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September 26, 2009

Texas's 40-Man Roster: Surprisingly Uncrunchy!

Untitled DocumentEvan Grant of D Magazine concluded his end-of-season report on Texas’s minor-league system for Baseball America on a worrisome note (subscription-only link):

The Rangers have so much minor league talent they may be facing a 40-man roster crunch this winter. That may have led them to deal catcher Manny Pina (who must be protected this winter) and outfielder Tim Smith to the Royals for righthander Danny Gutierrez.

The Rangers do indeed have plenty of farm talent, but I actually think their winter roster situation will be much less stressful than in previous years. The present roster contains several players who have virtually no future in the organization, and the list of players needing protection to avoid potential capture in the Rule 5 draft is intriguing but not especially compelling.

To elaborate, Texas currently has 44 players on its roster: 40 plus four on the 60-day Disabled List who must be reinstated. They’re categorized as follows:

Pitchers Position Players Pitchers Position Players
Wage Slaves (27)
Under Contract in 2010 (3)
Eyre, Willie Andrus, Elvis Millwood, Kevin Kinsler, Ian
Feliz, Neftali Arias, Joaquin - Young, Michael
Harrison, Matt Boggs, Brandon
Arbitration-Eligible (7)
Holland, Derek Borbon, Julio Feldman, Scott German, Esteban
Hunter, Tommy Cruz, Nelson Francisco, Frank Hamilton, Josh
Hurley, Eric Davis, Chris Grilli, Jason -
Madrigal, Warner Gentry, Craig McCarthy, Brandon -
Mathis, Doug Golson, Greg Wilson, C.J. -
Mendoza, Luis Murphy, David
Free Agents (7)
Moscoso, G. Ramirez, Max Benoit, Joaquin Blalock, Hank
Nippert, Dustin Richardson, Kevin Guardado, Eddie Byrd, Marlon
O'Day, Darren Saltalamacchia, J. - Jones, Andruw
Poveda, Omar Teagarden, Taylor - Rodriguez, Ivan
Strop, Pedro - - Vizquel, Omar

Who on this list is likely to lose his spot this offseason?

Among the Free Agents:
Technically, all the free agents are eliminated unless they re-sign before declaring free agency. Their departures decrease the roster to 37. Blalock, Guardado and Jones are assuredly gone. Texas has intimated a desire to keep Pudge* and Vizquel around for another year. Although Texas would like to retain Byrd, someone will pay him more than the Rangers. Benoit may yet have a future with Texas, but not on a Major League deal this winter.

* Tangentially, remember when Texas’s catching depth was the envy of baseball? At the end of 2007, the Rangers had a top five of Saltalamacchia, Teagarden, Ramirez, Cristian Santana and Manny Pina. Now, Texas is considering re-upping a soon-to-be 38-year-old who has batted .270/.297/.402 during the last three years, Salty and Tea might enter 2010 fighting for a backup role, Ramirez exits 2009 not an inch closer to establishing himself, Pina is a Royal, and Santana is a left fielder with a mile-wide hole in his bat.

Among the Arbitration-Eligibles:
Arbitration offers to Feldman, Francisco, Wilson and Hamilton are assured. German and Grilli are much less likely. McCarthy… nah, Texas will keep him; his salary won’t spike too high from this year’s $650,000, and he still has options. Oh, and he might evolve into a useful pitcher. Perhaps.

Among the Wage Slaves:
Kevin Richardson will be designated (again). Arias used his last option in 2009 and has little chance of making the ’10 squad. The Rangers revealed their impression of Golson when they left him in AAA and instead purchased Gentry from AA Frisco. As for Gentry, his hold on a roster spot is tenuous. Luis Mendoza hasn’t earned an opportunity to assuage his dismal 2008. Texas has oodles of flexibility in this regard.

In sum, losing seven free agents, 1-2 arbitration-eligibles, and 2-4 indentured servants leaves 31 to 34 players on the 40-man roster.

