Three Predictions For the 2014 Offseason

Gentry
Let me begin by saying that when Jon Daniels says that he expects the Rangers’ payroll to be in a “similar range, but a little below” the $125 million that the club spent in 2013, I don’t believe him at all.

It isn’t that I think Jon Daniels is lying to us, either. When it comes time to buy a new car, I wouldn’t suggest that you walk onto the nearest car lot and tell a salesperson your exact bank balance and budget. Advertising that you have money to spend would be an awful negotiating strategy.

When I put together the 40-Man Payroll Generator, I wanted  to illustrate where the Rangers currently stand when it comes to their payroll, and what payroll would look like (in comparison with the $125 million spent in 2013) if/when the Rangers added some of the more sought-after free agents. You’ll notice you’ll already have to cross Jose Abreu off of the default roster that I have set up.

The more I play with it, the more I come to a couple of conclusions.

If you clear the roster of all potential signings, replace them with internal options, and assume no re-signings, you’ll get to the tricky proposition of Joe Nathan. The Rangers hold a $9 million option for the 2014, which due to reaching specific milestones in his contract, Nathan can void should he choose to seek a longer-term deal.

Pick up that option (assuming Nathan chooses not to void it), and your payroll sits at somewhere around $114 million. If you assume that the Rangers buy out that option, the current roster (before adding a single player outside of the organization) sits at a payroll of around $105 million. Your starting catcher is Robinson Chiniros, Jurickson Profar is still playing “rotating DH guy,” and you’ve really only got $20 million to spend to improve the roster (if you believe Daniels).

Prediction 1: I love Joe Nathan. I don’t see how he can wear a Rangers uniform next year.

Even after clearing some space by choosing to find an answer at closer internally (or at a cheaper rate on the market), there are more holes to fill and not a whole lot of money to fill them with. The positions that the Rangers would like to improve are catcher, DH, 1B and LF. I think I would settle for three out of four.

Can you do that and keep the payroll at a reasonable level? I might not believe believe Jon Daniels, but I also do not foresee payroll approaching $140 million, either.

What about the trade market?

Before you trade Jurickson Profar to fill one of these holes, remember that the player you’re receiving gets paid a salary as well. Also, try to remind yourself that if Jurickson Profar could yield Giancarlo Stanton, we’d be discussing that transaction in past tense.

Are your crosshairs creeping towards second base? Mine too. And I really, really don’t want to trade that guy. He accumulated the 3rd most bWAR on the team in 2013, behind the ace and the All-Star 3B. And before we settle our crosshairs on our third best player, do we honestly expect the Rangers to sign 3-4 major free agents in the same offseason?

There is one other position young Jurickson is accustomed to playing. But are the Rangers going to trade their shortstop just months after signing him up for a decade?

I can talk myself into reasons why any of the three will be traded or not traded.

I can’t talk myself into reasons why the Rangers would enter 2014 with all three of them.

Prediction 2: The logjam in the middle infield will be resolved by trade before Opening Day.

With a limited number of resources, multiple holes to fill, and an aversion to signing aging free agents to long-term deals, it’s probably time we accept that some of the positions we perceive as areas the Rangers need to improve will be roles that are filled with internal options. It’s near impossible to fill every single hole in MLB, even with the best of front offices.

The Rangers will acquire a catcher. Even if that is simply re-signing Geovany Soto, the catcher position will not be filled by any player currently under contract. That is really the only “given” variable this offseason.

Mitch Moreland, who struggled mightily in 2013, is currently one of only two-lefthanded hitters who would be in the lineup if the season started today.

Craig Gentry accumulated more bWAR than Nelson Cruz, Derek Holland, or Leonys Martin last season. If today was Opening Day, and Craig Gentry was patrolling LF, where would we rank LF on our list of worries for 2014?

Does anybody see an obvious DH option on the market right now?

Prediction 3: Craig Gentry starts the 2014 season as the starting LF.

So, there you have it. Paying the best reliever in the organization not to pitch here, guaranteeing a blockbuster trade, and slotting KittenFace in the starting lineup. In October.

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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