« November 2004 | Main | January 2005 »

December 21, 2004

Zim returns

Texas signed reliever JEFF ZIMMERMAN to a minor-league deal.

The Rangers had non-tendered Zimmerman two weeks ago.

In mid-February 2002, Jeff Zimmerman signed a three-year, $10 million contract with the Rangers. By the end of March, he was on the disabled list with a sore elbow. His injury gave me, in my first year of writing a little fantasy column for ESPN, the opportunity to write several thousand words about John Rocker, Hideki Irabu, Anthony Telford, and a host of other would-be closers.

Zimmerman spent three seasons and the entire length of his contract on the DL. The nature of his non-tender/resigning prevents him from pitching in Texas before May 1, but his continuing rehab has him on a midseason return at best. At this point, he's unlikely ever to pitch in the Majors again, but I sincerely hope he does.

Posted by Lucas at 06:55 PM

Arbitration for everyone!

Texas tendered contracts to four arbitration-eligible players: reliever CARLOS ALMANZAR, catcher ROD BARAJAS, 2B ALFONSO SORIANO, and OF GARY MATTHEWS.

By my count, the 40-man roster is full. Texas cannot sign anyone to a Major League contract without waiving someone. Don't sign a long-term lease, Mr. Yan.

Last year, Almanzar, Barajas and Matthews made the minimum or close to it, so their 2005 salaries shouldn't increase to an excessive level. Barajas has the best chance to earn more than he's worth; arbitrators, like award voters, love those counting stats, and Barajas's shiny home run total will hide his dismal on-base percentage in the "courtroom." I would expect Hart to reach agreements with each player before a hearing occurs, and I'd hope that no one gets more than one year.

Soriano, on the other hand, made $5.4 million in 2004 (not $7.5 million as the Dallas Morning News has taken to misreporting) and, despite his lackluster season, stands to get somewhere in the $7-$8 million range in 2005. Despite the broad increase in free-agent salaries this offseason, Hart hasn't found a taker for Soriano's salary and skill set. Soriano's publicly stated refusal to play in the outfield doesn't help matters.

I was no fan of The Trade. I opined that, 1: Soriano's arbitration-driven salary increases and the huge amount of Rodriguez's contract eaten by Texas would consume most of the alleged "payroll flexibility," and 2: "payroll flexibility" was a euphemism for "lowering payroll indefinitely." Amazingly, at this point, I appear to be correct on both counts. I also considered the trade to be a very stark admission of organizational failure; Texas signed the best player in baseball to a historic contract, couldn't build a team around him, then traded him for a fraction of his value three years later and picked up a large chunk of his salary. Texas's 89-73 record in 2004 has contradicted that argument for now.

So what becomes of Soriano? I expected him to be gone by now, and I still don't think he lasts the 2005 season. A Spring Training trade is possible, or if Texas falters and finds themselves out of the playoff race by June, they'll take what they can get for him. It won't be much, as Soriano becomes a free agent after 2005.

Posted by Lucas at 09:48 AM

December 18, 2004

Dellucci Returns

Texas signed OF DAVID DELLUCCI to a two-year $1.8 million contract with a total of $700,000 in performance incentives.

Last August 29th, Dellucci displayed a startling line of .276/.370/.510. The rest of the way, he batted a terrifying .114/.225/.186 (that's 8-for-70 with two doubles and a homer). By season's end, Dellucci had an OPS+ of just 94, pretty respectable for Dellucci himself but sub-par for a platoon leftfielder getting most of the at-bats.

Dellucci is a fine fourth outfielder, and in that regard, the contract makes sense. If he ends up DH'ing against righties or starting frequently in left (and again robbing at-bats from Kevin Mench), he's simply below-average.

Posted by Lucas at 10:51 AM

December 17, 2004

Colbrunn signed

Texas signed 1B/DH GREG COLBRUNN to a minor-league contract with an invite to Spring Training. Colbrunn will earn $650,000 if a member of the Rangers.

At the turn of the decade, Colbrunn was Arizona's spot starter a first and arguably a better choice than Mark Grace. Injuries have limited him to under 100 plate appearances in the last two years combined. Wrist surgery ended his 2004 campaign in June.

Colbrunn has the reputation of someone who only hits lefties, but his splits aren't that pronounced (an advantage of eight points of batting average, a mere one point of OBP, and 42 points of slugging against lefties).

For now, Colbrunn doesn't require a roster spot. Assuming his wrist has healed enough that he can swing a bat properly, he probably will make the team as the wrong end of the DH platoon. In a perfect world, he'll get about 200 at-bats with a line of .280/.340/.480.

Posted by Lucas at 08:31 PM

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 11:00 AM

December 14, 2004

Rule 5 Draft Results

After some handwringing over the fates of Erik Thompson, Juan Senreiso, Marshall McDougall, and Anthony Webster, Texas exited the Rule 5 draft unscathed. The Rangers also declined to select anyone.

In the minor-league edition of the draft, Texas selected reliever Juan Pascual from Baltimore and Tampa Bay 3B Vincent Harrison. Four Ranger minor-leaguers were selected: Rick Asadoorian, Jose Garcia, Edgar Gonzalez, and Cesar Herrara.

