The days are flying away until spring training. At least that’s what my wonderful wife, who will be left behind as a working single mother of kids ages 4 and 2, frequently announces.
There’s probably a hint in there that I keep missing.
Now might also be the time when the remaining free agents start to feel like time is getting away from them. Pitchers and catchers across MLB will begin reporting as early as Feb. 12. The Texas Rangers’ pitchers and catchers report Feb. 14.
Bargain-hunting is one of the things Jon Daniels has done best. Colby Lewis comes to mind. So do Ian Desmond and Tony Barnette. Tyson Ross probably falls into the same category.
Maybe a player like Mike Napoli or Chris Carter blinks and takes less money than he thinks he deserves, though Michael Young over the weekend said that Napoli is perfectly comfortable playing the waiting game. Maybe a couple of teams sitting on the sidelines get involved and push up the prices on Napoli et al.
Only fleeting time will tell. Until then, here is some Rangers Reaction on what is known about the two-time defending champions of the American League West.
1. Napoli is somewhere in the United States, working out during the day and probably having a good time at night. Such can be the life of a single, highly paid Major League Baseball player, and Napoli has never really shied away from that.
Who can blame him?
He remains on the Rangers’ radar as they continue to see if they can make the club better. Napoli would make the club better in the short term, though potentially putting on hold the development of Joey Gallo.
But not necessarily. Say Napoli does sign on to play first base most days and designated hitter on occasion. Say Gallo opens the season at Triple A Round Rock and by June 1 has demonstrated that he’s ready for another go in the majors.
34 Home runs hit in 2016 for Mike Napoli, a career-high
It would seem reasonable that Gallo could move to first base at that point while Napoli could slide to DH. Doing so would put a dent in the Rangers’ plan to keep the DH spot open for days off for regulars, especially Shin-Soo Choo, and force some days off against left-handers for the lefty-hitting Gallo and Choo.
The lineup can be manipulated, in other words, to protect the now and the future. The budget has always been manipulated.
Yet, there’s a hold-up. Napoli could be looking for another suitor to drive up his market after hitting a career-high 34 home runs. That seems to be good business.
The Rangers, meanwhile, don’t want to give Napoli a two-year contract. They’ve been comfortable handing out one-year contracts this season, perhaps to keep from being too tied up financially to re-sign Yu Darvish or to pursue potential free agent Jake Arrieta.
2. Ross was signed 10 days ago, and it has a chance to be a solid signing for the Rangers. The right-hander has been very good in his career and could be a force down the stretch as the Rangers try to hold off or catch up to Houston and/or Seattle.
But it is curious that he and the Rangers aren’t putting a timetable on his return from October surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, a recovery that normally takes four to six months, and that they are allowing as much time as needed before he takes make his Rangers debut.
Ross will likely take the mound for the first time in May or June, at which time there will be around 100 games to play. So, yeah, the season won’t be half over, and as the 2015 Rangers taught us, a 9 1/2-game deficit can be overcome.
Waiting perhaps longer than necessary could be a boon for both sides. For the Rangers, Ross could still be pumping well below his career-high for innings well into September and even an October playoff run when Cole Hamels, Darvish and Martin Perez are working on fumes.
For Ross, who signed a one-year deal, he gets to make sure that he is 100 percent and at his best as he enters a walk year into free agency. A rebound season gives him a chance to cash in next off-season. If he is very good and Darvish, another potential free agent, isn’t extended or re-signed, Ross could score a big deal from the Rangers.
Or maybe Ross becomes part of a quasi-package deal with Darvish.
Ross’ agent is Joel Wolfe. Darvish’s agent is Joel Wolfe.
The Rangers traded seven prospects, including two of their top pitching prospects, in July over three deals ahead the trade deadline.
3. The Rangers also find themselves in a position where they might not be able to make the significant deal at the trade deadline that they’ve pulled off the past few seasons.
Daniels said the club is committed to retaining prospects this year and turning those prospects into lineup and rotation regulars.
Especially their rotation.
Developing starting pitching is the goal of every organization, and the Rangers have fallen short. They have Martin Perez and had Derek Holland, but Chi Chi Gonzalez hasn’t established himself as a rotation member after being a first-round pick in 2013.
While this is a big season for the big-league club with three starters who could be free agents next off-season, it’s a big year in the minors. Yohander Mendez, Ariel Jurado, Cole Ragans, Brett Martin, Joe Palumbo and Alex Speas need to keep taking steps forward. Mendez is on the 40-man roster, and Jurado will be in big-league spring camp.
Nick Martinez and Gonzalez are still allowed to get better.
The Rangers need to see all of their starting pitching prospects improve.
4. Frank Thomas didn’t name names over the weekend at the Chicago White Sox’s version of fan fest, but it didn’t take an Einstein to realize that the Hall of Fame slugger isn’t happy with Rangers great Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell being elected to the Hall.
They used performance-enhancing drugs during their careers, Thomas said, and everyone knows it. Thomas claimed there’s already been grumbling around baseball’s most exclusive club, and as one of its junior members, he has chimed in on it.
Thomas, enshrined way back in 2014, isn’t happy.
“Not happy at all,” he said. “Some of these guys were great players. But they wouldn’t have been great players without drugs.
“We have two great players going in, and they know. It’s no secret. If they didn’t do it, they would be stomping and kicking on interviews, ‘I didn’t do it.’
“If you didn’t, you come to the forefront. ‘Let’s take a lie detector test.’ And these guys won’t do it. Some of these guys were great players, but they wouldn’t have been great players without drugs.”
We have two great players going in, and they know. It’s no secret. If they didn’t do it, they would be stomping and kicking on interviews, ‘I didn’t do it.’
Hall of Famer Frank Thomas
“I don’t mind these guys doing what they want to do for their families and make their money,” Thomas said. “But don’t come calling to the Hall of Fame and say, ‘I’m supposed to be in the Hall of Fame,’ when you know you cheated.”
This is Phase II of what Rodriguez could have expected entering his journey to Cooperstown. The first phase involved the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who refused to vote for Rodriguez because of his link to PEDs, which was provided by Mr. Credibility himself, Jose Canseco.
Rodriguez is in the phase now where Hall of Famers are going to be sniping at him, possibly anonymously. At least Thomas spoke on the record.
The third phase will be come induction week, when Rodriguez has to answer to the national media and Hall of Famers who attend the ceremony. After that, the final phase will be how his election is remembered in the future, perhaps as the gateway to letting all of those suspected of PED use into the Hall.
Rodriguez, for his part, has long denied using PEDs.
Gross, but not the first I time I’ve heard of this happening.
As the story goes, my Uncle Jeff was playing Little League in Evergreen, Colo., back in the late 1950s or early 1960s, and his first-base coach was hit in the temple by a foul ball.
The coach popped up and finished out the inning, then went into the dugout after third out. Among the things he needed to do was blow his nose, and out popped his eye.
I’m not sure if my uncle’s team won or lost, but all the kids that day were winners. The coach, by the way, retained his vision and had an amazing story for the rest of his days.