Sorry, Rangers fans but your team won’t be very good this year. Even before Yu Darvish went down and had Tommy John surgery, the team didn’t look too good. Yes there are some solid pieces on offense, including Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre. And yes, Yovani Gallardo was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers and will end up being the default staff ace. But the rest of the roster is pretty ordinary. So ordinary that this may be one of the most uninspiring teams in baseball to watch this year. Rangers fans, you probably knew all this. So here’s a proposition: throw in the towel on 2015 and get excited for 2016.
As we have seen rosters turn over during the off season, with roughly 25% of the players on 40-man rosters reporting to new teams this Spring Training, rebuilding and putting together a competitive team can be pretty quick and easy. This is now especially true with the addition of the second Wild Card in each league, with teams theoretically needing to win a mediocre 88 games. With the introduction of the second Wild Card three years ago, 30 of 33 teams with at least 88 wins made the postseason.
Since rebuilding quickly seems pretty easy these days, it may behoove the Rangers to move a major piece at the trade deadline this year. Because of baseball’s new fascination with aiming for mediocrity, more and more teams may feel they’re in the playoff hunt come the trade deadline. With more teams contending, the Rangers could command a pretty hefty price for a needed veteran who could shore up a team’s hole; a price that could pay dividends for the Rangers in 2016. What could they command? Multiple assets, including both pitchers and position players, that could provide depth and make the team a little less ordinary. Unfortunately Andrus, Choo and Fielder will be staying put as all three have very large, untradable contracts extending through at least 2020. That leaves Beltre.
On the last year of a five year deal with a team option for 2016, Beltre could be a prime target for a contending team. Although the team option is now guaranteed as Rangers GM Jon Daniels agreed to terms with Beltre in February to pick it up and swap the two year salaries, now $18 million for 2015 and $16 million for 2016, the third baseman could be considered a bargain for even the most cash strapped team, especially if he puts that team over the top and into the playoffs. Yes the third baseman will be turning 36 this year, but he still provides both a steady bat, hitting .324 in 2014, and Gold Glove caliber defense, last winning the defensive award in 2012. A team like, let’s say the White Sox, could use an infielder who is a defensive specialist with a little bit of pop, especially as the one glaring hole in the Sox infield is third base. The salary swap that Daniels manipulated could leave a team on the hook for a very reasonable $16 million next season.
Think about the possibilities for the Rangers in 2016. With a solid core of offensive players in Andrus, Choo and Fielder, plus pairing a healthy Darvish with Gallardo, not to mention the nice haul from trading Beltre, the Rangers may be one or two moves away in the off season to be competitive once again. What is more fascinating, the Rangers will have done something that seems very rare these days: keep fans excited with players that are familiar to them. Although Beltre may be gone, the collection of stars the Rangers have assembled since their two World Series appearances is quite impressive in the modern, Billy Beane “burn and turn” era.
One unfortunate consequence of the constant revolving door of players on teams is that baseball organizations are being filled with mercenaries instead of home town heroes. It seems that a young fan can no longer grow up having their star player come back year after year. We live in a society of “what have you done for me lately,” with people, like old editions of the iPhone, becoming disposable and insignificant in a rather short amount of time.
So take heart, Rangers fans. Some of your favorite players will be back in 2016. And they’ll be playing for a contender.
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