Just when I was ready to give Ron Washington some worrisome personal advice concerning his future employment status, Thursday turned out to be a landmark day for the Rangers’ manager.
As the winter meetings closed in Orlando, RonWash suddenly found his club vastly improved at … drum roll, please … quarterback.
No more blowing division leads to the Oakland A’s in September. Russell Wilson and the read-option to the rescue.
My colleague, Jeff (no kin to Russell) Wilson, just spent five days with the Rangers’ think tank in Orlando, and he will explain this headline-grabbing, PR stunt elsewhere in Friday’s newspaper.
Admittedly, I’m always ready to talk quarterback, and you never turn down the chance to add a good one, but just strictly from a baseball standpoint, well …
Here’s a question for Ron: What about that contract extension they promised you?
Not a word on it since early October from GM Jon Daniels or the big boss man, owner Ray Davis.
Tread carefully across this ice, Ron.
Contract-wise, you are lame-ducked at the moment, with 2014 being your final season. That could mean, of course, an easy financial termination if things don’t go well next season.
Daniels isn’t going to blame himself, that’s for sure. And gawd knows, Davis seems to have all the baseball answers in his new position as ownership god.
The problem for Washington, obviously, is he’s at the mercy of Daniels to put a better product on the field for 2014.
The off-season judgment line in the sand for a team is the close of the Winter Meetings. That’s when you take stock of what a club has done to make the product better.
Yes, it’s a bit of a premature line, with so much time before spring training to still make moves.
But beyond the flashbulbs two weeks ago of acquiring Prince Fielder, the Rangers have been disappointingly docile in making meaningful acquisitions. Daniels continued his winter meetings trend from a year ago by dozing through the Orlando trip.
OK, he added a good quarterback.
But here’s the breakdown on where the Rangers stand, baseball-wise.• First base
Obviously, much better with Fielder, except even those of us who applauded the deal have to admit a strong organization such as the Tigers was eager to dump him. Not just dump his salary. Dump him.
As was written by one guy in Detroit at the time of the trade, “Fielder has an odd, detached persona that makes it seem like he doesn’t care.”
Prince is not a clubhouse problem and appears to be well-liked by teammates, but the strong Tiger fandom, along with club management, became incensed at that “detached persona” and his mealy-mouth answers to his postseason bat collapse.
It was interesting that when the respected Detroit GM, Dave Dombrowski, traded Fielder for Ian Kinsler, he was roundly applauded by media and fandom. But when he later dealt away pitcher Doug Fister, the long knives came after Dombrowski.
Acquiring Fielder, however, was a trade the Rangers had to make.
Jurickson Profar replaces Kinsler. The kid is the unknown factor. Will he be as good as Kinsler, even though Kinsler hasn’t been as good lately as he once was?
The move saves RonWash a front-office headache. As the manager always said, “If they want me to play Profar, then move out my proven guy at either second or shortstop.”
Good question to ponder. Would you rather have Mitch Moreland and Kinsler on the right side of the infield, or Fielder and Profar?
I think I’d go the latter.• Shortstop and third base
The same, and that’s good.• Right field
Alex Rios returns, and that’s OK.• Center field
It’s all in the hands of Leonys Martin. He improved greatly last season. But more is needed. Is there more there? If so, how much more?• Left field
A huge offensive hole here. To even suggest newcomer Michael Choice is ready to be the 2014 answer is BS, although pencil in the local kid for future consideration. The return of Nellie Cruz is desperately needed in the outfield. If not Nellie, any proven bat will do.• DH
Mitch Moreland from the left side for now. That’s maybe OK. But good grief, you can’t have glaring offensive holes in the outfield and at DH.• Catcher
The Rangers went cheap, real cheap, here. It will be a position with another offensive hole.• Rotation
Let’s play “Who Do You Trust?”
Yu? Yes. Holland? No. Still waiting for a breakthrough. Harrison? If he’s healthy, yes. But will he be healthy again after three surgeries. Perez? Promising, of course, after last season, but trust? No.
There is a theory out there the Rangers are strong with this rotation. That’s crazy. But on the cheap, the Rangers are not adding another long-term rotation piece.• Bullpen
Got some depth, but with the loss of Joe Nathan, no proven closer. No proven closer is a death blow. Will one emerge? That’s iffy.
Overall, the Rangers are not better than a season ago, except at quarterback. Or they at least the same? That’s questionable. No closer.
So Daniels grades out so far in the off-season with a C. And it’s that high only because Fielder was an A move.
Meanwhile, the manager is under lame-duck status with his contract. He’s got a promise, but no action thus far. And over the last two seasons, the manager has certainly done his job much better than the guys who will hold him accountable, the GM and ownership.
Watch your back, Ron. Knife wounds in that area are not uncommon these days in Arlington.