yet.)  As much power as Boras weilds, his backdoor lobbying for this deal could help make it happen.

Meanwhile, the Rangers get two guys who may not headline, but could certainly anchor their rotation as at least real #2 and #3 pitchers.  And with lots of free agent outfielders on the market this winter (Torri Hunter – having a career year in his FA season and on his way to a 7th straight Gold Glove – should be taming The Ballpark’s centerfield next season), the Rangers could turn things around quickly.

P.S.  As the Tigers are my second favorite team and Tex is a favorite player of mine, this would thrill me on several levels.  My favorite team gets back on track, while my second favorite team could win a ring or two with the help of a good guy in Tex who deserves better than to languish with the bottom-dwelling Rangers.  And who knows, maybe we’ll have a new owner by 2009 who would be willing to pay to get Tex back here to help charge up the Rangers return to contention!