So much to do. So, so much to do.
That’s the off-season state of the Texas Rangers. While the Prince Fielder acquisition of two weeks ago added a needed piece, it didn’t change the club’s ongoing urgency.
But the good news is this:
After last winter’s long hibernation, Jon Daniels, our beloved local baseball god, is actually awake and alive this time.
Hot stove heaven is happening as we speak. The major league trade/free agent markets have exploded coast to coast, which may set the stage for some dynamite blasts when the winter meetings open next week in Orlando.
Daniels has a lot of fuses he still needs to light. The Rangers, with their infield situation now settled, remain in dire need of an outfield bat, a DH bat, a catching bat, bench bats, and ...
Despite the rosy picture painted by the front office, the rotation is iffy and the closer opening, while crowded with potential names, is a grab-bag worry.
But did I mention that Daniels is at least awake and alive this winter?
He’s already made two deals of note, starting with that major transaction involving Fielder and then continuing this week on a smaller yet still interesting trade of outfielder Craig Gentry to the Oakland A’s.
The two trades are a contradiction.
Fielder is about right here, right now, got to win. A power bat was needed, and a left-handed power bat was even better, so Fielder for Ian Kinsler was applauded by one and all locally, even though on the back end of Prince’s seven years remaining on the contract, the Rangers may be eventually eating something like $60 million.
Gentry, however, is a notable loss to the club based on his right here, right now value as a role player, fourth outfielder, speed merchant and cult status among a segment of fandom.
For a club that needs to win immediately, Gentry is a great guy to have around.
So he’s traded for an outfield prospect, Michael Choice.
The local lad with all the UTA-Mansfield-Arlington roots is 23 years old and definitely needed at the high end of the Rangers’ minor league system, which is void of top prospects.
But despite Daniels floating the scenario of Choice contending for a left field starting spot, it’s a long-shot play to think he’s MLB-ready.
Why did moneyballing Billy Beane of Oakland GM fame trade Choice for Gentry? Because the A’s, who made Choice the No. 10 pick in the draft’s first round in 2010, didn’t think he was MLB-ready for 2014.
And because the A’s are all-in for retaining the AL West title plus making better playoff progress once they reach the postseason.
The way Beane explained it to the media out there, Gentry was a specific need and a perfect fit for an all-in team. He also said the Rangers didn’t call offering Gentry. Instead, Beane called and wanted to see if a deal was possible.
The A’s have power-slapped the Rangers the last two Septembers and taken the division title out of Arlington. And now Beane calls Arlington to see if he can add a needed piece to make his club better in 2014, and Daniels said yes, for the right price. Hmmmm.
I liked this Beane quote: “We don’t have a five-year plan here. We have a year-to-year stadium lease; how can we have a five-year plan? We’ve always operated either all-in or all-out.”
Cash-strapped but feisty, that’s the A’s. What the movie Moneyball was all about is not what the A’s are about any longer. But success, at least in winning the division at the expense of the Rangers, has happened anyway.
According to those in the Bay Area media, the A’s had not soured on Choice. He was still considered a good, not great, prospect. But it was a trade that came down to who can help right here, right now. Oakland wanted Gentry in that role.
I’ve heard the local opinion that when Billy Beane is trading away his top prospect, meaning someone with a limited contract, then that prospect must be lacking in critical areas. And that goes double when he trades said top prospect for a fourth outfielder type.
Maybe, but be careful in assuming too much with that opinion.
Beane, named 2013 Executive of the Year this week by Baseball America, deals constantly with financial limitations and has been steady over the years with his “either all-in or all-out” risks.
In doing so, he’s had some bad backfires.
A real stinker that stills haunts Beane was the 2005 trade of young Andre Ethier to the Dodgers for Milton Bradley. Again, it was an all-in move.
But worst of all on the Beane all-in résumé is this one:
A young Carlos Gonzalez dealt to the Rockies for — oh, no — Matt Holliday in 2008. And this was a year after Beane had obtained Gonzalez from the Diamondbacks.
Could “all-in” Michael Choice end up being one of those?
Regardless, the A’s hold the whip hand on the Rangers, and when the divisional foes made a trade this week, it was the A’s taking the aggressive approach for 2014.
On paper, that doesn’t necessarily make sense for the Rangers, but hot stove heaven rolls on. So much left to do for Mr. Daniels, and at least it’s a winter when he’s alive and kicking.