Looking Ahead

Alex Rios joining the Texas Rangers last week represented a lot of things in the minds of fans.  It signaled that the Rangers front office is still committed to winning in 2013, despite a suspended Nelson Cruz, rapidly-aging Lance Berkman, and an offense that has been up and down all year long.
It also re-enforced the notion that Rangers ownership is willing to spend to make Texas a winner.

While I stole a phrase (“financial flexibility”) from another Dallas-Fort Worth sports franchise owner, comparisons between Mark Cuban, Jerry Jones and Bob Simpson and Ray Davis should probably stop right after it’s pointed out that all of them will spend money to make their team a winner.  When Bob Simpson and Ray Davis were present at an award presentation for Ron Washington, almost nobody recognized them.  They don’t sing in Papa John’s commercials or star in reality shows, but they are as committed as any ownership out there.

One byproduct of the trade deadline is sometimes we find out which players certain teams are interested in.  This year, reports came out that Texas has been interested in Braves catcher Brian McCann for quite some time.  Brian McCann is slated to be a free agent this offseason, and personally, he’s near the top of my wish list.  But I’m not the guy being asked to pay him.

With the successes of Yeonis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig, Cuban slugger-turned-defector Jose Abreu should land himself a big contract this offseason.  At 6-foot-3 and 250-pounds, the 26 year-old first baseman will be the target of several teams looking to infuse their club with young talent.

With Rios on board for 2014, what can the Rangers afford?

I’ll start by saying that these numbers are far from perfect.  One of the many issues when compiling salary data is not only the accuracy (in some cases, future arbitration amounts have been estimated), but also deciding where to draw the line.  Shouldn’t we take into account the extra money ownership threw into international free agency this year?  For purposes of this article, I’ve drawn the line after the active roster, with the addition of injuries and suspended players.

For a reference point, let’s take a look at a snapshot of what the Rangers payroll obligations this year were to the 25 players in the lineup on August 14th, with the addition of key injuries and Nelson Cruz.

Now, as I said before, this is far from perfect.  It does not even include the entire 40-man roster, and some numbers have been rounded or estimated.

Now, let’s take a look at what the Rangers have committed for 2014, and how much room they may have to sign new players, or trade for players with existing contracts before the 2014 season.  For purposes of this chart, I’ve stolen Bob Sturm’s “Fern” to be our GM this off-season.  No moves will be made.  No options will be exercised. This is what the chart above may look like if the Rangers decided to pass Nolan on the organizational chart once again and promote a plant to take over Jon Daniels’ role. This chart will also attempt to ignore any financial impact an angry Nolan Ryan taking a job with the Houston Astros would have on the ownership group.


The reason I have chosen to show the options as being declined is to illustrate the flexibility the club has going forward.  Joe Nathan’s $9 million team option certainly appears to be a worthwhile investment, but for purposes of showing how much the Rangers could spend on the free agent market, it has been omitted and shown as having been bought out by the club.

Using this model as a base, the Rangers would have roughly $19 million to spend on the open market for 2014, if their budget remained the same as it was in 2013.  Add back Joe Nathan’s team option and you can start wondering what cheaper catchers might be available.

Could the ownership group decide to spend more on the big league club in 2014 than they did in 2013?  Absolutely.  We can reasonably expect the Rangers to carry a larger payroll, especially in 2014-2015, going forward, but how much larger?  Can the organization afford to re-sign Matt Garza, as they alluded to when they signed him?

Is my pipedream of ever seeing Jose Abreu or Brian McCann in a Rangers uniform just that, a pipedream?

I can’t answer that question any better than anybody outside of the owners themselves, but I can tell you this – I’ve learned three things so far in 2013:

Never judge a bullpen in March.

Do not run on Leonys Martin.

Never, ever, count out the ownership and front office of this organization.

Robert Pike is a Staff Writer for ShutDowninning. He can be reached at Robert.Pike@ShutDowninning.com or on Twitter @Bob_Pike
Robert Pike

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