Talking about money can be a rather tacky, uncouth exercise in self-importance. Fact: No one gives a shit how much money you make. No one wants to hear it. So if you are one to flaunt your annual income, just stop. For the love of god, please stop.
But what happens when the money you are discussing isn’t, indeed, yours? That’s different. For example, Jay Z’s net worth is north of $500 million, so Jay Z is cooler and more important than you — also a fact. For this article, though, we aren’t talking about famous hip-hop artists. Sadly. Instead, we’re looking at the payroll of the reason you clicked on this article, the Rangers.
In 2013, the franchise’s total financial commitment was just shy of $120 million, however, with the $6 million they paid the Phillies to take Michael Young off their hands, that figure jumped to roughly $125 million. It was high enough to put the Rangers in the upper-third of Major League Baseball, but not nearly as high as it figures to be in 2015 once the television money starts kicking in. By that time, Texas figures to be in the $150-$160 million range.
Jon Daniels has expressed that the 2014 payroll will be similar — if not lower — than that of the 2013 team. So with that benchmark in mind, let’s get into the money that is already guaranteed to find out how much wiggle room will be available this offseason.
For this list, I am not including pre-arbitration eligible players. Those include guys like Jurickson Profar, Martin Perez, Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers, who will each be making the league minimum of roughly $500K.
Hitters under contract in 2014 (total commitment: $55.725 million)
Adrian Beltre — $17 million (signed through 2015 with a $16 million club option in 2016)
Ian Kinsler — $16 million (signed through 2017 with a $12 million club option in 2018)
Elvis Andrus — $6.475 million (signed through 2023 with a $15 million vesting option in 2024*)
Alex Rios — $12.5 million ($13.5 million club option in 2015)
Leonys Martin — $3.75 million (arbitration eligible in 2016)
Pitchers under contract in 2014 (total commitment: $29.1 million)
Yu Darvish — $10 million (signed through 2017**)
Derek Holland — $5.4 million (signed through 2016 with club options in 2017 & 2018)
Matt Harrison — $8.2 million (signed through 2017 with a $13.25 club option in 2018)
Joakim Soria — $5.5 million ($7 million club option in 2015)
Arbitration eligible*** (projected commitment: $13.7 million)
Craig Gentry — $1.9 million
Alexi Ogando — $2.9 million
Mitch Moreland — $1.4 million
Neftali Feliz — $4.2 million
Neal Cotts — $3.3 million
Adam Rosales — $1.1 million
Travis Blackley — $900K
* Elvis Andrus may opt out of his contract after 2018 and 2019
** 2017 becomes a player option for Darvish if he “meets certain Cy Young Award requirements”
*** The figures for the arbitration eligible players are strictly projections, and projections by me, at that. I strongly encourage you to take those numbers with a grain of salt, although, if nothing else, they offer a rough estimate of what each of those players are expected to receive.
With all these figures in mind, before free agency the Rangers payroll for 2014 projects to be a shade under $100 million. If Jon Daniels truly intends to keep the payroll between $120-$125 million — which is highly questionable, for a couple reasons — then it means Texas has about $20 million of space to work with. This will presumably be used to fill voids at catcher (two catchers), left field, and first base.
If Daniels decides to go the cheap route in the outfield, we can expect a platoon of Craig Gentry and Engel Beltre in left field, with Leonys in center and Alex Rios in right. For defensive purposes, this would make an excessive amount of sense, especially with catcher and first base taking priority. It’s no secret that Brian McCann will be the Rangers #1 target this offseason, and if he can be had at something in the range of 3-4 years at $14-$15 million AAV, then Geovany Soto could return as a cheap backup option at a figure similar to what he earned in 2013.
But that would cover about $17 million of the allotted payroll right there. That’s why it’s difficult for me to imagine Nelson Cruz returning on a one-year, $14 million qualifying offer, because that would bring the payroll closer to $130 million, surpassing the desired number Jon Daniels has in mind. It’s murky.
Conflate that by the prospect of adding Cuban import Jose Abreu, and you are looking at a helluva lot more money over budget. It’s like the Rangers are trying to fit a bunch of circles into square openings; it just doesn’t appear feasible.
What we know is, the pitching staff will be strong. With Darvish, Holland, Harrison, Perez and Tepesch, and a bullpen featuring the likes of Neal Cotts, Joakim Soria, Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross, Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando, there isn’t a whole lot that needs to be done there. The priority of the offseason is, well, offense. Strictly offense.
If I had to play the prediction game, I’d say McCann will be acquired via free agency, Geovany Soto will return on a $1.5-$2 million deal, and the Rangers will roll with what they’ve got. And make no mistake, that is still one damn good roster, capable of winning 90+ games and winning the American League West.
Of course, we don’t really know what the front office’s intentions are. Maybe this is the offseason they look to jack up the payroll, willing to spend big on guys like McCann and Abreu, and Cruz, returning themselves to the days of old where offense grabs the headlines while the pitching staff remains magnificent. We just don’t know.
Sandbagging is a big part of this portion of the year. It behooves the Rangers’ front office to make it seem like they won’t do anything major, because the more truthful information that makes its way to the media, the less leverage they have in dealing with agents, and other teams vis a vis the trade market. It’s best to keep shit on the down low.
So, as much as I’d love to see the team go crazy and acquire a bunch of talent, I recognize the long-game is more important. Keeping the window of success wide open means more than going all-in for one or two seasons. It’s the reason I can’t see Jurickson Profar being moved.
However, the pipeline doesn’t end with Profar. Although I can’t envision a scenario where he gets moved, I do believe this is the offseason where names like Luke Jackson, Rougned Odor, and Luis Sardinas come off the board. When you have Profar, Elvis Andrus, and Ian Kinsler all under team control for the foreseeable future, there are only so many middle infielders you actually need.
So, with that in mind, although free agency might not be the place the Rangers put all their chips this offseason, there is plenty of talent on the farm that can be shipped, and I do not think Jon Daniels will be as willing to stand pat this winter as he was last year.
“It’s Time” may have been a mantra invoked in 2010 when the club was on the precipice of greatness, but it’s been time. This franchise is due. And 2014 is the year to actually do it.