Feb 26, 2014, 4:11 PM EDT
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. First up: The Texas Rangers.
The Big Question: Were the bold moves bold enough?
The past two offseasons seasons saw the division rival Angels make huge additions in Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. Those moves didn’t work and, indeed, those moves are cited as part of the reason the Angels have fizzled. Too much star power, not enough depth, they’ve said. It takes more than the big moves to make a contender. So why should the Rangers’ big offseason moves — trading for Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo be any different?
Because they fit a heck of a lot better with the Rangers than those other guys fit with the Angels, that’s why. The Rangers needed on-base ability at the top of the lineup. They needed someone with pop from the left side who can take advantage of the short porch in right down in Arlington. Choo and Fielder supply that in spades. Indeed, Choo is one of baseball’s true on-base machines, and the fact that Jon Daniels and Ron Washington have committed to batting him leadoff is going to mean good things for the lineup. Getting Prince Fielder out of Detroit — and getting him in shape — will do wonders as well. It’ll be hard to find anyone the baseball punditry says will have a better bounceback year than Fielder.
Yes, the Rangers had to give up Ian Kinsler to snag Fielder, but havung Jurickson Profar move into a regular, everyday role at second base is a nice fallback option. If he plays to his potential, the Rangers could have another star on their hands. If he falters, at least his glove should be solid.
Unlike the Angels, the Rangers were not a team trying to patch over several holes with a couple of high-profile signings. They were a strong team who needed a push over the top after falling a couple games short for the AL West title the past two seasons. With Choo and Fielder they should get it.
What else is going on?
- Injuries to the rotation are going to go a long way towards determining the Rangers’ fate. Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison and Martin Perez make a nice 1-2-3, but Harrison’s early-spring back issues are worth watching and not having Derek Holland around for the first half of the season due to knee surgery is a big problem. If Harrison is OK and Holland can step in when he’s healthy, the rotation should be OK. If both of those guys are gimpy much of the year Ron Washington is going to lean heavily on Alexi Ogando, Nick Tepesch and Tommy Hanson, and all of those guys are question marks. There’s a lot of depth here, but there’s also a chance that Texas is sporting a rotation with way too many 4-5 guys as the season wears on.
- The closer spot could be an all-or-nothing proposition. With Joe Nathan gone we have Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria vying for ninth inning duties. Both are not too far-removed from dominant pitching and even less far-removed from Tommy John surgery. If one bounces back to his old form, the Rangers have a closer. If both do, they have a two-headed monster in the late innings which could shorten games.
- A.J. Pierzynski is in Boston, leaving catching duties to Geovany Soto, who has been a backup the past couple of seasons, and J.P. Arencibia, who was one of the worst offensive players in all of baseball last year. Each is capable of so much more than they’ve done recently. It’ll be interesting to see if either of them can regain lost form.
- Ron Washington’s contract was just extended through 2015. Seems like a late and somewhat short vote of confidence compared to how these things usually go for guys with a couple of pennants under their belt. If the Rangers, after taking on Fielder and signing Choo, underachieve this season, it wouldn’t be at all shocking to see Wash on the hot seat.
Prediction: That seat shouldn’t be too hot, though. The lineup is stacked. If the rotation doesn’t implode, this is one of the best teams in the AL. First place, AL West.
Mar 14, 2014, 11:25 PM EDT
Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN Seattle reports that Jesus Montero was one of several players optioned to Triple-A Tacoma on Friday. It’s not surprising even though Montero was swinging the bat well in spring training. The former top prospect in the Yankees’ system was slashing .310/.355/.621 with two home runs. Montero showed up to camp…
Mar 14, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT
The Nationals’ acquisition of Doug Fister from the Tigers was viewed as a huge coup over the winter, but the right-hander showed up in camp in February complaining of elbow soreness. He has made only one Grapefruit League appearance to date — a two-inning stint against the Marlins on March 2. Per James Wagner of…
Mar 14, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT
Jason Heyward has earned just over $5 million over his Major League career, and recently inked a two-year, $13.3 million contract extension with the Braves. The outfielder is spreading the wealth, as he bought each of his teammates a Playstation 4, a gift for winning the NL East title last season. On the box is…
Mar 14, 2014, 8:50 PM EDT
Back in October, Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers made headlines extolling the virtues of protecting your teammates. Towers was particularly upset that first baseman Paul Goldschmidt was hit by a pitch and the pitching staff did nothing — no revenge. From MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert: Tuesday on his weekly show broadcast on KTAR 620AM, Towers was asked…
Mar 14, 2014, 8:10 PM EDT
Matt Garza has some fightin’ words for his former team. The right-hander doesn’t have any real grudge against the Cubs, as he previously stated that he enjoyed playing in Chicago, but vowed to try to “kick their teeth in” every time he’s on the hill for the Brewers against them. Via Gordon Wittenmyer of the…
Mar 14, 2014, 7:50 PM EDT
Jason Kipnis was hit in the back with a Jeremy Guthrie fastball in Thursday’s 12-6 win over the Royals. He tweeted a picture of his battle scar — or in this case, battle bruise. Whoever can find where I got hit today, wins a prize! #fruitloop #dontrubit pic.twitter.com/I9PzEWt1v8 — Jason Kipnis (@TheJK_Kid) March 14, 2014…
