A Slippery Slope

Recently, Dave Cameron explored the idea that the Texas Rangers should look to blow this team up and rebuild. The article, found here, suggests that 2015 looks just as bleak as this season because of the financial responsibilities that are already in place that will leave little room to add any significant pieces. While there is always the chance that 2015 could end up in disaster (as could any season for that matter), using the word rebuild should be something that Ranger fans fear more than anything else. Rebuilding is choosing to go down a slippery slope that some teams never recover from.
The first problem with rebuilding is that sometimes you can never recover from that financial decision. Rebuilding means that the reset button is being pushed and the entire franchise is going to move in a completely different philosophical direction. The Pittsburgh Pirates have been “rebuilding” ever since Barry Bonds signed as a free agent with the San Francisco Giants in 1993. I lived in Kansas City after graduation during the summer of 1994 and went to many Royals games at the K (10 bucks would get you parking and a general admission ticket…oh, those were the days). That summer the Royals were one of the best teams in their division and up until mid August, they were competing for a divisional championship. Until last season, they haven’t really been close. Despite their domination of the prospect rankings in recent years, they also have been essentially “rebuilding” since the late 1980’s. In 2008 the Chicago Cubs won 97 games and had the second most wins in all of baseball. The Dodgers swept them in the NLDS and then after failed attempts to win with an aging roster, they decided to “rebuild” in 2011. They have not won more than 66 games in a single season since and although they appear to be close to competing, nothing is guaranteed. The list goes on and on with teams that have shifted their ideology and “rebuilt”, but almost all scenarios end up with long-term failure.

The second problem with rebuilding this Rangers team is it doesn’t fit the general roster profile for a rebuild. Teams that rebuild usually fall into two categories, or they have a change in ownership. If a team is loaded with aging veterans or they have several valuable players under team friendly deals it is logical for an organization to go with a “youth” movement and rebuild. The Rangers have very few team friendly deals that teams would be interested in (nobody is touching the contracts of Choo, Andrus, and Fielder), and other than Beltre and Rios, this team is still relatively young. There are definitely roster issues, and some options that this team can consider to pursue for 2015, but a complete overhaul doesn’t make sense with this current roster.

A third problem with rebuilding this team would be the ownership group doesn’t see the possibility for success in the coming seasons. In 2015 the Rangers will feature a lineup that includes some combination of Choo, Fielder, Beltre, Andrus, Odor, Profar, Martin, and possibly Rios. If healthy and assuming that full regression hasn’t set in at the plate for Andrus (big if, I know) the lineup has balance and has the ability to be productive. The pitching staff is in shambles this season, but with Yu Darvish and Derek Holland in 2015, it isn’t a complete disaster. Add a couple of free agent arms to the rotation, a healthy Martin Perez, prospects, and retool the bullpen, and the long-term future of this staff appears bright. Combine this with the new TV deal kicking in next season and the ability for Jon Daniels to possibly increase payroll this season also doesn’t make sense for rebuilding.

A fourth and final option franchises use to choose to rebuild is when owners seek to shed financial commitments and focus on profit margins rather than victories. Owners will sometimes find themselves in a financial corner and the only option is to shed contracts and start over knowing that losing seasons will be forthcoming. This ownership group has shown a commitment to winning from day one and have increased payroll each season since they took over. They have done whatever it takes, from a financial perspective in order to win, even if it resulted in what most perceive as bad contracts with Choo and Fielder. The franchise is in great shape from a financial perspective, and with the TV deal kicking in next season, this ownership group doesn’t appear to be backed into that corner just yet.

Heading down the “rebuilding” path is not a short journey, and despite the Rangers having a great farm system, the balance of proven veterans and kids is necessary to win in the big leagues.  The ownership group led by Ray Davis and Bob Simpson may decide to blow this thing up next week and start over, but I’d be shocked to see it.

Jeff Johnson

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