Another day at the winter meetings passed Wednesday without the Texas Rangers making a move of any variety, and certainly not the sexy, high-dollar kind of splash that breaks Twitter.
That’s just not going to happen.
“We have a good club,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “We’re not looking to shake it up, to make major changes. There’s no sense of urgency or necessity to make a big splash.”
The Rangers, memory will serve, are the reigning American League West champions and return most of the players who got them there. They did so at a payroll between $130 million and $140 million, and that’s likely not going to change for 2016 or beyond.
Daniels spent a good deal of his daily media briefing laying out the club’s financial reality. They’re at the bottom of the payroll spectrum, they’re not going to be at the top, and since 2010, when they were at the bottom, that hasn’t been a major obstacle.
This off-season was never going to be about securing one of the big-money difference-makers who potentially would make the Rangers a clear favorite to repeat in the West. It is about finding cost-effective moves that will keep the Rangers competitive.
“Our budget is in a range where there’s some room for growth, but this is about where I expect to be for the next few years,” Daniels said. “That places a premium on getting our own guys right, development at the major-league level, depth and getting creative in solving our needs.”
While the Rangers are financially constrained, in part because some big contracts they have on the payroll, they’re a little richer in the currency of prospects and bullpen depth. If the Rangers are to make a trade this off-season, they will ship players from those areas.
The Rangers continue to scan the marketplace for controllable young starting pitchers, but aren’t making much headway as the prices for those players soar in light of the Arizona trade for Shelby Miller that gave Atlanta the No. 1 overall pick from the 2015 draft.
While the Rangers are talent-heavy at the top of their farm system and toward the bottom, they have a gap after their dealings at the July 31 trade deadline. Preserving the farm is a priority, but there are enough pieces to make a significant deal.
If a trade doesn’t develop, Daniels said that the Rangers will seek free agents on one-year contracts. The club has not met again with the agent for Colby Lewis, Alan Nero, but still hope to re-sign the veteran right-hander.
Daniels confirmed a Star-Telegram report that the club has interest in reliever Tony Barnette, who starred in 2015 as a closer for the Yakult Swallows in Japan and is a free agent after the posting window closed.
Adding Barnette would allow the Rangers to trade one of their controllable bullpen pieces. First baseman Mitch Moreland and, say, Keone Kela might be enough to convince Pittsburgh to include catching prospect Elias Diaz in a trade package.
Moreland, though, has value. His power potential at what is expected to be less than $6 million is a bargain.
“That’s what we need,” Daniels said.
That’s the reality of where the Rangers are. Their budget hasn’t shrunk in light of the effect declining oil prices have had on the finances of principal owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson, and ownership has a history of adding to the payroll as it did with Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo and Cole Hamels.
While a portion of the fan base might not be content with it or understand it why the mega-rich ownership group won’t grow the budget, Daniels has accepted the Rangers’ financial reality.
Maybe this reality bites, but, hey, it’s not like the Rangers are Tampa Bay.
“You can look at it both ways: One is, realistically, we can’t afford the top free agents, but the plus side of that is we can’t afford the top free agents because there’s a lot of risk involved,” Daniels said.
“We have spent. We don’t have a payroll in the bottom-third. We’re in the upper middle-third. Speaking as a fan, more importantly we won the division and have a good club. [Fans] go to the park to see a team win, play quality baseball in a fun environment and win, and not see dollar bills.”