I’ve seen and heard quite a bit of talk about the Rangers looming need to lock up members of their “core” to long term deals. Aside from forcing me to consider the possibility of guys I’d like to have around leaving, it also sent me into a thought process that’s been quite long and wandering about just who exactly is considered to be part of the core of the Texas Rangers.
I started with a strict definition of what I thought it meant to be part of the core of a team. I figured that a core player would have to be established enough to have developed a track record, but young enough to be productive for the future as well as the present. They also would have to be either signed to a long term deal, or projected to stay with the team when free agency rolls around. Finally, and most obviously, they would have to be one of the top players for the team. When I really started to apply those criteria, I realized that they excluded guys I instinctively considered to be key players for now and the future. That led me to abandon my scientific approach and do this the old fashioned way…by gut feeling.
The following is what I consider to be the core of the Texas Rangers:
Ian Kinsler–If my core could only consist of one player, it would be Kinsler. That’s not to say that I think he is the best player on the team, or even my favorite, just that he fits my undefined definition of “core player” the best. He’s established himself as being reliable, and he’s young enough that I feel he’ll continue to be so for the foreseeable future. He’s here for at least two more years (assuming his club option is picked up for 2013), but I feel confident he’ll be signed to an extension before his current deal expires.
Adrian Beltre–Beltre is a wizard with the glove, has amazing power at the plate (even from one knee), and is here through 2015, with an option for 2016. While I can’t expect that he’ll produce as well as he did the past season in the closing years of the contract, I’m still very excited that he’s a Texas Ranger.
Elvis Andrus–Andrus is here through 2014. His occasional lack of focus is more than made up for by his exceptional talent. I have no reason to believe that he won’t continue to improve, both defensively and with his bat. When you add the fact that his speed requires a healthy percentage of the opposing pitcher’s attention, thus helping out whoever is at the plate, Elvis is definitely part of the core.
Michael Young–Young is one of the guys that would have been excluded by my original, strict criteria. He’s no spring chicken, but he is here through the 2013 season. Even though he’s been known to demand a trade, I don’t see another team taking on his salary. While his defense is nothing to speak of, you can’t deny how reliable he is at the plate. By all accounts he’s also a terrific clubhouse guy. Some folks discount the value of that, but I think it’s important to have someone other than the manager around that players can look to for guidance.
That wraps up what I consider the core of the team. I considered others, but couldn’t bring myself to include them. Hamilton and Cruz are tempting, but are too injury prone to consider reliable. I really, really wanted to include a pitcher, but didn’t find one that seemed appropriate. I did, however, come up with a few possibles that may be part of the core if the cards fall in their favor. Those are:
Derek Holland–The Dutch Oven has shown signs of being a tremendous talent. He’s also shown signs of being a head case that can’t be counted on. If he can get his act together and pitch to his talent level, he will cement himself into the core of the team.
Mike Napoli–Napoli was a huge part of the success of the 2011 Texas Rangers. Enough of a part, in fact, that the only thing keeping me from including him is his contract situation. Napoli is only locked up through next season. If he’s signed to an extension, he moves onto the list.
I’m sure many, if not most, of you reading this would compile a different list. There’s nothing wrong with that. Heck, arguing things like this is half the fun of baseball for me. If my list doesn’t sound right, let me know what you’d change. I love a good discussion.