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February 26, 2006

Money Money Money

Let's take a look at Texas's contracts now that they've signed all their players:

Free Agents, Arbitration-Eligibles, "Locked Up" Players, and Other Commitments:

P Nevin
$10,000,000
M Teixeira
6,400,000
A Rodriguez
6,000,000
K Millwood
6,000,000
A Eaton
4,650,000
V Padilla
4,400,000
F Cordero
4,000,000
B Wilkerson
3,900,000
R Barajas
3,200,000
H Blalock
3,000,000
M Young
3,000,000
K Mench
2,800,000
G Matthews
2,387,500
C Park
2,000,000
A Otsuka
1,750,000
R Mahay
1,100,000
D Dellucci
900,000
J Benoit
750,000
B Shouse
725,000
M Derosa
675,000
J Wasdin
600,000

A total of $68,237,500. Rodriguez and Park aren't with the Rangers any more, of course. Mahay was outrighted last summer.

Known Contracts for Indentured Servants:

R Dickey
$380,000
K Loe
348,770
L Nix
345,260
J Leiscester
332,100
F Francisco
331,500
S Feldman
329,000
E Volquez
329,000
J Rupe
328,000
O Beltre
327,000
F Castro
327,000
J Arias
327,000
A Baldiris
327,000

Unknown Contracts for Indentured Servants with No MLB Experience (Probably at Minimum of $327,000):

Armando Galarraga, Wes Littleton, Ian Kinsler.

Unknown Contracts for Indentured Servants with MLB Experience (Probably a Little Above Minimum):

Juan Dominguez, Erasmo Ramirez, C.J. Wilson, Gerald Laird, Marshall McDougall, Jason Botts.

The "Servants" usually have split contracts: they earn the listed salary while on the 25-man roster and some lesser amount if in the minors.

How does this compare to 2005? Money in millions:

Category 2005 2006
Increase
Guranteed Money $57.70 $68.24 18%
Opening Day Roster (and DL) $51.50 $61.50 19%

Posted by Lucas at 12:42 PM

February 25, 2006

Transactions

Texas signed pitchers FRANK FRANCISCO and JON LEICESTER and outfielder LAYNCE NIX to one-year contracts.

$345,260 for Nix, $332,100 for Leiscester, $331,500 for Francisco. Texas has everyone on the 40-man roster signed.

Posted by Lucas at 12:31 PM

February 23, 2006

Transactions

Texas signed pitchers R.A DICKEY and KAMERON LOE and infielder JOAQUIN ARIAS to one-year contracts.

$380,000 for Dickey, $348,770 for Loe and the minimum for Arias.

Posted by Lucas at 11:31 PM

February 22, 2006

Transaction

Texas signed DH ERUBIEL DURAZO to a minor-league contract.

A nice pickup. Durazo averaged .290/.385/.477 in Oakland during 2003-2004, his only two years of healthy and full-time play. Elbow tendonitis and eventual Tommy John surgery wrecked his 2005 campaign. He’ll make half a million if he makes the team. He hits lefties adequately but probably would be the “right” half of a DH platoon with Nevin if both are still on the squad come April. As to where Jason Botts fits in all this… he doesn’t.

Posted by Lucas at 11:30 PM

Adam Eaton Worries Me

Adam Eaton interviewed for The Ticket in Dallas and expressed his enjoyment at throwing in a pitcher-friendly park such as Petco or now-departed Qualcomm. He noted that pitching in Arlington would require adjustments, primarily in outlook. Focusing on winning, not necessarily hits and runs allowed, would be key. He then said:

Everybody looks at everything else besides the end result, and that’s one thing I’ve kind of been able to do in the past (focusing on wins), for an offense that really didn’t put a whole bunch of runs up for me in the past few years in San Diego… I have a real hard time figuring how or what I’m going to do with run support [in Texas]. I haven’t had that luxury in a long time… [Eight runs] is like a nice two-week span for me at times. There was a time that I would be told, how hard is it to throw a shutout and hit a home run. That was true, you actually had to do that to get a “W” the past few years.

