Plans

I wrote the following article on Saturday, March 7th, for One Strike Away, an ESPN Sweetspot affiliate.


If indeed Yu Darvish’s prized right arm requires Tommy John surgery, as Evan Grant calls the “most likely fix,” then the 2015 season is essentially over already. I didn’t want, nor did I expect to write that sentence three days into spring training. Today is a dark day for the Texas Rangers organization.

This, unfortunately, calls for a number of questions that the front office probably wasn’t planning on addressing this early into the ’15 campaign. For a franchise coming off a lost year due to injuries and under-performance virtually across the board, what in the world are they supposed to do now?

The Rangers were not built to lose in the short-term. Last offseason they acquired Prince Fielder’s whopper of a contract from Detroit, signed Shin-Soo Choo to a 7-year, $130 million deal, and extended Elvis Andrus for eight years and $120 million. They spent their money. Now we are looking at a team who will in all likelihood be uncompetitive in 2015, and the three contracts they would most like to move are also the most difficult to move.

That is what hamstrings the Rangers at this point. There is vague speculation that, with Yu on the shelf, they may re-open discussions with the Phillies about Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee. I’m leery on Texas going for broke on either, but that’s more my assumption that — if they had the money to spend — they would have spent it on a TORP during the offseason. I don’t dislike the thought that they should go out and get somebody, because the team is built to win now… I only question that it’s an option in the first place given the club’s financial limitations.

There are also those who feel like enough is enough. That the Rangers blew their load last offseason on a championship run, and now that the dream is dead they should sell off whatever assets they have and strip it down for a 2017-’18 run. I tend to side more with this group, because I see more value in a 60-win season than an 80-win season based off the advantages the CBA gives the worst teams, but that’s also with the caveat that the Rangers should not get rid of players simply to get rid of them.

Derek Holland is signed through 2018 (given Texas picks up two measly $11.5 million options in ’16 and ’17), Martin Perez is signed through 2020 (with three cheap options of his own), Adrian Beltre seems like a fixture at this point, and Leonys Martin won’t be arbitration eligible until after this year. Given the price tags, none of those players should be traded. You could probably throw Elvis in that mix as well.

This Yu Darvish injury comes at a peculiar time for him, personally. Aside the $51 million-plus lump sum they dropped for his posting fee (which went to his former team in Japan), the Rangers actually got him on an extremely cheap annual contract. At 6 years and $56 million, Darvish is an excessive bargain.

But now, Yu is set on becoming a free agent after the 2017 season, meaning if he doesn’t come back all the way in the next 12-18 months — the expected timetable for most Tommy John victims — then he would theoretically have only one healthy season (’17) to establish his next contract. From a business aspect, this strange twist of fate gives the Rangers potential leverage in negotiating his next contract.

For the immediate time being, this is a damning injury for the Rangers. Unless some miracle occurs this is going to be a second consecutive losing season in Texas. I’m eternally optimistic about my favorite baseball team, but there’s no real spin I can put on the day, which is why I’m already trying to look forward.

It was not supposed to go this way.

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