The stench coming from Lake Buena Vista at baseball’s annual winter meetings is not Mickey Mouse’s toilet or the champagne from Disney’s proposed acquisition of 21st Century Fox to complete a sports monopoly bigger than the College Football Playoff.
The smell is just our Texas Rangers.
Please indulge me: Exactly how will the Texas Rangers, who finished 78-84 in 2017, move up in the standings in 2018? Perhaps if the other teams fold, they’ve got a real shot.
This team stinks, which, of course, means there is no better time than right now to give GM Jon Daniels a giant extension. Only the Rangers.
JD has one year left on his deal, and talks between the GM and the club for an extension continue. He will most certainly sign it. Jon Daniels did not need to take “How to Steal Millions from Billionaires” at Cornell to know he should sign an extension the moment it’s offered.
But why offer this extension now? Signing JD to an extension right now would have the feel of the NFL’s $200 million contract with commissioner Roger Goodell.
Like Goodell, JD’s leverage is nonexistent, and there is considerable evidence to fear his Master Plan is a Disaster Plan. If there is any reservation, wait. Extending JD is no small commitment.
All of the signs indicate that the Rangers are back to the great days of 2000. That’s when the club was coming off three division titles in four years and set out on a course that would result in one winning season in nine years.
The smarter play on a JD extension is to just wait and see how some of this will play out in at least the first half of next year.
The signing of former Arlington grad Chris Martin has a nice, Colby Lewis-feel to it. But it is not exactly the type of addition that will push this team to .500.
Nor is the signing of pitcher Mike Minor. And if the Rangers actually bring back ace Yu Darvish, the ceiling is set.
Even had the club pulled off the surprise of the winter and actually signed Japan’s latest prized export, Shohei Ohtani, the improvement in the standings would not have been dramatic. Rumor has it Ohtani can pitch and catch it the same at bat, and in the bottom of the inning hit a grand slam while sitting on the bench.
And he still would not have addressed all of the needs of the big-league club. Ohtani, however, would have sold some tickets, piqued curiosity and been worth a follow.
Even if the Rangers trade for Arizona pitcher Zack Greinke, which they shouldn’t, they will be getting another high-priced old guy whose best days were spent with another team. The Rangers already have him. He goes by the name Cole Hamels.
Hamels is 33, and the Rangers are on the hook for $44.5 million for the next two years. Greinke is 34, and he’s due more than $120 million through 2021.
Old guys are great, until they’re just old.
The Rangers are older, high priced, and not very good.
However you want to cut it, JD has been solely in charge of the Rangers’ personnel decisions for the last four years, which has resulted in two sub .500 seasons, two division titles and a 2-6 record in the American League Division Series.
JD convinced ownership to go all in and “go for it,” and now both he and the Rangers are dealing with the fallout. How the Rangers look now are the consequences of going for it.
Only there is no World Series banner. There is no American League championship ring. There are two division titles and an 0-4 playoff record against the Blue Jays at Glum Life Ballpark.
Once considered one of the best in the business, the Rangers’ farm system is frail thin. According to Baseball America, the Rangers have one prospect ranked in the top 100 — outfielder Leody Tavares.
When the Rangers claim they are loaded and that help is on the way, the bulk of their top prospects are in A ball. Which means they’re nothing. Call me when the player reaches Arlington, before Sept. 1, and proves he can hit a big-league pitcher or retire a big-league hitter.
The Rangers are what Jon Daniels built, good and the bad. And if you have faith he can rebuild it in reasonable time frame, you extend him.
If there are any reservations about the direction he has set this team — which, given the state of the smell coming from Arlington, there should be many — wait.
Just like Goodell and the NFL, JD has no leverage and isn’t going anywhere. Right now his creation stinks.
Mac Engel: @macengelprof