Bob Simpson laughed at the notion that he or anyone in the Texas Rangers’ ownership group had an interest in becoming a Jerry Jones-type owner.
“Actually I don’t, and for the reasons everyone else wishes he wasn’t,” said Simpson, the Fort Worth-based businessman and one of the majority owners of the Rangers.
“I like Jerry, but we’ve got great people [in the front office] so leave it to them.”
Simpson spoke at length Friday afternoon about the state of the Rangers and the financial future of the club with the new TV deal set to kick in for 2015. His remarks followed the introductory news conference for outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
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And it didn’t take long to realize how little interest Simpson or fellow co-chairman Ray Davis had in choosing players. They are more than willing to listen to general manager Jon Daniels and his staff as to what direction and players the team should target.
“Ray and I don’t come up with these ideas,” Simpson said of signing Choo. “We sincerely are just trying to bring a level of success to this baseball franchise, and we have no interest in being people who are picking players.
“We do have a great organization and we support them. They go through their ideas for the off-season and we’ve been able to implement their two favorite ideas.”
The “two favorite ideas” from the Rangers’ front office were to acquire Choo and Prince Fielder. It’s wasn’t easy or cheap to accomplish, though.
For Fielder, acquired by trade, the Rangers had to part ways with fan favorite Ian Kinsler and be willing to take on $138 million in salary over the next seven years. For Choo, the Rangers handed out the second-largest contract to a free agent in club history at seven years and $130 million.
Fielder and Choo join a list of high-dollar players on long-term contracts given out by the ownership group. Adrian Beltre signed on for $16 million a year after the 2010 season; Elvis Andrus has one more season before he’s paid $15 million a year; and Yu Darvish was a $111 million investment after the 2011 season.
The ownership group has also shown a willingness to spend on international signings, and pay for upgrades at the Ballpark in Arlington. In all, Simpson estimated, the ownership group has spent an additional $120 million since purchasing the team three years ago.
The significant investments have been easier to approve knowing the upcoming TV contract with Fox Sports Southwest is valued somewhere in the billions.
With the TV money and “tremendous fan support,” Simpson said, the team should reach ownership’s goal of having a self-sustaining organization after next year with the payroll staying in its current $130-$135 million range.
“You want a model that stands on its own. You can’t always subsidize it and you don’t want to because it will last longer if it feeds itself,” Simpson said. “We’re prepared to support an off-year if we had to … but we’ve had two records [attendance numbers] the last two years and we’ve proven that the Metroplex is a baseball town.”
The $130-135 million payroll is substantially higher than the $57 million payroll the club operated on before Simpson and Davis purchased the club out of bankruptcy court in 2010.
The big-ticket acquisitions are OK to make, Simpson said, as long as the team doesn’t rely solely on them, such as the New York Yankees do. There needs to be a nice balance of high-dollar veterans and rising prospects.
“They tell me they got a lot of guys coming, so we’re counting on that,” Simpson said, smiling.
The front office understands the financial implications of every move. Assistant general manager Thad Levine used a general guideline that every player valued at $10 million or more a season should be offset by four or five players earning less than $1 million.
That theory simply speaks to the importance of the scouting and player development groups, and the front office feels the Rangers have one of the best in baseball.
Young, inexpensive players already at the big league level include Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin, Alexi Ogando and Tanner Scheppers. The farm system has been depleted by trades the past few seasons, but is still in good shape with prospects such as outfielder Michael Choice, catcher Jorge Alfaro and infielders Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor.
“Our presentation to ownership was to spend lavishly on these two players, Choo and Fielder, with the thought there aren’t many more of these types of acquisitions to come,” Levine said. “We told them, ‘Commit to this group, then our commitment to you is to build around this group with what we believe are a wealth of impact-level prospects on the horizon.’ ”
Another part of targeting Choo and Fielder this off-season, Levine said, had to do with them being more desirable pieces than what is projected to be available on the market the next few seasons.
The other part, of course, is the impact they’ll make in the lineup.
“We needed to rebuild the potency of our lineup,” Levine said. “And we feel they are multi-faceted players that can beat you with the long ball or beat you with long at-bats. They can put a lot of pressure on the opposing pitcher.”
Ownership hasn’t balked at backing those kind of moves, either, with the mindset that it keeps the momentum around the Rangers in place. The attendance records came in large part because of the World Series runs in 2010 and 2011.
“Now that we’ve captured it,” Simpson said, “we’re trying to preserve it.”