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January 27, 2010

Golson Traded



In November 2008, I punched out two paragraphs about the Mayberry-Golson trade that could’ve been better expressed with just a weary sigh.

One disappointment for another, as Texas relinquished the nearly assured blandness of Mayberry for the potential of Golson. Mayberry (19th overall, 2005) showed impressive power but otherwise failed to improve during his steady ascent through the minors. He’s never hit for average or drawn many walks, and at 25, his upside is limited. Philadelphia added him to its 40-man roster.
Golson (21st overall, 2004) likewise hasn’t advanced as hoped. Though a fine baserunner with moderate home-run prowess, his production is sabotaged by an atrocious batting eye that hasn’t improved an ounce in four years. Chris Davis might survive with a 5:1 ratio of strikeouts to walks. Golson won’t. He’s two years younger than Mayberry, can play center field, and is far toolsier. The Rangers win if they can instill in him some selectivity at the plate. A tall order.
Even though Mayberry was the better player, Golson had the upside, so the trade was defensible. Golson had a slight chance at becoming a valuable player if he could ever rectify his horrid plate approach, whereas Mayberry’s stoic performance would never stray far from replacement level. Think of their potential this way:


Golson’s removal from the 40 seemed a bit odd in terms of roster management. He still has an option, whereas shortstop Joaquin Arias is optionless and has an employer that acquired/re-signed no fewer than four backup infielders during the offseason (Greene, Inglett, German, Olmedo). That said, the Rangers indicated what lay in store for Golson when they let him cool his heels in September and instead retrieved AA center fielder Craig Gentry from AA.

Hilligoss is a shortstop who has moonlighted at third and first, positions at which his bat appears totally unsuited. Regarded as an intriguing hitter out of Purdue in 2006, he hasn’t cracked AA in four professional years and posted a dire .239/.286/.299 across two seasons in the Florida State League (which is pitcher-friendly, to be sure, but not nearly enough to rescue that line). He turns 25 in June and doesn’t rank among Texas’s top 50 prospects.

Posted by Lucas at 11:52 AM

January 26, 2010

The Return Of Colby

Texas signed pitcher COLBY LEWIS to a two-year contract with a club option. Texas placed infielder JOE INGLETT on waivers.

The Rangers have 104 pitcher-seasons of at least 25 starts. Colby Lewis’s 2003 ranks last in ERA (7.30), ERA+ (69), opposing on-base percentage (.402) and opposing slugging (.550). In 2004, he underwent surgery for two tears in his rotator cuff. In the subsequent three years he was waived twice and released twice. He spent the last two seasons in Japan.

And with this resume, the cash-strapped Rangers guaranteed him $5 million? Stupefying. Terrifying.

No, no, no. Just kidding. While the first paragraph is factually correct, it glosses over two superior years overseas. During Lewis’s initial venture in Texas, the respectable control exhibited in the minors vanished on the mound in Arlington. In Japan, Lewis walked or hit less than 5% of opposing batters while fanning 26% and leading the league in strikeouts in both seasons. That won’t translate directly to the US, of course, but Lewis has apparently learned to pitch rather than throw. He also employs a cutter, that favored pitch of rotation mates Scott Feldman and Tommy Hunter. There’s considerable upside to this deal, particularly in the form of a $3.25 million club option for 2012 should Lewis pan out. If he flops, Texas appears to possess some supra-replacement-level pitching depth. Plan B is not Elizardo Ramirez or even Luis Mendoza. Also, with payments to A-Rod, Little Cat, and three others ceasing after 2010, having to eat Lewis’s 2011 salary becomes more palatable, if need be.

(Interestingly, Lewis and pitcher Ben Kozlowski were teammates with Hiroshima in 2008-2009, several years after being lost on waivers by Texas within days of each other in October 2004.)

Inglett was/is a marginal candidate for the 25-man roster, so outrighting him to Oklahoma City now (assuming he clears waivers) really doesn’t significantly affect his status. He’s a pretty darned good backup 5th infielder, and I don’t mean that as a backhanded compliment.

Only 16 hitters populate Texas’s 40-man roster, and that includes dead-man-walking Joaquin Arias.

