Please Pass the Salt

It’s finally getting to me. The long winter, the mass quantity of hot stove talk and rumors; it’s all finally getting to me. Up until this point, I’ve let most of these rumors roll off my back. I know that it’s almost 100% speculation on the part of the national writers, or a whisper they heard from a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy. Rarely are they talking to decision-makers for ballclubs and getting an intimate view at team strategy for them to tweet to the world.

I don’t know if it’s because the Rangers haven’t yet made a major move this offseason, or because the Angels have made two, but lately I have been taking these rumors and whispers a little more seriously, probably too seriously.

For example, recently Jim Bowden said that he expects the Rangers to be the favorites to trade for Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland Athletics. Ken Rosenthal added that the Rangers are pursuing both Gonzalez, and Andrew Bailey from the A’s. Jon Heyman adds that the A’s are looking for a huge return from trading Gio. Buster Olney then goes into a little more detail, stating that if the Rangers lose out on Yu Darvish, a strong plan B would be to trade for Gonzalez, but that Martin Perez would most certainly have to be included in such a trade.

And that was when my stomach started getting twisted. Martin Perez is and has been the Rangers top prospect in a deep farm system for the last 2 years. He is a 21 year old, left-handed starting pitcher with 3 plus pitches. He is likely not going to be a major player in the 2012 Rangers season (he still has plenty of growing to do in AAA), but many believe that one day he can lead a rotation.

Gio Gonzalez is a very good pitcher. The last two seasons he has posted 200+ IP, and sub-3.25 ERAs. But, he is not a ground ball pitcher, is only 6’0” (meaning the ball comes in on a flatter plane than with a taller pitcher), and has a career ERA of 4.29 in the Rangers ballpark while allowing 2.1 HR/9. In the pitcher-friendly confines of Oakland Coliseum, his ERA drops to 3.65 with a HR rate of 0.9 HR/9. That makes me nervous.

As I said on the Shutdown Inning podcast last week, prospects are good for two things. One is obviously to grow, develop, and play at the major league level. The other is to be used as valuable pieces in impact trades. The Rangers have a deep farm system, and the whole league knows it. Couple that with the fact that Oakland is in our division, and it is plain to see why Oakland would expect a king’s ransom in exchange for Gonzalez.

I am 100% on board with trading prospects when it is the right situation. I don’t suffer from falling too in love with prospects to where I never want to see them go. But, for a prospect of the caliber of Martin Perez, or Mike Olt, or Jurickson Profar, or Neil Ramirez, the return better be worth it. I’d like to keep those prospects in our pocket until we can be certain that we’re getting back an Ace to lead our rotation. I don’t think Gio Gonzalez is that.

So if you can, please spare me a grain or two of salt.

Peter Ellwood

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