What of the upcoming additions to the 40-man roster? The three players who assuredly would have been added this fall – Andrus, Feliz and Strop – are already on the active roster. Texas’s current Rule 5-eligibles include several intriguing names but none that absolutely demands addition. Put another way, who on this list would be selected in the Rule 5 draft and survive a year on a Major League roster? Here’s a partial list of eligible players:

Name Pos
Alfonzo, Miguel OF
Ballard, Michael P
Castillo, Fabio P
Diaz, Jumbo P
Flores, Adalberto P
Garr, Brennan P
Jones, Beau P
Kirkman, Michael P
Osuna, Renny IF
Paisano, David OF
Phillips, Zach P
Quintero, Jorge P
Santana, Cristian OF
Swanson, Glenn P
Tracy, Chad 1B
Whittleman, John 3B
Yan, Johan 3B

I could make an argument in favor of perhaps seven players. I could also argue for none. In any case, I can’t imagine more than three actually being added. They increase the roster to 34-37, and the high side of that range retains several players who could be waived without the fear of them becoming the next Armando Galarraga.

For the last two years, Texas hasn’t participated in the Rule 5 draft because its roster was full. Now, the Rangers should have ample room to swipe a player if desired or claim someone off waivers. The Rangers could also sign a minor-league free agent and protect him on the 40 if deemed necessary (as with Madrigal in 2007). And, Texas can sign some free agents, albeit most likely the inexpensive kind (role players, folks denied arbitration by other teams, etc.).

Just out of curiosity, what kind of active roster can be constructed without any free agents?

Rotation: Millwood, Feldman, and three of Feliz, Harrison, Holland, Hunter, Hurley, McCarthy, maybe Moscoso, and Nippert.

Bullpen: Francisco, O’Day, Wilson, and four out of a group of Eyre, Mathis, Madrigal, and whoever doesn’t make the rotation. (Even minus Guardado and Grilli, I count 16 MLB-experienced pitchers.)

Starters: Saltalamacchia, Davis / Kinsler / Andrus / Young, Murphy / Borbon / Cruz, Hamilton

Bench: Teagarden, German, Boggs, Ramirez or Gentry or Golson or (gulp) Arias

The above squad is one way of composing the ominous “$50 million payroll” under which Texas might operate in 2010 (which, by the way, includes the final $3 million payment to one Alex Rodriguez). To be sure, it would squander the efforts of Texas’s brightest young players, who can’t forge a postseason run on their own. That said, it at least lacks gaping holes. Texas won’t have Brian Bocock as its Opening Day shortstop.

Posted by Lucas at 12:55 PM

Weekend Photo


Colby on a rainy Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Posted by Lucas at 11:31 AM

September 19, 2009

The Downside of the Teixeira Trade

On July 31, 2007, Texas traded 1B Mark Teixeira and lefty reliever Ron Mahay for catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus, and pitchers Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones. Would the Rangers make that trade again? Yes, unquestionably. Despite the frustrating lack of development from Saltalamacchia, easily the most advanced prospect at the time of the trade, the Rangers are already at the cusp of surpassing Atlanta in terms of value at the MLB level for the players it received. As of the July trade deadline, Texas trailed Atlanta by 1.3 wins above replacement (using Fangraphs methodology), 4.0 (using Win Shares), or 5.9 (Baseball Prospectus). Furthermore, the Rangers have had and will have their players under cost-effective control for several seasons, while Atlanta -- having traded Teixeira for Kotchmann for free-agent-to-be LaRoche -- will have (almost) nothing from the trade in their employ in two weeks.

That said, more than two years since the trade, the Rangers have failed to find Teixeira's replacement. Chris Davis certainly looked like The Answer during the tail end of 2008, but 2009 has been disastrous: .202/.256/.415 with a 41% strikeout rate before a demotion to AAA, a better but still inadequate .263/.299/.438 with a 30% SO rate since his return. Roughly, I'd say he needs a .625 slugging percentage to adequately offset his season-long .262 OBP; to achieve that, he'd need 39 homers instead of his present 19.