Posted by Lucas at 02:10 AM

January 24, 2010

Transaction

Hicks Sports Group LLC sold the TEXAS RANGERS BASEBALL CLUB to Rangers Baseball Express LLC for $570 million and a player to be named later.

I'll go ahead and let the bitterness flow forth so I can move on. No need to write anything new. To quote myself...

On my site, February 2004, regarding the trade of Alex Rodriguez, which doesn't mention the owner specifically but applies nonetheless:

An absolute disaster, and as stark of admission of organization-wide failure as can be imagined. Placing Rodriguez on waivers might have made more sense. Had Texas merely swapped Rodriguez for Soriano straight up, they could have excused the deal as a pure salary dump. But remarkably, Texas will contribute $67 million to the $179 million due to Rodriguez. Texas will pay Rodriguez $3 million this season, $6 million in 2005 and 2006, $7 million in 2007, $8 million in 2008, $7 million in 2009, and $6 million in 2010. Also, Texas will pay the entirety of Rodriguez's remaining deferred salary of $24 million, the payments of which were pushed out five more years and at an annual rate of 1.75% compared to the 3% in the original deal.. Adding in the remaining $4 million of his signing bonus and the $12 million in deferred salary accrued from 2001-2003, the Rangers will pay Rodriguez $83 million spread over the next 22 years.
For all this, Texas gains the ever popular "financial flexibility," a term of art that means little without the wherewithal to use it properly. In 2004, this newfound flexibility is a moot point, as the time to sign worthwhile free agents has long since passed (unless Greg Maddux loses his marbles and decides that several summers in Arlington would be a fine way to close a career). This season, practically all of the savings not spent on Soriano will rest contentedly in Tom Hicks's wallet.

Rodriguez did Hicks quite the favor by opting out of the final three years of his contract. Still, the new owners will pay $3 million to Rodriguez in 2010 -- the last of his deferred signing bonus -- which I believe finally closes that sordid book.

What I wrote in the Hardball Times annual, 2008:

Amidst these and previous management shakeups is team owner Tom Hicks. Though not impetuous in the manner of vintage-period George Steinbrenner, Hicks seems to institute a new five-year plan every other year or so. Some examples: 1) fired GM Doug Melvin two years after Texas won its third division title in four seasons, by far its most successful era; 2) signed Alex Rodriguez to a ten-year deal, then traded him three years later; 3) gave former GM John Hart license to spend freely after 2001, then instituted an aggregate payroll cut of over $30 million that lasts to this day; 4) fired assistant GM Grady Fuson two years and nine months into a three-year “internship? for the GM spot; 5) gave manager Buck Showalter a three-year extension following 2004, then fired him before it kicked in; and 6) hired a 30-year-old Ivy Leaguer as GM, then hired the older, old-school Nolan Ryan as his boss two years later.

Fuson's drafts turned out to be barely qualified disasters. 2002 produced virtually nothing beyond Kameron Loe. Unless Eric Hurley recovers, 2004's top pick will be Brandon Boggs. Also, Ryan and Daniels have co-existed better than I expected.

Nevertheless...

Team Record, AL West, 2000-2009:
LAA 900-720
OAK 890-728
SEA 837-783
TEX 776-884

Posted by Lucas at 12:29 AM

January 16, 2010

Nippert Avoids Arbitration

Texas signed pitcher DUSTIN NIPPERT to a one-year contract for $665,000.

With two years, 140 days of MLB service time, Nippert gained "Super 2" arbitration status by exactly one day. That extra day is worth almost $250,000. Nippert pitched inconsistently in 2009, as always, but with enough of the variance on the happy side to be pretty useful. He's a dark-horse rotation candidate, more likely a mop.

Posted by Lucas at 06:00 PM

January 15, 2010

McCarthy Avoids Arbitration / Charlie O. Was Right

Texas signed pitcher BRANDON MCCARTHY to a one-year contract for $1.32 million.

The Rangers avoid arbitration, as is their wont, but accede to doubling McCarthy's pay despite his 97 innings and 4.62 ERA (4.70 FIP). Projection systems expect similar results in 2010. Yee-haa.

Posted by Lucas at 02:29 PM

January 12, 2010

Guerrero and Greene

Texas signed outfielder VLADIMIR GUERRERO to a one-year contract plus a one-year mutual option.

