The official baseball offseason has yet to begin — not until the World Series is over — but that doesn’t mean the Rangers offseason hasn’t already gotten underway. Texas already re-signed Jason Frasor to a below-market $1.75 million contract to return to his middle relief role, and they’ve designated Jeff Baker for assignment to make room for RHP Matt West on the 60-man roster. If the front office had a choice on the matter, there’s no question they would rather see their team playing deep into October, but one of the silver linings to having your team eliminated is the extra allotment of time you receive to prepare for the ensuing free agent and trade markets.
Frasor, for instance, will return to a bullpen that is very likely to feature Neal Cotts, Joakim Soria, Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross, as well as Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando assuming neither begins the season in the starting rotation. Bullpens can be a fickle beast to project on a season-to-season basis, but even if we expect some regression from Frasor and Scheppers, it’s still a stable of arms worthy of envy from the rest of the league.
Here is a (brief) breakdown of where I expect them to go, and for how much money.
Cruz has fluctuated between above-average and impact force during his tenure with the Rangers, generating a lifetime .268/.327/.495 (114 wRC+) and +13.2 fWAR since joining Texas in 2006. Heading into his age-34 season, I’ve opined that it would be a mistake for the Rangers to offer him the one-year qualifying offer, so, in my assumption that he doesn’t return for the 2014 season, I wish him nothing but the best for all the wonderful memories, particularly his magical 6-game run during the 2011 ALCS.
Prediction: Nelson Cruz signs with the Mets for 2 years, $24 million.
His time in Texas was star-crossed, and he never lived up to his billing as a fringy top-of-the-rotation pitcher. In 13 starts with the Rangers he finished at 4-5 with a 4.38 ERA, despite pretty decent peripherals (74:23 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 3.65 xFIP). The fact was, in the American League, he could never quite limit the amount of hits he gave up (89 in 84.1 IP), and rarely exuded the type of “fire” or “killer instinct” that was promised. As one of the most attractive starters on the free agent market, Garza should be in for a nice payday, though by now it should be fairly obvious that the Rangers will not be the team paying him.
Prediction: Matt Garza signs with the Dodgers for 5 years, $90 million.
I’m a noted Lance Berkman apologist. Fact. He was the easiest Ranger to shit on during 2013, even though injuries derailed his season. It’s irrefutable that, even though his perceived level of play was well below expectation, his .340 OBP was nearly 30 points higher than the man he was ostensibly replacing in the lineup, Michael Young, who provided a .277/.312/.370 (79 wRC+) triple slash for the Rangers in 2012. Hate all you want, but his beef with C.J. Wilson is long gone — why would anyone want to defend C.J., anyway? — and his performance against the Rangers in the 2011 World Series is long gone as well. Get over it; dude was injured. Fans never blame players for injuries, unless, of course, they were already disliked to begin with. Check yourself.
Prediction: Lance Berkman retires.
Let’s be completely honest: The Rangers’ front office did an extremely poor job evaluating left field heading into the 2013 season. There’s no way in hell Murphy deserved an everyday role, even granting his fluky BABIP-induced .347/.405/.440 line against lefties in 2012. In 2013, he let down the front office’s faith by batting a measly .220/.282/.374 (73 wRC+) in almost 500 plate appearances, earning him the title as Worst Everyday Player, which wasn’t completely unexpected. Still, as a 4th outfielder throw-in from the Eric Gagñe-to-the-Red-Sox trade of 2007 — along with Kason Gabbard and Engel Beltre — Murphy provided solid value during his time with the Rangers, offering up a platoon-aided .275/.337/.441 with 85 home runs, worth +10.7 fWAR. Safe travels, Murph. We’ll (kinda, but not really) miss you.
Prediction: David Murphy signs with the Astros for one year, $4.5 million.
“A.J. Pierzynski is a scumbag.” “A.J. Pierzynski is an asshole and oh my god HAVE YOU READ THE THINGS HE’S DONE IN HIS CAREER?!” “I never want that guy playing on my team.”
[Rangers sign A.J. Pierzynski for one year and $7.5 million.]
“I love this deal!” “Ask his old teammates, A.J. is a great guy!” “For $7.5 million, there’s no way the Rangers could pass this up!”
A.J. was good with the Rangers. Not great, but good. I complained that Michael Young was rarely willing to take a walk, but holy shit. This guy wouldn’t know how to take a walk if his children’s lives depended on it. (Does he even have children? I assume he has children, but I don’t know. If he has children, I bet they’re all assholes, too. Just like daddy.) In 2013 he carried a walk rate of 2.2%. Yes, you read that correctly. For every 100 at bats, A.J. Pierzynski walked, like, twice. I can’t paint that narrative any other way than just… damn. Still, according to the WAR/$ paradigm, A.J. provided $9.6 million in value, given that the price of each win is $6 million. I was expecting (hoping for?) a little more, but that’ll do donkey, that’ll do.
Prediction: A.J. Pierzynski coaxes Tanner Scheppers into another bar fight — this time in Dallas — then is notified by his agent that the White Sox want him back. A.J. Pierzynski signs with the White Sox for one year, $6 million.
What can I say? He’s fat. He’s a backup catcher. He’s cheap. Yu Darvish likes working with him for Christ’s sake. Shouldn’t that be enough?
Prediction: Geovany Soto re-signs with the Rangers for one year, $1.9 million.
The Rangers are in that fortunate position to have the majority of the roster intact. Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Martin Perez are all under contract through at least the 2016 season, and all of Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, Jurickson Profar and Leonys Martin are each here, barring trade, for the long haul as well. Not a whole lot needs to be figured out at this point, but the spots that do need figuring — 1B, DH, LF, C — are each critical.
In a year labeled as a “transition season,” the Rangers managed to string 91 wins together. I would very much like for someone to try telling me that this ship has already begun sinking.