Not So Fast


Jon Daniels is a reputable, trustworthy individual. It’s hard to argue that he isn’t — based purely on decision making — because the results of the baseball teams he’s produced have been proven. Q.E.D. He transformed an organization from the pits of irrelevance to the standard-bearer of what a professional franchise is supposed to look like. So, even if there are still some fans out there bemoaning the fact of the Rangers failing the reach the playoff field for the first time in 4 seasons, reaching 91 wins is a figure the more rational among us will accept every year.

It says something about the state of the franchise — and of the fan base — that we are experiencing some disappointment right now.

As you know, now that the year is over for our club, we are already looking forward to 2014. In the next month, and the next 5 months, we as fans will play witness to perhaps the most compelling drama our great sport provides us: The off-season, fueled by empty rumors and unavoidable misinformation. It is baseball’s game within the game, and, in spite of the Rangers’ unprecedented success on the field over these last four years, behind the scenes the franchise may be even better.

During this off-season the Rangers will be linked to every major name on the free agent board, from Robinson Cano to Jacoby Ellsbury to Shin-Soo Choo to Matt Garza. On the trade market, there will be “whispers” and “rumblings” suggesting Texas will acquire Giancarlo Stanton or Carlos Gonzalez. And, surely, us as fans will have plenty to talk about.

Here’s the thing, though: There is little chance any of those names come to fruition. Like less than 5%. It’s not that the Rangers don’t have enough money to sign the free agents of their choosing, and it’s not that the farm system doesn’t have enough talent to get virtually anyone they want. Rather, it’s a matter of the existing climate in baseball.

See, with the amount of television money coming into play in 2014, the price to acquire free agents is skyrocketing. Last week Hunter Pence got 5 years and $90 million from the Giants. If Hunter Pence is worth $18 million a year, then I won’t even begin to guess what outfielders like Ellsbury and Choo will go for. If the almighty dollar is diminishing, then the cost of each win is rising, giving leverage to the players and their agents.

The same can be said on the trade front: It’s a seller’s market. Teams are more apprehensive to deal their premier prospects due to how much value they can provide for so cheap, and, in the same sense, they hold out for a king’s ransom on their best players.

There’s a reason Jon Daniels is a prospect hoarder. The key to sustaining longterm success under the current CBA is to retain as many quality players as possible, from the major league club down to the Arizona Rookie League.

If you are hoping for a blockbuster offseason filled with groundbreaking trades and multimillion dollar signings in free agency, then now would be a good time to temper those expectations. The Rangers are not that team.

 

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  • caseyabell

    You mentioned Hunter Pence, and he sure picked a nice time to have his best season. San Fran had a lousy year and Pence was simply their best player in 2013 according to Fangraphs, with a 5.4-WAR season. The site really likes the guy, saying he’s been worth an average of 3.5-WAR per season for his seven-year career. Baseball Reference likes him almost as much, though there are again the mysterious discrepancies on a season-by-season basis between their WAR numbers and Fangraph’s. In 2013, for instance, B-R rated Pence at 4.1-WAR and said he was the third-best player on the team.

    Just for once, I’d like a detailed explanation of why WAR evaluations can differ so noticeably between the two sites. The discrepancies make people doubt the validity of the stat.

    • Eric Reining

      Definitely.

      As I think I mentioned in a previous comment to you, a lot of it deals with defensive metrics. FanGraphs and B-R use UZR and DRS, respectively, and each of those use separate evaluations.

      Secondly, what is known as the “baseline, replacement-level” team was only agreed upon between the two sites last year, if I’m not mistaken. I believe FanGraphs had its replacement-level team (theoretically a 25-man roster compiled of nothing but 0.0 WAR players) at 49 wins, and B-R had theirs at 45 wins. The compromise was that the baseline was a 47-win team.

      So, even though I understand people having trepidation with WAR, it’s really a matter of semantics. Most of the time players will only have a discrepancy of a half-win, or one full win, but it’s more of a question of which paradigm you value more.

      Personally, I prefer FanGraphs just to keep it consistent.