Posted by Lucas at 12:48 AM

December 13, 2004

Where I Spent My Honeymoon

Kauai:

Sunrise at Lydgate State Park

The Na Pali Coast (the cliffs are about 1,500 feet above sea level)

Waimea Canyon

Posted by Lucas at 11:06 AM

December 10, 2004

Hidalgo signs

Texas signed OF RICHARD HIDALGO to a one-year, $4.5 million deal.

Considering that owners are again partying like it's 1999, Hidalgo's deal looks quite reasonable (Two and almost $20 for Steve Finley?). Hidalgo's OPS+ has skittered wildly between 89 and 142 over the last five years, without even Bret Saberhagen's every-other-year "consistency" to provide a forecast. At his worst, Hidalgo probably would hit only slightly better than David Dellucci, but Hidalgo also has the capability to punch out a line of .310/.370/.550 as he seeks another big payday.

Posted by Lucas at 12:38 AM

December 08, 2004

Texas exhumes catcher, signs to contract

The Rangers signed catcher SANDY ALOMAR, JR. to a one-year deal for $500,000.

While Ranger management didn't come out and say so, they apparently feel that Gerald Laird deserves punishment. Alomar's signing runs concurrent with GM John Hart banishing Laird to AAA three months before he reports to camp, saying that Laird would start the season in AAA and he "wouldn't be surprised if at some point Gerald is with [Texas]." Thus, Laird has already been deemed inferior to Rod Barajas, he of the .227/.265/.383 career line. (Texas may also trade for or sign another starting catcher.)

Laird did return to soon from his thumb injury, and, inarguably, his utter inability to catch on consecutive days or hit on any day placed too heavy a burden on Barajas's shoulders. On the other hand, who, if not Ranger management, permitted his return? Laird also damned himself by not playing in winter ball, a choice that previously brought managerial contempt upon Kevin Mench.

Laird isn't more than a decent catching prospect. He might become a poor man's Jim Sundberg, or he might have an itinerant, Randy Knorr-like career. Still, it is disheartening as a fan to know that Laird is preordained to don a Redhawks jersey in April.

As for Alomar, he's a famous name with a career that reasonably approximates Darrin Fletcher with shakier health (in fact, Fletcher is slightly younger). Last year, the 37-year-old Alomar batted .240/.298/.308 in limited action, and a repoted deal with Philadelphia collapsed after the team's physicians denied medical clearance. Does Texas expect Alomar to improve as a 38-year-old? I'll give him a 10% chance of being surprisingly adequate, a 40% chance of being very inadequate (and, with Barajas, making the Ranger catching corps among the three or four worst in baseball offensively), and a 50% chance of not lasting the season.

Posted by Lucas at 11:25 PM

December 07, 2004

Free-Agent Arbitration Deadline

Texas offered arbitration to OF DAVID DELLUCCI. Texas declined to offer arbitration to any other potential free agents including OF RUSTY GREER, OF BRIAN JORDAN, OF/2B ERIC YOUNG, 1B/DH BRAD FULLMER, 1B/3B HERBERT PERRY, reliever JAY POWELL, and reliever JEFF ZIMMERMAN.

Texas had no intention of offering arbitration to the handsomely paid, oft-injured Greer, but both sides had discussed a non-roster invite with the understanding that Greer would be given the chance at the DH job. With the Rangers courting folks such as Todd Walker to DH (a bad idea, but anyway), Greer decided to seek a greener pasture. Rumour has him signing with Minnesota, an odd choice given their plethora of contract-heavy starting OFs and plenty of OF/DH prospects in waiting.

Zimmerman may sign a minor-league deal. He wouldn't be able to pitch in the Majors until May 1, but his injury makes that a foregone conclusion.

Texas has offered Dellucci a two-year deal (though allegedly for less money than his other suitors), so they won't mind if he accepts arbitration.

Posted by Lucas at 09:18 PM

December 03, 2004

No news here

The Rundown will be unavailable during the next week and won't have any information on arbitration-deadline transactions until the 12th or so. In any case, your first choice for commentary should be Jamey Newberg, linked at right.

Posted by Lucas at 11:05 PM

Tejera returns

Texas signed reliever MICHAEL TEJERA to a minor-league contract.

Texas claimed Tejera off waivers from Florida near the end of the 2004 season and waived Rosman Garcia. He is two years older than Garcia but had shown some success at the Major-League level, something that had eluded Garcia to that point. Tejera basically flopped as a Ranger and was waived and unclaimed after the season. He probably will relieve in Oklahoma and could join Texas with injuries to higher-ranked pitchers. Tejera is nothing special but makes for a nice insurance policy. There are worse guys to have around.

Posted by Lucas at 10:59 PM

December 01, 2004

Catcher signed

Texas signed catcher ROBERT MACHADO to a minor-league deal.

Machado is 2005's version of Ken Huckaby. Machado will play in AAA and join the Rangers if Barajas or Laird get hurt. Machado has hit well in the minors over the past few years but not well at all in the majors.

Posted by Lucas at 11:08 AM