We are a mere few days away from baseball’s annual winter meetings. That is usually when the big trades and free agent signings begin happening. The Texas Rangers have been relatively quiet so far this offseason save for a few minor league signings. The huge trade between the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays along with the Braves recent signing of B.J. Upton has Rangers fans wondering when Texas will make a big move.
It’s just not that easy.
Baseball currently has a salary cap of $189 million. The Texas Rangers plan on sticking with a payroll around $120 million. What has happened is the recent success has spoiled fans in a way and they believe that Texas should spend the money to sign the biggest free agents. Zack Greinke would be a very nice addition to the team but when was the last time a big free agent pitcher was willing to sign with the Rangers? The summer heat and the fact that Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is “hitter” friendly has always been a deterrent to potential big time arms. It may be hard to convince Greinke to come here and it may also be financially impossible.
First let’s take a look at the Rangers payroll as it currently stands. Ten players are currently under contract. They are Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Michael Young, Leonys Martin, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Yu Darvish, Joe Nathan and Adrian Beltre. Their combined salaries for 2013 puts payroll at $87.5 million. David Murphy is arbitration eligible along with Matt Harrison. Both will probably walk away with deals somewhere around $4 million per year. That increases the payroll to $96 million leaving Texas with $24 million to spend if they want to stay within budget.
Texas has two big needs and they are at catcher and starting pitcher. Minor needs include bullpen help and utility infielder. Contrary to popular belief among fans the Rangers do not need to get a big name outfielder to replace Josh Hamilton. Murphy, Martin, Gentry and Cruz can handle the duties just fine. Yes it would be nice to have an Angel Pagan or even Nick Swisher on the team but one must consider the financial constraints. The same goes with signing free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche. It’s a nice dream to have but Mitch Moreland is more than capable to do the job.
Let’s say Texas lands Greinke at six years for $140 million per season. That leaves them with roughly $1 million to “play” with. That doesn’t even include what Craig Gentry, Mitch Moreland, Alexi Ogando, Robbie Ross, Michael Kirkman and Tanner Scheppers will make. That leaves them with no choice but to go over budget in order to bring in a couple of catchers and add another infielder. Or they could backload Greinke’s deal so that his larger contract years kick in once Texas television deal begins in 2014.
Here’s where I play devil’s advocate and say no to signing Greinke. Let the Los Angeles Dodgers or Washington Nationals overpay. This is when I go with the popular theory of trading for David Price. Texas could send Elvis Andrus, Martin Perez and Leonys Martin to Tampa in the deal. Price is heading to arbitration and, if he wins, could make around $8 million next season. That’s considerably less than $20-$25 million.
By removing Andrus’ contract and taking on Price’s this leaves Texas at a payroll somewhere around $104 million (that includes all of the starters). Now Texas has $16 million to work with in order to rework Geovany Soto’s contract, sign another catcher and get bench depth.
There’s still plenty of time for deals to be made and they will be made. I know that it looks as the Rangers aren’t doing anything but you can be sure that the front office isn’t just sitting idly by as other teams make moves. Isn’t the offseason fun?
Until next time, I’ll see you in the cheap seats!
James Holland is a lifelong fan of baseball and his hometown Texas Rangers. He is also a senior columnist for shutdowninning.com, clawandantlernation.com and a member of SABR. You can also follow him on Twitter @SDIJamesHolland.