Mar 14, 2014, 7:05 PM EDT
David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Braves catcher Evan Gattis had off-season knee surgery. In October, Gattis had a “dime-sized” bone chip removed from his right knee, which had been bothering him since 2006. As a result, the Braves hadn’t been using him in spring training at the same pace most teams…
Mar 14, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
Josh Beckett apparently got his thumb caught in a door about two weeks ago. He tried to pitch through it in his start against the Cubs on Friday afternoon but he could only make it through three of his four scheduled innings, reports Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times. The Dodgers are calling it a…
Mar 14, 2014, 4:57 PM EDT
Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan has a report about one of the more obnoxious baseball player arrests you’ll ever see. The player: Red Sox’ minor league catcher Jon Denney. The reason for the arrest: driving with a suspended license. But the flavor of the arrest is way better than the charge might indicate: According to police, Denney said…
Mar 14, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT
It’s been a rough day for the A’s starting rotation, as expected Opening Day starter Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin are both headed for the disabled list to begin the season. Parker has a forearm injury and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that he’s traveling to Alabama on Monday to be examined…
Mar 14, 2014, 4:23 PM EDT
Every time I write or tweet about Bryce Harper I get a lot of people responding negatively. They hate him for some reason. Or at least he annoys them. I’m not sure how this can annoy anyone: Great day at the zoo with @kayvarner! so much fun interacting with the animals…giraffes are so legit! #BrevardZoo…
Mar 14, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT
Mike Trout is pretty relaxed about the timetable he’s facing to become a centimillionaire. Mike DiGiovanna reports that, unlike a lot of guys who negotiate contract extensions with their current teams, Trout is OK with it if negotiations on his deal with the Angels carry over to the regular season: “It doesn’t matter to me,”…
Mar 14, 2014, 3:04 PM EDT
Glen Perkins was already under team control through 2015, with a team option for 2016, but the Twins and their 31-year-old closer have agreed to an extension that runs through at least 2017. Perkins is a Minnesota native who starred for the University of Minnesota and is very active in local charities (along with being…
Mar 14, 2014, 2:34 PM EDT
Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels reported feeling “really good” this morning, two days after throwing a 20-pitch bullpen session to test his injured shoulder, and Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes that he’s slated to throw another bullpen session Sunday. However, according to Hamels the Sunday session will likely only be at “around 60 to 65 percent…
Mar 14, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT
Hank the Dog, the stray who wandered into Maryvale Baseball Park and became an unofficial Brewers mascot this spring, has a permanent home. In Milwaukee of all places: The stray pup who has won legions of fans since showing up at Maryvale Baseball Park along with Brewers pitchers and catchers will move north to Milwaukee…
Mar 14, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Sports Illustrated and ballpark architect Populous have combined to do something fun: imagine what a ballpark might look like in the year 2030. Go check it out here. There are artist’s renderings and explanations of all of the unique flourishes and how the concepts of ballpark design will evolve over the next 15-20 years. It’s…
Mar 14, 2014, 12:42 PM EDT
Sure, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are heading to Australia next week for a two-game series, but more importantly Arizona right-hander Josh Collmenter is hoping to get a date while he’s there. Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports writes that Collmenter has agreed to a dating game-style contest sponsored by the Daily Telegraph in Sydney. Women have…
Mar 14, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT
Instead of letting the backup catcher competition drag on until the end of spring training the Phillies have released Lou Marson, meaning Wil Nieves is in line to be starter Carlos Ruiz‘s understudy. Marson was originally drafted by the Phillies back in 2004 and came up through their farm system before being traded to the…
Mar 14, 2014, 11:32 AM EDT
The Braves better hope there’s a two-for-one sale at Dr. Andrews’ office, because in addition to Kris Medlen almost certainly needing a second Tommy John surgery, it appears as though Brandon Beachy is heading in that direction too. Previously it was assumed that Beachy’s problem was merely muscle soreness — in his biceps specifically —…
Mar 14, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT
As expected the Orioles optioned top prospect Dylan Bundy to the minors, sending the 21-year-old right-hander to Double-A to continue his rehab from Tommy John elbow surgery. Bundy had the surgery in June and is close to being cleared to throw from flat ground, with the hope being that he’ll be ready for game action…
- The D-Backs weren’t kidding about the retaliation thing 18
- Red Sox prospect gets arrested, acts like a monumental jackwagon 63
- Jon Niese bristles at the media reporting Dan Warthen’s racial slur — and I sorta understand why 45
- Jimmy Rollins on Ryne Sandberg: “Everyone is allowed to have their opinion. That doesn’t make it right.” 75
- Smart money on Hanley Ramirez, Jay Bruce in prop bets 26
- Is Barry Bonds really getting a “fair hearing?” (104)
- Keith Olbermann REALLY hates that Barry Bonds is coaching the Giants for a week (100)
- Manny Machado calls $519K salary for 2014 “disappointing” (90)
- Giants players love having Barry Bonds at spring training (90)
- Ryan Braun calls himself an “artist,” doesn’t care what fans on the road will shout at him (84)