I have several issues with these statements.

1. San Diego does not have a bad offense.

Eaton prefers a pitcher-friendly environment, but he doesn’t acknowledge that it also affects the hitters on his own team. Qualcomm/Petco offers one of the toughest environments for hitters in the Major League. You might have heard that San Diego ranked 27th in runs scored last year, but that means nothing without considering the context of league and park. Supplying that context reveals San Diego has offered an above-average offense for three years running (all numbers per-game):

Year
NL Runs Scored
San Diego Park Factor
Adjusted League-Avg. Runs Scored
San Diego Runs Scored
RS+ *
2003 4.61 0.89
4.10
4.19 102
2004 4.64 0.89
4.13
4.74 115
2005 4.45 0.90
4.01
4.22 105

* Index of runs scored relative to league and park. 100 = average, higher is better.

2. San Diego’s offense often gave Eaton better support than to his rotation mates.

Year
San Diego Runs Scored
Adam Eaton's Run Support
Extra Support For Eaton
RS+ for Eaton
2003
4.19
4.22
0.03
103
2004
4.74
4.64
(0.10)
112
2005
4.22
5.32
1.10
133

Averages can provide a skewed picture; if San Diego scores eighteen runs in one of his starts but none in two others, they’re not really helping him much. Looking at game data reveals that San Diego was never shut out with Eaton on the mound during 2003-2005. San Diego scored only one or two runs in about a third of his starts (12% one run, 21% two runs) but they also scored six or more runs in 35% of his starts.

On the whole, the evidence suggests Eaton received better-than-average run support during 2003-2005.

3. Eaton has a better won-loss record than he’s deserved.

Eaton has a record of 31-31 during the last three years despite RA+s of 95, 85, and 86. He’s a below-average pitcher with an average record. We should all be so fortunate.

Posted by Lucas at 01:11 PM

February 21, 2006

Unknown Pleasures -- The Hitters, #15-#11

Second in a series on Rangers who provided unexpected help with their bats for a season. First article here.

15. Gary Matthews Jr., OF, 2004

Span
Plate Apps.
Average
On-Base
Slugging
Runs
Homers
RBI
OPS+
Season (6th) 317 .275 .350 .461
37
11
36
101
Career (7 yrs) 2446 .249 .327 .397
325
59
236
90

From March 2000 to April 2004, Gary Matthews Jr. was waived, released, or just plain purchased seven times. The Texas Rangers became his seventh organization when he signed a minor-league contract a week into the 2004 season. Late that May Texas brought him to Arlington when outfielders Kevin Mench and Brian Jordan simultaneously hit the DL. The Ranger starting outfield on May 25th consisted of Matthews, Chad Allen and Eric Young, hardly an awe-inspiring collection. Nonetheless, Texas would contend for the division for the first time in five years, and the unheralded Matthews would play a major role. He started 76 games between late May and early September, hitting a solid .275/.350/.461 and providing worthy defense in right and center. A calf injury ended his season prematurely.

Oddly, Matthews is the only player on the list from this decade.

14. Roberto Kelly, OF, 1998

Span
Plate Apps.
Average
On-Base
Slugging
Runs
Homers
RBI
OPS+
Season (12th) 270 .323 .349 .560
48
16
46
128
Career (14 yrs) 5226 .290 .337 .430
687
124
585
106

Kelly is the first of four hitters from 1998 who propelled a good-but-not-great team to a division title.

Kelly started in center field for the Yankees from 1989 through 1992, a dreary era* when Pat Kelly and Alvaro Espinoza were supposed to return the pinstripes to glory. He declined in 1992, though he still would be the only Yankee representative on the All-Star team, and New York traded him to Cincinnati for Paul O’Neill. In 1993, Kelly resumed hitting until separating his shoulder. In May 1994, the Reds traded him to Atlanta, who in April 1995 traded him to Montreal, who the next month traded him to the Dodgers, who in October 1995 cut him loose. He spent the next two years among Minnesota and Seattle as a fourth outfielder.