Texas will pay Vlad $5.5 to $6.0 million in 2010 and an undisclosed salary or a $1 million buyout in 2011. Guerrero can also decline the option sans buyout.

I’m trying and failing to envision Guerrero wearing a blue cap emblazoned with a white “T.? Guerrero has murdered the Rangers for six seasons running. Even during 2009, his worst as a regular, Vlad batted .404/.433/.579 against the Rangers. Simply not having him as an opponent is worth a few million.

Past and present Dallas Morning News scribe Evan Grant compares and contrasts Guerrero to notable free-agent flop Richard Hidalgo, concluding: “Vladimir Guerrero is not Richard Hidalgo.? Quite so. Hidalgo was a great hitter for exactly two seasons, while Guerrero has the 6th-best OPS+ among active players. Still, they both dove off a cliff prior to signing with Texas:

Hidalgo:
1999-2003: .277/.360/.511
2004: .239/.301/.444
2005: .221/.289/.416 (with Texas)

Vlad:
2004-2008: .323/.387/.557
2009: .295/.334/.460
2010: ???

(Incidentally, Hidalgo, who hasn’t played in the Majors since 2005, is only four months older than Guerrero and still attempting a comeback.)

2009 was Guerrero’s worst season since 1998. Once a fearsome hitter, capable runner, and rifle-armed outfielder, Guerrero has declined sharply of late, suddenly unable to play the field competently and occasionally looking lost at the plate. Per Fangraphs, 2009 was his first season since at least 2002 that didn’t produce favorable results against fastballs, and his ratio of homers to fly balls dipped precipitously. Guerrero’s skill set doesn’t (or didn’t) portend a rapid decline in production, but not everyone ages gracefully. Witness 2009 reclamation project Andruw Jones.

Guerrero definitely fills a hole at DH; he’s not pushing the next Edgar Martinez back to AAA. Prior to his signing, Texas’s optimal solution against lefties was David Murphy, either as DH himself or in the field while giving another outfielder a “half day off.? Versus lefties, against whom Murphy flails, Texas had… Max Ramirez? Brandon Boggs? A still-germinating Justin Smoak? A reserve infielder?

Bill James envisions a strong rebound for Guerrero (.305/.369/.508, not park-adjusted, I assume) while CHONE is more circumspect (.291/.334/.460) in projecting a repeat of 2009. There is also the non-zero probability that Guerrero is toast. Happily, Texas’s most advanced hitting prospects, Smoak and Ramirez, are precisely to type who could replace Guerrero at DH if they shine in AAA while he falters. Guerrero’s a worthy signing at a reasonable price, with a fair amount of upside and downside.

Texas also signed infielder KHALIL GREENE to a one-year contract for $750,000.

And Joaquin Arias’s wafer-thin chance at a Major League paycheck just evaporated. The Rangers previously re-upped with Esteban German and nabbed Joe Inglett off waivers from Toronto. Both reasonable maneuvers, but neither answered the question (except derisively, perhaps) of who would back up for Elvis Andrus.

The answer is Greene, who’s been chasing his very promising rookie campaign for five years. Over the years, he’s drawn few walks, his extreme fly-ball tendencies have swallowed his batting average whole, and UZR thinks ever more unkindly of his defense. Thus, instead of cashing in on his first winter as a free agent, he’s accepting a one-year deal for less than double the league minimum. Greene is due for improvement, I suppose, inasmuch as it’s really hard to hit just .217 on balls in play. He played some third in St. Louis and will probably spell Kinsler at second also.

Posted by Lucas at 12:45 PM

January 03, 2010

Point - Counterpoint

The top two headlines at NFL.com:

Posted by Lucas at 12:56 PM

January 01, 2010

Happy New Year, Jack

Last New Year's Day, Courtney and I were roused from sleep by the sounds of Jack suffering a tonic-clonic seizure. He survived, barely, but the long-term prognosis was poor. During several months of thrice-daily anti-convulsant medicine, he recovered about 80% of his pre-seizure agility. He enters 2010 healthy and med-free. Go, Jack.

Posted by Lucas at 01:37 AM