The Great Sambino Boldly Predicts The 2016 Season

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Let’s face it: We’re in the boring times of Spring Training.

The excitement of first report has faded into the ether, and now we sit in the murky bouillabaisse of meaningless game after meaningless game for a month plus. We’re about to be besieged by “best shape of his life” and “getting work in.” The collective baseball fandom now awaits early April, when real games begin.

No fret though, because the Great Sambino is here to alleviate some of the March Doldrums. I have a crystal baseball that’s been blessed by the juice from a red solo cup found in every college fraternity hall, an half empty syringe with “A. Rodriguez” engraved on it, and half a bottle of champagne left over from the 2015 AL West title celebration. It contains all the magic properties that enables me to boldly predict what will for sure happen in the upcoming months of Rangers baseball.

Without further ado, come join the Great Sambino as I give you the early lowdown on what’s about to go down during the 2016 Rangers campaign.

1. Prince Fielder will earn MVP votes after a 30+ home run season: So this one might not be that extreme, but the Prince pessimism is real. Not that I blame people. Fielder didn’t show as much pop as he’s previously displayed, which isn’t a good look for an early 30s guy coming off neck surgery. That said, my hunch is that his neck issues and recovery from such is two tiered. Last season was the re-acclamation process, and this season will be the full Prince Fielder experience. Why? In his recovery year he posted a wOBA of .360 and a wRC+ of 126, both well above MLB average. He clubbed 23 homers last season, so a few more feet here and there easily results in that going up past 30. A 30 homer year from Prince means Texas is one of the best offensive teams in baseball, which means the big man gets consideration for the big award.

2. The Rangers will change closers twice before the season ends: Without question Texas’ biggest asset is the bullpen. They’re deep, throw hard, and have no regard for what side of the plate you hit from. Shawn Tolleson was at the forefront of the reliever revolution last season, stranding almost 83% of hitters faced while cruising to 35 saves.

Yet, bullpens are a fickle thing.

Texas has a lot of “sell high” assets and if Tolleson isn’t #1, he’s 1A. He’s young, successful, and under team control until 2019. Texas is likely to need something at the deadline or even before, so being able to cash in the Tolleson chip will be a valuable asset for GM Jon Daniels. When Tolleson is gone, the team will have to choose between Jake Diekman, Keone Kela, and Sam Dyson. I predict they’ll start with the flame throwing Kela, with Diekman and Dyson going 7-8 as his set up men.

However, due to injury or erratic control of that giant ballistic object Kela calls a fastball, the Rangers will be forced to slide Sam Dyson into the 9th inning spot. This will be the right decision, as the power sinker will befuddle hitters all the way to and through October.

3. Josh Hamilton will play at least 60 games for Texas in some capacity:

Man, when was the last time anyone at SDI talked about Josh Hamilton?

Oh, here and here? Got it.

Anyway, with Hamilton missing the first month of the season(likely more when you factor in rehab time) the idea of a full 162 of Josh just isn’t possible. That said, I’m not bearish on Josh. A lot of this stems from the fact that I don’t treat him as Josh Hamilton, all world talent. I treat him like Josh Hamilton, super cheap 4th/5th outfielder. That’s the only fair way to treat him in 2016 because that’s what he is. Once his knee heals up, I’m thinking Texas is going to need him in various places down the stretch.

Will he ever be what he once was? Of course not, and if you expect that of him then you’re a fool. But if you need him to be a spare part outfielder, that’s doable.

4. Adrian Beltre will NOT sign an extension of any kind with Texas: So this has been a recent point of discussion with the elder statesman of the Texas infield. Recent reports have Beltre wanting three more years at $19 million per year. Not total, per year.

Can we talk frankly for a moment?

If you’re a Rangers supporter you love Beltre. His tenure in Texas has been wonderful. At the plate, in the field, in the clubhouse; there’s nothing to complain about with Adrian Beltre. Many fans want him to finish his esteemed career with the Rangers, hoping he can win his first title in Ranger red to boot.

I understand this sentiment, I really do.

I just can’t agree with it.

