- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
The wrong reaction for the Texas Rangers would be an overreaction, a course correction that takes them off a trajectory that has carried them through two World Series appearances in the last three years.
Yes, it's been a rough offseason for the Rangers: They missed on Zack Greinke and James Shields, and Josh Hamilton signed with a division rival, and unless the Diamondbacks reassess their demands for Justin Upton, they're not going to get the right fielder, either. No matter what the Rangers do between now and the start of the 2013 season, it appears Texas won't have as a good a team as it did in May, when the Rangers looked like a juggernaut.
But they should still have a good team because they have a lot of pitching -- Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando and others. Texas' ballpark tends to be a place that creates offensive stars, the same way that Oakland's park tends to foster excellent pitching. No matter how the Rangers decide to round out their lineup, they'll score enough runs to contend.
Michael Bourn is still available in free agency, and so are Nick Swisher and Adam LaRoche, and any of them would provide an upgrade. But each of those three players are tied to draft-pick compensation, and the Rangers, like a lot of other teams, are reluctant to give up their pick -- and, as old friend Peter Gammons has noted, the draft-pool money that would be attached to that top pick.
There's probably a price at which Bourn would work for the Rangers, but it's likely far less, and for far fewer years, than what the All-Star center fielder would be looking for. B.J. Upton got $75.25 million from Bourn's old team, the Braves, and Bourn would want at least that -- and that would seem to be well out of the Rangers' price range. Some of the teams that use extensive statistical analysis (and the Rangers could fall into that category) are concerned about whether Bourn, who turns 30 on Thursday, would hold his value over the course of a long-term deal, because he's not a big on-base percentage guy (.348 in 2012) and much of his game is predicated on speed.
Texas' plan was to go after Greinke and wait to see what developed with Hamilton, and the fact that the Rangers missed out on both doesn't change their level of interest in the other free agents still on the board -- unless they can sign someone like a Bourn or a Swisher on their terms.
Otherwise, Texas will make small-bore moves, like signing A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year deal; the Rangers will rely on their own internal options and use platoons in a few spots in their lineup.
The Rangers' significant resources in prospects and money are still available. Maybe the Rangers will make their move before the July 31 trade deadline, or maybe they'll contend without a major move -- and still be in position to be one of the teams with a legitimate shot at David Price when the Rays trade the left-hander; rival executives view that as inevitable because of Tampa Bay's financial limitations.
The Rangers are not going to alter their long-term plan.
The Rangers are biding their time.
• The Nationals want an answer from LaRoche, writes Adam Kilgore. From his piece:
- If talks with LaRoche continue to drag out, potential trade partners with interest in Morse will continue to dry up. Here's one example. The Nationals had discussed a deal for Morse with the Mariners, according to a person familiar with the talks. But on Wednesday the Mariners traded for slugging first baseman Kendrys Morales, seemingly eliminating their need for Morse.
Whether the Nationals had LaRoche or Morse at first base would also trickle down to more trivial decisions, such as the type of minor league free agents the Nationals would pursue.
The apparent suitors for LaRoche have been dwindling at a surprising rate, likely pushed away by having to give away a first-round pick in order to sign him. The Rangers did not make a strong push for LaRoche, and their agreement yesterday with catcher A.J. Pierzynski satisfies their need for a left-handed bat.
• Francisco Liriano signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Liriano tends to bounce his slider in the dirt, and the king of that practice is A.J. Burnett -- and they're now both in the same rotation. Catcher Russell Martin might want to stockpile some ice packs.
• The fact that the Orioles haven't made big moves means that Dan Duquette is following a plan, writes Peter Schmuck.
The Orioles made a mysterious roster move.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Andrew Keh wonders: Is there anybody out there for the Mets?
The Yankees would like Ibanez back, but their overriding priority right now is to add a right-handed-hitting outfielder; if they can do that and Ibanez is still available, then they could work out a deal with him.
5. The Tigers got a player back.
6. The Reds did all their shopping early this year.
10. The Athletics are seeking a new five-year lease.
• The Red Sox have been going for character guys.
• The market is running short on shortstops, writes Derrick Goold, as the Cardinals look for some depth.
• Tom Brookens knows he's going to get booed as the Tigers' new third-base coach, writes Tony Paul.
• Vanderbilt suffered a tough loss.
And today will be better than yesterday.