Don’t look now, but it appears the Texas Rangers have some money to spend or at least want to see how far they can stretch the remaining millions in their 2018 budget.
After walking around all off-season with their pockets turned out, the Rangers have engaged the Arizona Diamondbacks about right-hander Zack Greinke, the former Cy Young winner who is owed $126.5 million over the next four years.
It doesn’t take a math major to get the numbers right. That’s an average just under $32 million a season for a starting pitcher who is still regarded as one of the game’s best.
The math gets fuzzy thereafter, as the Rangers would need Arizona to take on the contract of Shin-Soo Choo and probably still have to eat some of what is owed to Greinke. The size of that chunk could fluctuate depending on if the Rangers add prospects and the quality of those prospects.
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That will make it difficult to get to the finish line, but at least the Rangers are in the race.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels did not comment Wednesday on any specific deals that might be pending, as a Greinke-Choo-cash deal is, but the complexity of a trade can be complicated and take time.
“It varies. It really does,” Daniels said. “Ideally, clubs have different interests and different values of the players. It’s easier to put together. The closer how clubs value players and, even more importantly, if their goals are similar it’s more challenging.”
The deal for Cole Hamels is the most recent Rangers blockbuster, as they sent five prospects and Matt Harrison to Philadelphia for Hamels and left-hander Jake Diekman. The Phillies also sent $9.5 million to the Rangers and took on the $32 million that was owed to the injured Harrison, much of which was available to be recovered via insurance.
Hamels has made $22.5 million the past two seasons and will again in 2018. By dumping Harrison’s salary and getting the money back from the Phillies, the Rangers believe they acquired him at a value they could stomach.
In that deal, the Rangers first engaged the Phillies during the off-season and didn’t know less than a week before the trade if they would get it done.
Can they find a deal for Greinke?
Of course, but they need the Diamondbacks, a wild-card team in 2017 that is not in rebuild mode as the 2015 Phillies were, to be fully motivated.
That could come in getting out from under much of Greinke’s remaining deal and using that cash to re-sign outfielder J.D. Martinez, who helped fuel their run to the playoffs. They could use the money to extend their young starters or to add another starter.
The Rangers don’t have all their eggs in the Greinke basket, but clearly they have considered him the top of the market. Right-handers Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta are the best of the free-agent bunch and will be paid handsomely.
Darvish continues to make his U.S. home in Dallas after his five-plus seasons with the Rangers. Arrieta, the former TCU star from Plano East, currently lives in Austin.
“I think what Jake is looking for is a place that allows him to continue to win and gives the family a place to be for a long time,” agent Scott Boras said. “So, I am not sure geography is the measurement in his case. What he is looking for is a club that provides him with a lot of runs and good defense and a chance to play in the World Series again.”
The Rangers have interest in both, but are waiting to see which direction the money goes.
Each could command at least $25 million a season. If the Rangers’ math leaves them around that number on Greinke, they could maneuver their way toward deals with Darvish or Arrieta, too.
In theory, at least.
The Rangers have committed $16.5 million toward the 2018 payroll via four free-agent signings so far this off-season. They have a nice chunk remaining that they could give to one player, but still want to sign a proven bullpen piece.
They have set their sights on right-hander Brandon Kintzler, a sinkerballer who throws a lot of strikes and has experience closing games the past two seasons with the Minnesota Twins.
He isn’t the traditional closer with a power arm and a mountain of strikeouts. Kintzler relies on ground balls and soft contact and not giving away free bases, but he would serve as an upgrade.
The Rangers might want to act fast after a bevy of relievers, beginning with Brandon Morrow and including Tommy Hunter and Jake McGee, signed multi-year contracts at these winter meetings.
The Rangers came to terms with right-hander Chris Martin on Monday on a two-year deal worth $4 million. It should be finalized Friday.
“We sensed a little bit that [the rush on relievers] would happen here, part of the reason we moved to reach an agreement with Martin early in the process,” Daniels said. “We’re still open to adding in the bullpen, but I can’t really handicap how or when at this point.”
Daniels and crew will head home Thursday as the meetings conclude with the Rule 5 draft. The Rangers might add a player, as they did last year with righty Mike Hauschild, but he won’t be the solution to their remaining pitching needs.
Greinke — or Darvish, Arrieta or Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer — would. Most trades, though, don’t come together very easily.