In my article dissecting Texas’s 2014 payroll, I had the Rangers checking in at just shy of $100 million in total payroll commitment (I believe the actual figure was something like $98.5 million).
However, in my breakdown, I also asked for a little leeway vis a vis my projections for the arbitration-eligible players. It was not an exact science from my end, with the gross total meaning more than what each individual player would be receiving.
MLB Trade Rumors, however, is more exact, so below I will posit what my projections were next to their more realistic arbitration figures:
Craig Gentry — $1.1 million; I had him at $1.9 million
Alexi Ogando — $2 million; I had him at $2.9 million
Mitch Moreland — $2.7 million; I had him at $1.4 million
Neftali Feliz — $3 million; I had him at $4.2 million
Neal Cotts — $1.5 million; I had him at $3.3 million
Adam Rosales — $900K; I had him at $1.1 million
Travis Blackley — $600K; I had him at $900K
So, in short, MLB Trade Rumors expects the Rangers will pay $11.8 million to their arb-eligible players, while I had it at $13.7 million — a $1.9 million difference — taking the team’s projected financial commitment from about $98 million to roughly $96 million. Right now you are probably thinking to yourself, “Geez, who cares?” Well, I care. I’m just trying to be precise, guys.
Anyway, the main paragraph that struck me in the linked piece from above is this:
The most likely scenario is that Cruz will return, either by accepting the qualifying offer or reaching some other sort of deal to stay in Texas, while Nathan will depart. If the Rangers plan to have a $125MM payroll, that would leave them very little to play with on the free agent market, and the Rangers need to acquire at least a catcher with that money.
The first sentence, in essence, is why I don’t think it would make sense to issue the $14.1 million qualifying offer to Nelson Cruz, but if the Rangers did, it would have to be with the knowledge that Cruz wouldn’t accept it. There just simply is not enough money floating around for Texas to give up $14.1 million to Nelson Cruz — jacking the payroll up to about $110 million — and still have enough remaining money to pursue a left fielder (assuming Cruz would become the DH), a first baseman, and two catchers.
Acquiring Brian McCann alone would likely bump the payroll over $125 million next year, unless the organization got creative and backloaded a three- or four-year contract.
This, in a nutshell, is why the coming offseason is even fuzzier than last year’s, which was supposed to be the craziest of them all (at least in a transitional sense). Compared to last winter, where most of us pretty much knew that Josh Hamilton wouldn’t be returning, and neither would Koji Uehara or Mike Adams — and to a lesser extent, Mike Napoli — this year we don’t know much of anything.
We don’t know whether or not Nelson Cruz will come back on a qualifying offer. We don’t know if the club plans on trading Ian Kinsler or Jurickson Profar. And we don’t know how serious their interest level is with Brian McCann, even in spite of numerous media reports suggesting the interest is clear and present.
All we know is the Rangers have about $30 million to spend, and they have 4 positions to spend it on. That is, of course, if you believe Jon Daniels when he says the organization plans on keeping its payroll around the $125 million. It’s reasonable to think that number is a little more flexible than the front office is making us believe.
If I’m being honest, I think this offseason could go one of two ways: Either boring and uneventful, or crazy.
The boring and uneventful route is fairly straightforward. Ian Kinsler shifts from 2nd base to 1st, Jurickson Profar occupies 2nd, and Nelson Cruz returns as the team’s designated hitter. Craig Gentry and Engel Beltre would platoon in left field — with Martin in center and Alex Rios in right — and the remaining $10-$15 million would be spent on acquiring a starter catcher and a backup. Pretty simple, right?
That roster, albeit not very sexy, would offer a realistic shot at repeating 90+ wins for a 5th consecutive season.
However, the latter scenario is completely up in the air. The Rangers could be feigning with their payroll projection and decide to go after a guy like Jacoby Ellsbury, or perhaps trade Jurickson Profar to the Marlins in a package or Gioncarlo Stanton, or, for that matter, to the Rays for David Price. Maybe go big and get Brian McCann or Mike Napoli.
As you can see, there are a lot of options at play.
If you were to ask me, I’d obviously say door #1 is more realistic, but perhaps I only think that because I’m supposed to think that. Because that’s what the Rangers want me to think.
I love a good conspiracy as much as the next, but during the offseason — where the Rangers are linked to just about every imaginable trade or free agent candidate — the only available facts manifest themselves at the same time a deal actually takes place. And while it may be exciting to picture Jacoby Ellsbury with TEXAS across his chest, or some romantic scenario involving a Mike Napoli return, the truth is that those transactions are far less realistic than nothing happening at all.
That may not be fun. It may not give us as much to talk about. But in an era where the media wants to crown the Angels World Series Champions after acquiring Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton, or the Dodgers for netting Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford and Zack Greinke and Yasiel Puig, what we’ve come to realize is a sexy roster doesn’t always guarantee results.