After 1997, Kelly signed with Texas, who had fallen back under .500 after winning their first division title the previous season. He still had prowess with the bat, and Texas paid him $1.6 million with the expectation that he’d rank among the best backup outfielders in the league. What he provided might have surprised even him. Never the most patient player, Kelly dispensed altogether with trying to draw walks but had career highs in average (.323) and slugging (.560). In just 270 plate appearances he hit sixteen homers, second only to the twenty he belted as a regular in 1991. Kelly had another respectable season with Texas before fizzling out back in New York.

* for Yankee fans, not me.

13. Chris James, OF, 1994

Span
Plate Apps.
Average
On-Base
Slugging
Runs
Homers
RBI
OPS+
Season (9th) 159 .256 .358 .534
28
7
19
128
Career (10 yrs) 3294 .261 .307 .413
343
90
386
99

Prior to joining Texas, James gained more fame from the people around him than his own actions. As a prospect in Philadelphia, he spotted for an injured Mike Schmidt in 1988 and 1989. The Phils later traded him to San Diego for John Kruk (and Randy Ready). San Diego then traded him, Sandy Alomar and Carlos Baerga to Cleveland for Joe Carter. James hit well in 1990 for Cleveland, got his first million-dollar contract, and promptly collapsed to .238/.273/.318. He never played regularly again. Late in 1993, Texas acquired him from Houston for pitcher Dave Gandolph, a 26th-round draft pick from 1991.

James played infrequently but made the most of his time. His on-base percentage of .361 and slugging percentage of .534 were career bests, and over half of his hits were for extra bases. James didn’t play in Kenny Rogers’ no-hitter – the Ranger outfield consisted of Juan Gonzalez, Rusty Greer, and… Butch Davis? – but he did have an excellent view from the dugout. In 1995, James shuffled through even more limited roles in Kansas City and Boston. His MLB career ended just before his 33rd birthday.

12. Bill Haselman, C, 1998

Span
Plate Apps.
Average
On-Base
Slugging
Runs
Homers
RBI
OPS+
Season (8th) 110 .314 .327 .543
11
6
17
118
Career (13 yrs) 1747 .259 .311 .409
185
47
210
83

Haselman had three tours of duty in Texas. Texas drafted him in 1987 with one of their three first-round picks (the others: Brian Bohanon and Mark Petkovsek). Seattle claimed him off waivers, but he saw little Major League action until joining Boston after 1994. Haselman earned his most playing time in 1996 and 1997 while backing up Mike Stanley and Scott Hatteberg. After the 1997 season, Texas reacquired him along with pitcher Aaron Sele for Damon Buford and Jim Leyritz.

Haselman paled in comparison to Sele, of course, but he ably backed up Ivan Rodriguez and batted an unprecedented .314 and slugged .543, his career-best by eighty points. He previous bests were a .274 average and .439 slugging percentage. He joined Detroit after the season, then Texas once again procured his services as part of the notorious Juan Gonzalez trade. Indeed, Texas paid him $1.1 million in 2000, sweet money for someone backing up the never-tired Pudge. Haselman would spend three more years with Texas before moving on to Boston.

11. Luis Alicea, IF, 1998

Span
Plate Apps.
Average
On-Base
Slugging
Runs
Homers
RBI
OPS+
Season (9th) 308 .274 .372 .425
51
6
33
104
Career (13 yrs) 4613 .260 .346 .369
551
47
422
88

St. Louis made Alicea the 23rd pick of the 1986 draft. The Cardinals installed him as the everyday second baseman by 1988. Prematurely, as it turned out; he batted just .212/.276/.283 and spent most of the next three years in the minors stuck behind Jose Oquendo. He never would play a full season in St. Louis and until 2000 had qualified for the batting title only once, in 1995 with Boston. As a hitter, Alicea had a patient eye, adequate on-base skills, and little power. He joined Texas in 1998 to back up Mark McLemore’s perpetually hurting legs at second and youngster Fernando Tatis at third.

