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December 17, 2004

ESPN Fantasy Column

Texas Smirks at Free-Agent Wackiness
As with 2003, the Rangers waited until after the free-agent arbitration deadline to sign anyone and will continue to bide their time until the right deals come along. Outfielder Richard Hidalgo is the only free agent of fantasy consequence signed so far. Hidalgo is the very definition of erratic but even with another mediocre year in 2005 he should bolster the Rangers’ weak outfielder corps. Texas also signed Sandy Alomar Jr. as a backup catcher. He and putative starter Rod Barajas should combine to provide one of the most dreadful offensive catching tandems in baseball. Ostensible “catcher of the future? Gerald Laird will return to AAA.

The preposterous Troy Glaus and Richie Sexson contracts have Carlos Delgado feeling justifiably frisky, and he seems to have priced himself out of the Rangers’ range. Texas may sign Jose Valentin and Greg Colbrunn to create a DH platoon (Valentin can also sub just about anywhere but catcher) and pick up a veteran insurance starter such as Aaron Sele. Otherwise, no major signings are imminent, though GM John Hart never shows his hand too early. While the lackluster offseason disappoints me, I certainly can’t blame management for staying out of the way while other teams decide whether Eric Milton is worth $7 million or $9 million per year (answer: neither).

Rangers with Contracts
Pitchers: Doug Brocail, Francisco Cordero, Ron Mahay, Chan Ho Park, Kenny Rogers, and Chris Young. Catchers: Sandy Alomar, Jr. Infielders: Hank Blalock, Mark Teixeira, and Michael Young. Outfielders: Richard Hidalgo. Including the $8 million Texas will pay on Alex Rodriguez’s contract, Texas has committed just over $42 million to the 2005 payroll thus far. Add in about $7 million for Alfonso Soriano (assuming he stays) and $300,000-$500,000 per player for the rest of the roster, and Texas is currently looking at a payroll of about $55 million, barely over one-half of the 2003 figure. The Rangers have plenty of time to sign other free agents, but to this point it appears the vaunted “payroll flexibility? created by the Rodriguez trade was a canard.

Will Texas Keep Soriano?
We’ll get the initial answer on the 20th, when teams must tender offers to arbitration-eligible players (Texas must also decide on Barajas, reliever Carlos Almanzar and outfielder Gary Matthews). I fully expect the Rangers to offer arbitration to Soriano. He made $5.4 million in 2004 and probably would jump to at least $7 million despite last year’s disappointing season. Soriano has surprisingly little trade value at the moment, but that situation may improve when his salary is better defined and Texas perhaps indicates to trading partners that they’ll eat some of that salary. Texas may also decide that his 2004 was a fluke and count on him to bounce back. I expect some improvement in Soriano’s fantasy stats if he stays in Texas.

New Website
http://rangers.scottlucas.com is my new home for past ESPN columns, a rundown of all Ranger transactions, contracts and salaries, the 40-man roster (past and present), the status of top-ten draft picks from 1999 through 2004, and whatever else I’m in the mood to write. I haven’t uploaded everything yet and have more features on the way, but a good portion of the archives are there.

Posted by Lucas at December 17, 2004 11:00 AM