Davis isn't the only culprit, of course, only the most prominent (keeping in mind he's only 23 and should not be forsaken yet). Other hitters, many of them established and ostensibly reliable, has reached base at only a marginally better rate and have provided minimal power.

Chris Davis 546 507 120 74 24 31 85 33 183 0 .237 .286 .469
Hank Blalock 375 351 92 46 22 15 49 19 77 0 .262 .299 .462
F. Catalanotto 160 141 39 18 8 1 9 14 10 0 .277 .354 .355
Chris Shelton 108 88 20 13 5 2 11 17 30 1 .227 .352 .352
Brad Wilkerson 95 82 20 16 5 3 12 10 25 1 .244 .326 .427
J. Saltalamacchia 91 89 19 11 7 1 7 2 27 0 .213 .231 .337
Ben Broussard 88 81 13 8 0 3 8 5 20 0 .160 .227 .272
Jason Botts 20 19 4 1 2 1 4 1 7 0 .211 .250 .474
Max Ramirez 11 10 1 0 0 0 1 1 6 0 .100 .182 .100
Andruw Jones 5 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 .200 .200 .200
TOTAL 1499 1373 329 187 67 57 187 102 386 2 .240 .295 .422

Let's reiterate for emphasis: In the two-plus years since the Teixeira trade, Texas's first baseman have batted .240/.295/.422. The non-Davis contingent, with nearly two-thirds of the plate appearances, has slugged .394. .394! Here's the performance of Texas's first basemen scaled to 162 games and compared to the average of other AL 1Bs during 2007-2009:

Texas 665 609 146 83 30 25 83 45 171 1 .240 .295 .422
Rest of AL 665 582 157 83 36 24 90 68 113 3 .268 .347 .456

Over the course of a season, the average non-Texas first baseman has collected 11 more hits (including six doubles but one fewer homer) and 23 additional walks.

Using a minimum of 400 plate appearances in a season, which individual AL batters have most closely imitated Texas's 1Bs during this span? Frankly, few players match well, because hitters with sub-.300 on-base percentages tend to lose their jobs.

Mike Jacobs 2009 .234 .304 .409
Rod Barajas 2009 .237 .269 .420
Vernon Wells 2007 .245 .304 .402
Brandon Inge 2009 .234 .321 .425
Alex Gordon 2007 .247 .314 .411
Emil Brown 2008 .244 .297 .386
Gary Matthews 2007 .252 .323 .419
Juan Uribe 2007 .234 .284 .394
Ramon Hernandez 2008 .257 .308 .406
Aubrey Huff 2009 .245 .310 .395

Huff is the only player to spend a majority of his time at first base (Jacobs has mostly DH'ed). 1Bs outside the top ten but reasonably close to Texas's aggregate performance include Lyle Overbay (.240/.315/.391 in 2007), this year's version of Huff (.253/.321/.405) and Richie Sexson (.205/.295/.399).

Justin Smoak, Rangers Nation turns its lonely eyes to you (woo woo woo).

Posted by Lucas at 10:25 AM


Please help me imagine a world where my baseball team isn't plummeting out of contention

Posted by Lucas at 08:30 AM

September 01, 2009

Sports Journamalism

If you put your photos on the interwebs, you're going to see them appropriated for other sites. Usually not a problem unless commercial considerations are involved.

But this caught my eye:

Full article here

So, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution nabbed a photo off my site (scroll to bottom) and attributed it to the Texas Rangers? Really?

Oh, well. I do wish they'd hotlinked the photo instead of copying it directly to their site. A few years ago, an Italian metal band ("Lost Highway" or "Endless Highway" or some such) linked to this photo...


...on its MySpace page. So I replaced it with this:


The band (or its webmaster) didn't notice for three months.

Posted by Lucas at 03:08 PM