Soon-to-be and official member of the Toronto Blue Jays, now-former Texas Ranger Darren Oliver never so much got a formal offer from the club he’s called home for the past two seasons, this according to the Star-Telegrams’ Drew Davison.
Oliver is 41 years old, he lives in Texas, and he’s never won a World Series. When the off-season began, there was talk that 2012 would probably be the final season of Oliver’s career and that he wanted to spend that season both close to home and with a club that gave him a chance to win the ultimate prize. From his end, at least, re-uniting with the Rangers made perfect sense.
Apparently, Jon Daniels disagreed.
The Rangers’ brass has remained relatively quiet throughout the off-season, but on the occasion that they have spoken, their words have been carefully chosen. When announcing the signing of closer Joe Nathan earlier this winter, Daniels indicated that the club’s focus would be on addressing the bullpen, even though starter C.J. Wilson was still very much in play.
You’ll recall, I’m sure, that Wilson never got a formal offer from Daniels, either.
With the Wilson situation, Texas’ master plan became clear shortly after the southpaw jumped ship for Los Angeles. Japanese right hander Yu Darvish was posted by his NPB club and the Rangers chose to spend big buck to try to land the right hander. Money they certainly wouldn’t have had had they chosen to spend big on Wilson.
As much as that plan makes sense in hindsight, the situation with Oliver is no where near as easy to deduce. Much like Wilson was to the rotation, Oliver was the club’s top left hander in the bullpen over the past two seasons. During that time, all he did was work in an average of 63 games per year, hold opposing lefties to a meager .556 OPS, and post a stellar 2.40 ERA. In short, he did everything you might want a LOOGy to do.
Oliver wanted to return to the Rangers. The Rangers had (and still have) a need for a left hander in their bullpen (actually, they probably need two). Oliver was great for Texas over the past two years. It was only going to be a one-year commitment.
Why then, would the Rangers not want him back?
You’re going to hear talk that this decision was over money, but that’s not an argument that I’ll buy. Much like they did with Nathan, the Rangers could have sewn up a new deal with Oliver quickly in November, long before anyone knew if Darvish would even be posted. While I’ve yet to see financials on Oliver’s reported deal with the Blue Jays, I think we can safely assume it would be somewhere between $2.5-4 million. When you are the two-time defending AL Champs and a club with a mammoth new TV contract, that’s not a lot of money for a very important piece of the bullpen.
But if Oliver wasn’t allowed to walk over money, and it certainly wasn’t over his performance over the past two seasons, why then would Daniels abstain from making an offer? My theory: Game Six.
We all know the details and I won’t make any of you re-live what happened in St. Louis. Oliver was set to face two lefties and the pitcher with a two-run lead. The results may have been a complete fluke (as I believe they were), but they are the results nonetheless. It was a situation tailor-made for a guy like Oliver. In a spot where the young kid had failed, just one inning later, an 18-year vet could have wrapped up the title.
Oliver couldn’t slam the door.
I don’t think it’s coincidence that neither Oliver nor Neftali Feliz will be in position to blow a late-inning lead for the Rangers any longer. Clearly, Daniels and company felt like a cleansing of the bullpen was needed in the wake of losing the World Series the way that they did.
That’s the only explanation I can come up with for allowing a venerable southpaw to walk away, especially when you have no ready-made answer for how to replace him.