Rangers Shopping On Cyber Monday
UPDATE: Navarro was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays this morning.
With the Rangers missing out on Brian McCann to fill the void at catcher, the soon to be 30 year old Navarro would be a nice consolation prize. Navarro yielded career highs in OBP, SLG, and wRC+ while with the Chicago Cubs in 2013. Navarro would be a decent platoon partner with Geovany Soto as Navarro is a switch hitter who has a career wRC+ of 108 against right-handed pitching. The former Cub has had issues hitting from the right side in his career, but hit southpaws very well in ’13 as his 110 wRC+ indicates. His defense behind the plate has also been adequate as he has never generated a below average season defensively according to Fangraphs’ defensive metric. If Navarro can be inked for a reasonable deal, he provides the Rangers a bridge at catcher until Jorge Alfaro is ready and more importantly ensures Soto will not catch 100 games in 2014.
The more appealing options are Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury, but Choo and Ellsbury will require long-term commitments and forfeiting first round draft choices in next June’s draft. Carlos Beltran could be a possibility, but Beltran will also require giving up your first round draft choice and he is a rather terrible defensive outfielder. Beltran should only be considered as a DH at this point of his career anyways.
If the Rangers are unable to sign one of the premier free agent outfielders, McLouth would be a perfect platoon partner with Craig Gentry in left field. The 32 year old McLouth has improved his defense each of the last three seasons according to the Fangraphs defensive metric, and has a career 109 wRC+ against righties. With Gentry’s career 111 wRC+ against left-handed pitching, Texas would have a solid offensive platoon in left field despite not having much power. McLouth is also a super base runner as he has been worth 14.3 BsR the last three seasons, including 6.1 BsR in ’13, which was tied for 11th in baseball. If signed to a reasonable contract, McLouth could provide excellent value for a cheap financial investment and allows the Rangers to keep their first round draft choice in June.
Morse had an absolutely dreadful 2013 season for Seattle and Baltimore, yielding a -1.6 fWAR in only 88 games. Morse produced career lows in OBP, SLG, and wRC+. He is also an awful defensive player and base runner. So, why would I recommend such a player? Well, Morse only had 337 at bats last season, and a .254 BABIP. For a hitter with a career .330 BABIP and 1.45 GB/FB ratio, one would expect his BABIP to increase next season. If one compares a few of his numbers from his ’13 season to his ’11 season, one will notice some similarities.
I have written about the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona in a couple of pieces already, and mentioned how teams will pay for predictive value statistics like xFIP with minimal regard for ERA. The Tim Lincecum and Dan Haren signings this off season are prime examples. While Hernandez posted a pedestrian 4.89 ERA in ’13, he did manage to yield a 3.60 xFIP. Pitchers who do not walk many, and induce a lot of ground balls can be quite valuable, and are even more valuable in the Rangers home ballpark. Hernandez does both well, and also strikes out his fair share as his 17.6 K% in ’13 indicates. Hernandez will be 34 next August and is not a glamorous name, but he would give the Rangers a satisfactory fifth member of the rotation at a price which would not cost them prospects like a David Price trade, or millions of dollars like a free agent splash would.
O’Flaherty just had Tommy John surgery in May. So, he would not be ready until around mid-season in ’14, but for the team who signs him, he could be an efficient left-handed weapon out of the bullpen late in the season. O’Flaherty was incredible in ’11, yielding an ERA of 0.98, and was not much worse in ’12 as he posted a 1.73 ERA. The 28 year old left-hander has always been death against same sided hitters as they have only generated a .242 wOBA against him in his career.
With healthy left-handed specialists such as Manny Parra and Javier Lopez signing multi-year deals this past week, with Parra’s being for two years, $5.5 million and Lopez’s being for three years, $13.3 million, one would expect for O’Flaherty to sign for slightly less than Parra. The Rangers have shown in the past the willingness to take a chance on a former elite reliever recovering from a major injury when they signed Joakim Soria to a two year deal last off season. While the Rangers have many options in the bullpen already, O’Flaherty would be a nice piece to have for later if any pitcher in the bullpen struggles or suffers an injury late in the year. If O’Flaherty is not able to contribute much, if the club signs him to a two year deal, they at least have a left-handed option out of the pen in 2015. I am not saying the Rangers need bullpen help, but feel signing O’Flaherty would be a shrewd signing for any team regardless of whether they need the pitching help.
These are just some of the potential cheap free agent bargains left on the market. Who would you like to see the Rangers sign? Do you prefer Black Friday or Cyber Monday?