Under what Beltre is reported to want, you’d be paying out his ages 38-40 season at almost $20 million a pop. That’s more than Fielder is getting from Texas(thanks Tigers, you’re a pal) and one million less than Shin Soo Choo is earning annually through 2020(Choo won’t turn 34 until July). Those two players, along with Elvis Andrus, represent a big chunk of Texas’ future commitments. Texas already being cash strapped, despite what Ray Davis tells Evan Grant, means that committing $60 million to a soon to be 40 year old with injury concerns going forward is not wise money use. Even if the payroll was more massaged, this allocation of resources seems poor.

5. In a franchise altering move, the Rangers make the following trade:

Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Shawn Tolleson, and Derek Holland to the New York Mets

Noah Syndergaard, Wilmer Flores, and mid-level prospect(s) to Texas.

So that’s a lot to unpack. We’ll take it step by step.

For the Mets: Last year’s NL Champions are still missing pieces if they hope to repeat. Their rotation is overly right handed, which is why Derek Holland intrigues. Factor in that Holland is controllable for two years past 2016 at a decent number and he’s an attractive third starter for a rotation that’s led by Matt Harvey and Jacob DeGrom.

As for Beltre and Andrus, well the left side of the Mets infield is a bit spotty. Wilmer Flores is a nice player, but Andrus is a controllable better player than Flores. Beltre meanwhile is an expiring deal that can replace David Wright if/when he goes down to injury without losing much in the way of quality. I went back and forth whether the Mets would want Delino DeShields or Shawn Tolleson. Since I can’t guarantee the Mets won’t have a member of their bullpen banned for PED use, Tolleson seems like the better fit.

For Texas:  This helps the Rangers on a lot of fronts. It goes a long way to helping balance and improve the major league pitching staff. Syndergaard is a young dominant righty on a staff that pre-trade featured three lefties. Bringing on Thor would not only make your rotation more balanced, it would also look like this:

  1. Cole Hamels
  2. Yu Darvish
  3. Noah Syndergaard
  4. Martin Perez
  5. Literally does not matter

It also gives Texas insurance against the day when Darvish leaves to go take the GDP of a small nation during his free agency year. Also, it’s not like Cole Hamels will be here forever. This improves the pitching short term, while giving the Rangers a long term ace they can control into the next decade.

What this more represents is the youth movement being kicked off in outstanding fashion. Out goes Andrus and Beltre, in comes Joey Gallo and Jurickson Profar(with Flores as your new backup). This shaves a bunch of cash off your payroll, which you’re going to need if you want to entertain the notion of retaining Darvish or bringing in anyone of significance. In theory if you wanted to hold onto Tolleson, you could send DeShields to Citi Field with Lewis Brinson banging on the door. Either way, both teams would see a considerable shift in their fortunes with a bunch of new names.

Are there a lot of variables? Of course. Will it likely happen? This isn’t about being logical. THESE ARE BOLD PREDICTIONS, SON! Goose Gossage would laugh at you nerds who want “feasibility” in your columns. Your takes must be hot, that’s the only way you can get attention! That said, here’s the final prediction:

6. The Texas Rangers will make baseball history on July 2nd by signing the first ever primate baseball player.

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This is Gus the baby gorilla. He lives at the Fort Worth Zoo. Desperate to find the next market inefficiency, Texas will sign this fine young gorilla to break the primate barrier in organized baseball. Jon Daniels will hold a press conference telling us that it’s hard to project Gus’ position long term. They’ll have to wait for his body to fill in and get him in camp next spring. He’ll downplay the potential of Gus mauling his fellow teammates, while assuring everyone that this was money well spent.

So it is predicted, so it shall be. Have a great spring everyone!

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Samuel Hale
When Samuel isn't displeasing you with his opinions about the Texas Rangers, he's trying to corral young broadcasters at UTA Radio. If you buy him pizza and high class chocolate milk, he'll probably be your best friend. Probably. He got to see Texas clinch a World Series berth in person, and sports cried when Pudge Rodriguez went into the Rangers Hall of Fame. He enjoys the Oxford comma and over tweeting.

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