Not too long after the Arlington taxpayers agreed to hand the Texas Rangers roughly $500 million guaranteed to build a new stadium that is truly more luxury than necessity, the team says it doesn’t have a dime to spare on payroll.
Despite needs in the outfield, first base and starting pitching, payroll is the excuse why the Rangers were mostly quiet during the winter meetings.
Not a good look. Or the right thing to say — especially when history says such a statement is untrue.
The Rangers often insist they won’t increase payroll, and somehow owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson always find a few extra million in the change bucket for a player or two or three.
They slashed in other places, namely every place but team payroll, which has badly hurt the morale of club employees, many of whom have recently left.
Since Davis and Simpson bought the club in 2010, however, the team has blown cash on players like a government contractor. The Rangers’ lack of a World Series in this truly enjoyable run of relevance has nothing to do with payroll. It has more to do with how the money was spent.
Four times in the past five years the Rangers have ranked in the top 10 in MLB in payroll, which has resulted in one wild-card appearance, two division titles and no playoff-round victories. That’s not on the owners.
This pair want to win and continue to give GM/president Jon Daniels whatever he wants, from Shin Soo Choo to Prince Fielder to Cole Hamels. Add an extension for Yu Darvish, too.
Yu is one year removed from Tommy John surgery and is entering the final year of his original five-year, $60 million deal. Think he grabs five years, at least $20 million per year, when he becomes a free agent. At least.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it or think it’s a bad baseball deal — this is going to happen. That is the going price of a good pitcher, which is what Yu is. Yu Darvish is a good, but not great, big league pitcher.
His home-run tattered start in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Toronto Blue Jays was pathetic - five innings, five hits, five runs, four home runs - but these things don’t matter.
Good pitchers are scarce, JD loves him and they are not trading him. He’s going to be here for a while.
The White Sox trade of ace Chris Sale to the Red Sox leaves the Rangers with no other option other than continue to do what they have done since Yu came here in 2012, which is to sit back and applaud whatever he does.
They’re clearly in fear that if they push back on anything he desires it will be used as an excuse to leave the club when he becomes a free agent after the 2017 season. Free agent pitchers have, historically run from Arlington.
No Ranger since Alex Rodriguez has been given as much freedom as Yu, and considering there is no other available pitcher close to being a No. 2 caliber coming up from the minors any time soon, expect the Yu party will continue in Arlington.
In an effort to contend, the team has dealt most of its top minor league prospects away; the best pitching prospects are in A ball at the moment, meaning they are years away.
Ray Davis and Bob Simpson are not spending this type of money on payroll for their window to be anything other than open. The only way that stays open is if Yu returns.
Personally, I don’t think he’s going to be worth the absurd money he’s going to get but who is? He’s fast approaching that dangerous point in a power pitcher’s career when the velocity goes and he must learn how to pitch more than just throw.
All signs suggest Yu will figure out how to get outs without the benefit of a 95 m.p.h. fastball, and the Rangers will gladly take that chance on a man who will turn 30 in August.
All signs also suggest we’ve seen the best of Yu Darvish; that was back in 2013 when he was 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA in 209 2/3 innings.
Yu is a guy who likes to be comfortable, and the is no sign Yu is anything but that with the Rangers. He makes a fortune, can set his routine to his preference, and if he under performs no one comes down on him. At all. Ever.
He can get away with it in Arlington, whereas in a place like Boston or Chicago - teams that will have the type of money necessary to bag Yu - such criticism would be most unwelcome.
If you want the Rangers to move from Yu, there is nothing coming up. In an effort to remain competitive at the highest level the team has traded away countless prospects for established stars from Hamels to catcher Jonathan Lucroy and others.
It’s worked in the sense such moves kept the Rangers competitive and close.
And despite what the team says the Rangers have money to spend on players, which Yu Darvish will soon find out.
Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.