Alicea hit well, supplying a .372 OBP and tying a previous best of six homers. Still, his offensive performance doesn’t stand out dramatically from his previous efforts. Why list him here? For a while I wasn’t sure myself, but the answer lies in a comparison to his teammates. That June, McLemore missed two weeks with a pulled hamstring that hampered him the rest of the season. Alicea manned second every day in his absence and about every fifth game upon his return. In addition, super-prospect Tatis struggled in his first year as a regular, and Alicea started fifteen games at third and appeared in ten others while Tatis occupied the roster. Alicea outhit both of them:

At Third Base, 3/31 through 7/31:
Tatis: 95 games, .270/.303/.361
Alicea: 25 games, .281/.365/.469

At Second Base, 6/07 through 9/27:
McLemore: 68 games, .202/.322/.261
Alicea: 32 games, .296/.406/.435

In 2000, Alicea would replace McLemore and set career highs in games and plate appearances. Though Texas unveiled a “Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30” theme in 2001 with the additions of Randy Velarde, Andres Galarraga, Ken Caminiti, Mark Petkovsek and Jeff Brantley, they didn’t retain the 35-year-old Alicea. He spent two years in Kansas City and retired.

Posted by Lucas at 07:36 PM

February 18, 2006

Unknown Pleasures -- The Hitters, #16-#20

Here begins a series on Rangers who provided unexpected help with their bats for a season. They include former starters revitalized as part-time players, long-time subs enjoying a career peak, quasi-prospects suddenly catching fire, and grizzled vets with a little gas left in their tanks. Several justified their continued employment in the Majors on otherwise forgettable Ranger squads, while a few offered vital help to division winners.

I ranked the players with a needlessly convoluted system involving playing time and exotic stats like EQA and VORP. It doesn’t matter. Basically, the rankings weigh a player’s plate appearances along with the extent to which he outperformed his career averages. The list has no strict criteria other than a maximum of 400 plate appearances. No player was a regular when the season began, and many were expected to offer only token assistance.

20. Darrell Porter, C/DH, Age 34, 1986

Era
Plate Apps.
Average
On-Base
Slugging
Runs
Homers
RBI
OPS+
Season (16th) 178 .265 .360 .535
21
12
29
138
Career (17 yrs) 6570 .247 .354 .409
765
188
826
113

In 1985, Porter caught in the World Series for the 101-win St. Louis Cardinals. Though he still had a plus bat and glove, he was almost 34 (old for a catcher) and had the fifth-highest salary on the team. The Cardinals released him after the Series, and in 1986 he signed with the miserable 99-loss Texas Rangers to back up Don Slaught at one-fifth his former salary. Bummer.

Porter responded by hitting .265, his best figure in seven years, and popped twelve homers as part of a career-best .535 slugging percentage. Porter helped a youthful lineup win an astounding 87 games, eight more than the pennant-defending Cardinals. He had another respectable season with Texas before retiring after 1987.

19. Jim Sundberg, C, Age 37, 1988

Span
Plate Apps.
Average
On-Base
Slugging
Runs
Homers
RBI
OPS+
Season (15th) 99 .286 .323 .462
13
4
13
116
Career (16 yrs) 6898 .248 .327 .348
621
95
624
89

Texas drafted Jim Sundberg with the second pick in the 1973 draft, and through some often embarrassing times for the franchise he provided the respectable face. He was an outstanding defender with a more potent bat than you might remember (not to suggest he was Johnny Bench). Texas stunningly traded Sundberg to Milwaukee for Ned Yost after his dismal 1983, a bad baseball move and public-relations disaster. Sundberg caught for the World Champion Kansas City Royals in 1985 (opposite Darrell Porter), but by June 1988 he was 37 and unemployed after the Cubs released him.

Texas signed him the following week. Sundberg had only 99 plate appearances as a Ranger that season but four were homers, and he slugged a career-best .462 while reaching base at an acceptable rate. During a season with a 32-49 second half, Oddibe McDowell’s mysterious regression, and Larry Parrish’s utter collapse at age 34, Sundberg provided a nostalgic little ray of sunshine. Like Porter, he played another season with Texas as a part-timer before retiring.

