Expect the Unexpected
By Eric Reining
I’ve had a couple running dialogues with Rangers’ fans since the season ended. Sometimes we talk about what we think the front office will do with the free agent market, other times we hash over what we ourselves would do with the players already on roster. It’s interesting. What I’ve come to realize is, the more fans I converse with, and the more perspective I draw from them, that I’m even more alone on my island of thoughts than I first believed. Yes, there is a select circle of Rangers fans whom I agree with on most topics, but I’ve yet to decide if we’re the only ones who have a clue about what’s going on, or if we’re more delusional than the average fan who hopped on the bandwagon after Texas made the World Series in 2010.
I just don’t know.
A couple weeks ago, the topic of Justin Upton came up. If you’ve frequented this blog you know my stance on Upton (or insert 5-tool outfielder here), but, as far as the fan base is concerned, there isn’t a high degree of confluence on the matter. You’re either on board with the idea of possibly trading Elvis Andrus, or completely against it. After all, that’s the nature of hypothetical trades when you love the player you’d potentially be losing. It’s polar.
One thing that stuck out to me in our exchange was this statement:
I’m not sure why Andrus keeps getting put into these equations, when the Rangers have made it clear (over and over) he’s simply not available in trade… Eric, I trust that the facts are more likely to come from people in the know, and those that talk to them …and that ignoring them is going to be an exercise in vanity and stupidity about 99% of the time. The Rangers have refused any and every overture to discuss Andrus in a trade.
I think, in a vacuum, what he’s saying is right. The Rangers have said ad nauseam to this point that Elvis Andrus isn’t going anywhere. The problem is, reality doesn’t function in a vacuum. It happens behind big wooden doors in secret meeting halls, the rooms clouded by expensive cigar smoke, each front office member cloaked inconspicuously in an oversized trench coat.
Okay, maybe not. But that’s how I like to think of it.
If owners and general managers, and, to a more maximum extent, every member of the front office, told the truth 100% of the time, then yeah, I could see how one could consume every article the media wrote as gospel. However, we’ve seen countless times since the inception of this neo-Rangers regime that what they say through the media and how they act in reality are often times on diametrically opposing ends of the spectrum.
Take the middle of July in 2010 for example. This was the first time in over 10 years the Rangers were in legitimate position to make the postseason. It was also a year of transition in ownership, which is why we heard “The Rangers aren’t going to do anything at the trade deadline,” and “The Rangers don’t have any money,” and blah blah blah. Then, almost out of nowhere, news hit the wire that Texas had acquired Cliff Lee, that the Mariners used the leverage from Jesus Montero of the Yankees to ascertain the true object of its desire, Justin Smoak. And just like that, Jon Daniels made what could arguably be considered his finest move as GM.
The following offseason, after the Rangers were decimated in five World Series games against the Giants, Daniels made another monumental move seemingly out of nowhere: Signing Adrian Beltre. There were whispers that he was the Angels to lose, that the Angels were locks to sign him. Daniels silenced those whispers, and it was around the same time that he completed his coup de tat of the Angels organization by trading Frank Francisco to the Blue Jays for their recently-acquired Mike Napoli.
The moves that have held the most highly-concentrated impact have been the ones no one saw coming. Not the media, not the fan base — no one outside the small circle of ownership, Jon Daniels, and his veritable henchmen.
Later on in the small debate I had, the opposing party proclaimed, “If you want to maximize [Andrus’s] value, you leave his name out there and ask for the moon, but they aren’t doing that. I think those who have reported the situation on the Rangers’ attitude have it pegged accurately.”
Again, I know this sounds good; I know if you had a GM starter kit this is probably the format you’d try to operate with. But the Rangers aren’t a dormant franchise actively seeking to rid themselves of their lone superstar in hopes of rebuilding. With a young, still extremely talented core, the Rangers window of success seems to be far from closing.
The problem with freely dangling Elvis Andrus in front of a pack of 29 other franchises is that it, coincidentally, creates the same problem the Diamondbacks are facing with Justin Upton. When it’s known a player is available, it often times lowers his overall value because it makes it seem, at least ostensibly, that the organization wants to get rid of him. The team loses negotiating leverage.
At this stage, still a full week and a half before the Winter Meetings, it’s smart that the Rangers have kept their plans close to the vest, something they’ve become known for the last few years. I know we’ve heard about Zach Greinke and Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher and B.J. Upton, his brother Justin, and virtually every other big name that’s been rumored. Since no one really knows anything, it makes everything possible.
The smart money is on the Rangers ending up with one or two or three players no one had in mind. There’s an abundant supply of top-tier talent making its way through the minor leagues with Arlington as the destination. Perhaps they’ll one day make it there, or maybe they’ll do it in another organization. No one knows.
But what we do know is that if people are talking about it, it has less of a chance of happening than if people aren’t saying anything at all. My crystal ball is fuzzy. All I have to go on is recent history, and since it’s been so successful, what’s the point of changing?