Tanaka, Garza, Russell Wilson and 3 Early Keys to 2014

Some random baseball thoughts in mid-December.

Masahiro Tanaka is going to get paid.

At first glance, I thought the Tanaka hype might be an overreaction to the success of Yu Darvish.

And then I did some research.


He isn’t Yu Darvish, and most scouts don’t see him as a future #1 starter, but Masahiro Tanaka might possess the nastiest splitter in baseball. He projects as a #2 starter in a rotation, his fastball reaches the mid-90s, and most importantly, he’s only 25.

The starting pitching market is thin. The 3-4 guys coming off of their best seasons are all nearing retirement. Ubaldo Jimenez, Hiroki Kuroda and Ervin Santana all received qualifying offers, meaning that they will all come with a price tag that also includes a draft pick.

Ricky Nolasco got 4 years and $49 million.

Scott Feldman got 3 years and $30 million.

The new posting rules that now allow for Japanese players to negotiate with multiple teams means that, unlike Darvish, a team paying Tanaka will not only have to outbid other teams, but they will also only have to pay a $20 million posting fee.

Back up the truck.

In Retrospect: The Matt Garza Trade

During a season that often left Jamey Newberg using the hashtag “#norentals,” Jon Daniels and company gave up what might have been a little bit of an overpay to bring in Matt Garza by sending Mike Olt and C.J. Edwards to Chicago.

Last week, Jon Daniels also decided to pay $12,000 to draft Russell Wilson, in hopes that he would come to Spring Training and set an example for their young players.

Did those two moves share a similar goal?

I thought about this while reading Ryan Parker’s fantastic scouting report on Matt Garza. It’s a subscription article, but for those of you who don’t subscribe – it reads like a really long, scary warning label. And then it gets to “Makeup.”

We’ve all seen Matt Garza on the mound, screaming into the webbing of his glove with an intensity unmatched by any other Ranger pitcher currently on the staff.

We’ve also seen unimpressed-Berkman photo-shopped into every situation imaginable. We remember being one strike away, and so did Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland. We remember Josh Hamilton dropping the fly ball, and more recently, the uninspired play during first half of June 2013.

“When he’s on he’s like a sniper in the field hitting targets with precision and putting batters down. When he’s off he channels his inner Pulp Fiction firing shots at random from around the kitchen door assured he would hit something only to be flustered when the situation turns on him.”

Sometimes that can be a good thing. 162 games is often referred to as a grind, because it is. Personalities matter. We can all point and laugh at overvaluing #leadership, but that isn’t necessarily what I’m referring to here.

I like what Elvis Andrus screwing with Adrian Beltre brings to this team. I think it’s important.

I’d love it if after the Cowboys most recent blunder against Green Bay Jason Garrett would’ve channeled a little bit of that inner Pulp Fiction.

With one of the best scouting departments in baseball, it’s hard to imagine that the Rangers didn’t know what they were getting in Matt Garza, but I do wonder if that intensity was something the Rangers thought they needed.

A couple of other notes I can’t quit thinking about

Its only mid-December, and the Texas Rangers are not done building their roster. I know that. But it’s tough for me to not already wonder some of what I think the keys for 2014 might be.

For 3 consecutive years, I thought Derek Holland’s development would be the key. I’m not sure I was ever right. In 2014, I’m more worried about another Rangers starter: Matt Harrison. After an 18-win season in 2012, two separate back surgeries sidelined Harrison for most of 2013. Can he stay healthy? Will he be the same guy? Colby Lewis is back on a minor league deal, but I don’t think the organization expects much in the way of contributions from Colby Lewis.

Especially in the case that the Rangers decide not to add either Choo or Cruz, how much might the Rangers depend on the progression of newly-minted second baseman Jurickson Profar? While the Fielder trade fixed a lot of issues (unclogging the logjam and adding a big left-handed bat), it also took Ian Kinsler’s bat out of the lineup. 

And what about Leonys Martin? While he’s still fresh in terms of big league service time, Martin turns 26 in 2014, and will earn nearly $4 million. Can he take the next step at the plate and provide Ron Washington with a quality lead-off man in addition to continuing to gun down base-runners who dare run on him?

A lineup of Martin, Andrus, Fielder, Beltre, Rios, Profar, Moreland/DH, Soto, Choice – looks a lot scarier if Martin and Profar can develop into the types of hitters the Rangers believe they can become.

Projections, in addition to being just that – projections, are generally conservative. If you’re worried about offense, remember that the club could get more from a couple of their younger players than you might expect.

If you didn’t make it to the Paranoid Fan meet-up with Jamey Newberg, Ben Rogers, and the SDI staff – you missed out.

In addition to being a group of fantastic baseball brains, this group also happens to be a collection of really good, entertaining, and humorous people. To those of you who came out, I just want to say thank you for making a night in mid-December baseball-awesome.

If you missed it – make sure you stay tuned-in for the next one, you won’t want to miss another one.
Peter Ellwood

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