18. Jack Daugherty, 1B/OF, Age 28, 1989

Span
Plate Apps.
Average
On-Base
Slugging
Runs
Homers
RBI
OPS+
Season (2nd) 121 .302 .364 .406
15
1
10
116
Career (6 yrs) 859 .256 .322 .362
80
10
87
91

Unlike Porter and Sundberg, Jack Daugherty lacked an impressive resume when he joined the Rangers. Daugherty signed with Oakland as an undrafted free agent in 1982, was released, spent 1984 in the Pioneer League, and was the player-to-be-named-later in a late-1988 trade with Texas for Tom O’Malley. The 28-year-old had all of twelve MLB plate appearances.

Despite his mundane past, Daugherty spent 1989 mostly spelling a younger and more heralded but rather light-slugging first baseman named Rafael Palmeiro. He batted .302/.364/.406, and in 1990 he hit just as well in more frequent duty. Unfortunately, he didn’t hit a lick after that, and Texas discarded him in 1992. Daugherty wandered through Houston, Cincinnati and Colorado before hanging up his spikes.

17. Bud Harrelson, SS/2B, Age 36, 1980

Span
Plate Apps.
Average
On-Base
Slugging
Runs
Homers
RBI
OPS+
Season (16th) 219 .272 .356 .322
26
1
9
96
Career (16yrs) 5516 .236 .327 .288
539
7
267
76

Harrelson played short for Mets from 1965 to 1977 including their championship season in 1969. Known mostly as a slick fielder and for a run-in with Pete Rose during the 1973 NLCS, Harrelson couldn’t hit for average or power (lifetime .288 slugging percentage… really) but did have a talent for drawing walks, and on occasion he served as the Mets’ leadoff hitter.

After a couple of seasons with Philadelphia, he joined Texas and a truly depressing contingent of light-hitting shortstops including Pepe Frias, Nelson Norman and present-day ESPN announcer Dave Roberts. Harrelson slugged only .322 but hit for a solid .272 average and drew enough walks to push his on-base percentage to a terrific .374. None of the other shortstops had an OBP above .280. Harrelson retired after the season.

16. Damon Buford, OF, 1996

Span
Plate Apps.
Average
On-Base
Slugging
Runs
Homers
RBI
OPS+
Season (4th) 162 .283 .348 .469
30
6
20
105
Career (9 yrs) 2072 .242 .311 .385
280
54
218
79

One of the few players on this list whose unexpected success created some trouble. Buford arrived in Texas in January 1996 in exchange for Terrell Lowery. He’d reached MLB as a Oriole and spent two months of 1995 as a Met, where he hit a career-best (to date) .235/.346/.360. In 1996 with Texas, Buford subbed for Darryl Hamilton in center and the regularly hobbled Juan Gonzalez in right. He batted .283, drew some walks, and slugged an unforeseen .469.

In terms of rate statistics, he outplayed Hamilton at the plate and in the field. Since Hamilton earned a princely $1.3 million while Buford drew close to the league minimum, Texas latched onto the younger Buford in 1997’s defense of the franchise’s first division championship. He continued to provide excellent defense but batted an execrable .224/.287/.339, and in July Texas acquired Tom Goodwin to replace him. After the season, the Rangers traded Buford and Jim Leyritz to Boston for Aaron Sele and Bill Haselman, a crucial exchange providing the impetus to recapture the division crown in 1998.

Posted by Lucas at 03:21 PM

February 16, 2006

Transactions

Texas signed pitcher C.J. WILSON, catcher GERALD LAIRD and outfielder JASON BOTTS to one-year contracts.

Terms undisclosed. Botts probably gets the minimum, the other two very slight bumps.

Posted by Lucas at 06:57 PM

February 10, 2006

Transactions

Texas signed pitchers OMAR BELTRE, FABIO CASTRO, JUAN DOMINGUEZ, SCOTT FELDMAN, WES LITTLETON, JOSH RUPE, and EDISON VOLQUEZ, and infielders AAROM BALDIRIS and MARSHALL MCDOUGALL to one-year contracts.

