Texas Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels is keeping a low-key approach to the Hot Stove League this year. Though his club has already signed closer Joe Nathan, it wasn’t the big splash that many were expecting.
The ramifications of the Nathan signing, however, cannot be understated. By inking the veteran closer, Texas is now free to move right hander Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation and will hope to enjoy the same success they’ve had in the past when converting a pair of relievers (C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando) into all-star starting pitchers.
While the Rangers are said to be comfortable heading into camp with the six starters they have in place, the same cannot be said of the bullpen. Nathan replaces Feliz, Mike Adams will be back in a set-up role, and the loser of the assumed battle between Scott Feldman and Ogando for the rotation will be a part of the ‘pen as well. But the current 40-man roster has just one left handed reliever with big league experience in Michael Kirkman.
Free agent Darren Oliver‘s status was altered by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement announced yesterday by Major League Baseball. The 41-year-old lefty had originally qualified as a Type-A free agent, but the changes made to the CBA have resulted in a modified Type-B status for Oliver.
Under the old rules, a new club signing Oliver away fro Texas would have had to sacrifice a draft pick to do so, and it was an unlikely scenario for a club to make such a effort for a player at such an advanced age. Now, should Oliver choose to sign elsewhere, the signing club will not surrender a pick.
Obviously, the change in Oliver’s status makes it much more likely that he could leave Texas, but Oliver has expressed a desire to finish his career (reportedly 2012 will be the last season for the southpaw) with the Rangers. Given that desire, I doubt that Oliver will be willing to move to a new club just for one last season, especially given the strength of the ball club he would be abandoning.
Even if Oliver is re-signed, Texas will be in play for some upgrades in the bullpen. After releasing Arthur Rhodes mid-way through the 2011 season, Oliver essentially became the only left handed option for Manager Ron Washington.
Kirkman’s presence doesn’t change that given his ineffectiveness last season and history of command issues. Mike Gonzalez was generally ineffective after being acquired late in the season and like Oliver, is a free agent. Gonzalez’s price tag is likely to be too high given his recent history; I’m doubtful that Texas will want to re-unite with him for 2012. Look for Texas to make a play for another left hander on the market to take some of the stress off of Oliver’s ageless arm.