The race to escape the Dolphin half of the Swan & Dolphin Resort on Thursday opened with a false start, as technical difficulties delayed the Rule 5 draft just as the first pick was to be announced.
The fourth pick, outfielder Carlos Tocci, was made some 10 minutes later by the Chicago White Sox, and that turned into the Texas Rangers’ biggest acquisition of the annual winter meetings.
The Rangers traded for Tocci, the kind of defensive-minded center fielder they said they were seeking, for cash. He barely played above Double A while in the Philadelphia Phillies’ organization, but general manager Jon Daniels twice said how excited the Rangers are to have him.
Other teams made all kinds of more noteworthy moves while trapped at this Walt Disney World complex, including each of the Rangers’ four American League West rivals.
The Rangers, meanwhile, saw several of the relievers they targeted go off the board at prices the Rangers aren’t willing to pay.
The top starting pitchers remain, but the Rangers don’t know at what price and are playing coy on how high they will go. They also don’t necessarily want to trade any prospects.
If all of that feels ominous, well, it does. That’s the way this week usually goes for the Rangers.
But Rangers pitchers and catchers don’t report to spring training for two months, and that’s plenty of time for Daniels and crew to put pieces in place to brace that falling sky.
“Business continues,” Daniels said. “I think part of the flurry here is industrywide; there just wasn’t a lot before we got here. We were able to get some things done before we got here, and I imagine we’ll get some things done after.”
The impending holidays could actually work to benefit the Rangers, who have watched relievers receive hefty multiyear contracts. Daniels said that they were in on some of them, but backed away after deals soared out of the Rangers’ comfort zone.
The market has changed, but the way Daniels views relievers apparently hasn’t. They met with free-agent closer Fernando Rodney at these meetings only to see him and other arms they liked, in particular Brandon Kintzler, get swooped up.
They have been linked to Kansas City closer Kelvin Herrera.
“I don’t expect to have any announcements today or tomorrow,” Daniels said. “The market has moved. That’s just a fact. Some of the contracts are more than some of the others in the past.”
The Rangers are hoping to announce the signing of right-hander Chris Martin on Friday, but the groundwork for that deal was put in place before the meetings started. They have re-signed Tony Barnette and added starters Doug Fister and Mike Minor.
The Rangers doled out minor-league deals with invitations to spring training to righty reliever Kevin Jepsen and infielder Hanser Alberto.
The buzz surrounding a potential Zack Greinke deal has died down, though the Rangers continue to talk to Arizona. The Rangers have not contacted the Tampa Bay Rays about the availability of right-hander Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi, according to a source.
Daniels said that his preference is to hold prospects this off-season, but cautioned that there would be exceptions. The Rangers don’t want to send prospects for Greinke, but could if it reduced dollars they would take on. Archer almost certainly would be for prospects.
Multiple dots continue to connect to a reunion with Yu Darvish, and Jake Arrieta makes a lot of sense, too. Once again, though, the Rangers are saying that they have a budget they must obey.
That all sounds ominous, but Daniels doesn’t seem worried. He knows that his biggest off-season acquisitions have come in the three weeks after the winter meetings, and a few beyond that.
He still has two months before pitchers and catchers report to spring training.
“To this point, we’ve acquired three or four guys via free agency and a young outfield option,” Daniels said. “We’ve got some more work to do. I’m glad we’ve been able to add the pieces we have to this point.
“It’s still a work in progress.”