All will earn the $327,000 minimum or very close to it, though the salaries of Dominguez, Littleton and McDougall are not available at the moment. The Star Telegram article doesn’t say so, but these contracts almost certainly are prorated for time spent on the Major League roster. Which is to say, most of them won’t really make $300+.

Posted by Lucas at 11:59 PM

February 08, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

Greetings
I’m Scott Lucas, and since 2002 I’ve been ESPN’s fantasy correspondent for the Texas Rangers. It’s a sweet gig: paid junkets to Bristol, fine tequila delivered to my front door, groupies who dab my forehead with a cool, slightly damp washcloth while I write. 2006 promises an interesting season for Ranger fans and fantasy owners, as new GM Jon Daniels has upended the roster this winter after the team failed to capitalize on 2004’s surprising 89 wins. I’ll offer player projections in the coming weeks as Spring Training unfolds, but for now, answers to a few questions:

How will Kevin Millwood do?
I’m startled at how poorly my trusty computer thinks of Kevin Millwood. Right now it suggests a 4.59 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP, drastic declines from last year’s numbers of 2.86 and 1.22. Why so glum, computer? First, his home last year, Cleveland’s Jacobs Field, rivaled Safeco Field for pitcher-friendliness. Millwood can expect to surrender more homers, more doubles, and more hits on balls in play in The Ballpark. Second, his peripheral stats suggest a 2005 ERA of about 3.40 instead of his league-leading 2.86. Third, his previous two seasons in Philadelphia were rather pedestrian and occasionally marred by injury. My computer would do a spit take if it knew his salary.

On the other hand, some pitchers (like Kenny Rogers) have the ability to shrug off the centerfield-bound jet stream that turns The Ballpark into Gameboy Backyard Baseball during the summer months. Millwood has pitched well in the ultimate hostile environment of Coors Field (3.97 ERA in seven starts), so there’s evidence to suggest that pitching in Texas won’t faze him. Millwood does have a decent strikeout rate and should garner a fair number of wins, so he could help some fantasy teams despite a mediocre ERA. Just don’t think of him as an elite fantasy pitcher, even in AL-only leagues.

Could Eaton or Padilla help?
Adam Eaton and Vicente Padilla might help Texas, but they probably won’t help you. Eaton has a career ERA of 4.34 while pitching in perhaps the most favorable environment in all of baseball. I think he’d do well to post a sub-5.00 ERA in Arlington. The same applies to Padilla, who has battled arm troubles the last two years. He did pitch well in 2002 and 2003, and perhaps some health will foster an improved performance. However, based on two consecutive mediocre seasons and a move to Texas, he’s tough to recommend.

Where will Brad Wilkerson bat, and how will he perform?
Wilkerson might lead off if manager Buck Showalter isn’t too enamoured with David Dellucci. If not, he’ll probably bat fifth or sixth. Batting sixth instead of first would cost him about eighty plate appearances, not an insignificant number, though he would receive juicier RBI opportunities. Even if he doesn’t hit first, a healthier body and a move from RFK to Arlington should produce improved fantasy numbers. Keep him in mind.

Who’s on second?
The trade of Alfonso Soriano, error-prone and occasionally lackadaisical though he was, left a gaping hole at second base. The leading candidate to fill his shoes is Ian Kinsler, a 23-year-old who batted .274/.348/.464 with 102 runs, 23 homers, 94 RBI and 19 steals for AAA Oklahoma last year. Nothing would please Texas more than for him to command the position, because the alternatives are Mark DeRosa, whose hot September of 2005 masks a very ordinary bat, and D’angelo Jimenez, who couldn’t even maintain his 40-man roster spot with the Reds last year.

Posted by Lucas at 02:18 PM

February 03, 2006

Transaction

Texas signed outfielder KEVIN MENCH to a one-year contract for $2.8 million, avoiding arbitration.

As happened last year, Mench and Texas couldn't agree to a long-term deal. Still, a nice payday for Mench, who was arbitration-eligible for the first time.

Posted by Lucas at 01:38 PM