The workroom at the massive Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, filled with the best newshounds in baseball media, was largely missing a key component for much of Tuesday: News.
The general feeling among writers was that the second day of the winter meetings was painfully slow and quiet. Too quiet, and then a reasonable amount of hell broke loose just before dinnertime.
Second baseman Ben Zobrist, the former Dallas Baptist star, signed with the Chicago Cubs, who then agreed to trade second baseman Starlin Castro to the New York Yankees.
Pitching-crazed Arizona then acquired right-hander Shelby Miller from Atlanta and removed one of the young, controllable pitchers whom Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels had inquired about during what he described as a typical 24-hour cycle at baseball’s annual off-season gathering.
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Our focus has been on the pitching side. We’ve talked about some of the bigger names, more so in terms of the guys that are under control. I think it’s unlikely.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels
On the Rangers’ Day 2 agenda was the continued pursuit of starting pitching, and they continued to explore a wide array of arms. That included the young, coveted arms of Jose Fernandez and Miller, whose clubs were asking for quality young big-leaguers and prospect gold.
In the Rangers’ world that likely means, among others, Rougned Odor, Keone Kela, Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz and, once again, Jurickson Profar.
That’s teetering toward too much for the Rangers, who could see all but Ortiz play for them at some point in 2016. Yes, that includes Profar, who has generated some cautious optimism after two lost seasons and one operation on the labrum in his right shoulder.
“The bigger question is how to you evaluate him from a health standpoint,” Daniels said. “Our mindset’s been, ‘Let’s get him out on the field, get him healthy, and three months from now or six months from now, both internally and externally he’ll be viewed in a much different light.’
“Until he plays the field, teams — and understandably so — are going to have questions about him. I don’t personally have a lot of concerns about him.”
Jurickson Profar is eligible for salary arbitration, but as a Super 2 player has four years of club control remaining. That’s attractive to other teams, Jon Daniels said.
Profar was one of the top players in the Arizona Fall League, batting .267 and driving in 20 runs while serving only as a designated hitter. He did not play the field, but he extended his throwing program to 160 feet — well beyond the 105-foot mark that give his arm so much trouble.
The AFL is teeming with scouts, and the exposure put Profar back on the baseball map.
“Teams were able to see him play baseball again,” Daniels said. “He wasn’t just a name or a story.”
Profar doesn’t turn 23 until Feb. 20 and is likely ticketed for the minors to catch up on at-bats missed in 2014 and 2015. He will play only shortstop early on, but could also play second base, third base and left field if his arm strength returns.
Unless, of course, the Rangers find a deal for a pitcher like Fernandez or Miller.
“It think that’s unlikely for us at that point,” Daniels said. “Nothing’s materialized to this point, but we’re going to continue to work at it.
“I wouldn’t say we have an untouchable prospect, but it would have to be unique deals to talk about our best guys. With some of the other deals we’ve made, we’re inclined to hold that group. They’re going to play for us, play at a high level and give us cost certainty.”
Miami reportedly is asking for the moon to give up Fernandez, who returned last season from Tommy John surgery after winning the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2013 in his age-20 season.
Atlanta was also asking for a fortune for Miller, the Brownwood product who was passed over by the Rangers in the 2009 draft in favor of Matt Purke. Purke didn’t sign, went to TCU for two seasons and has seen his pro career in the Washington organization derailed by injuries.
Fernandez and Miller are entering the first of three years of arbitration eligibility before becoming free agents in 2019.
1 Starting pitchers the Rangers need to sign this off-season, and Colby Lewis is still high on the wish list
The Rangers also looked at catching, a position so thin at the top that Daniels now expects to add depth behind Robinson Chirinos and Chris Gimenez with additions from the waiver wire or players who sign minor-league deals with invitations to big-league spring training.
The Rangers also continue to be asked about Mitch Moreland, but they see a great deal of value in his power potential at the expected affordable rate of $5 million to $6 million.
Their focus, though, continues to be starting pitching, and along the way it appears Profar is becoming part of the Rangers’ plans for 2016.