We will continue to take a team-by-team look at the American League by breaking down the Astros’ closest new division rival, the Texas Rangers. The Rangers’ stock continues to rise thanks to their recent Major League success, outstanding farm system and well-respected front office staff. The Rangers will have a different look this year, as they will be missing a couple of players that were a key part of their recent success. To get an inside look at the Rangers 2013 outlook, Adam Morris from SB Nation’s Lone Star Ball was kind enough to share his views on a variety of topics.
CTH: The Rangers went through a few changes during the offseason with the trade of Michael Young and the departure of Josh Hamilton to Anaheim. It seems like Rangers fans are pretty split on both of those moves. What’s your take on these guys leaving and how much do you think it will affect the 2013 Rangers?
Adam: Michael Young was arguably the worst everyday player in baseball in 2012 — however, despite his struggles, he continued to play every day, and if he were back in 2013, Ron Washington was going to put him in the lineup every day this season as well. The organization felt like Young wouldn’t be satisfied with a bench role, that an unhappy Young would not be good for the clubhouse, and Young wasn’t good enough to warrant playing every day — thus, they ate the bulk of the money he was owed to send him to the Phillies. I think it was a necessary move… I think even in a bench role, Young doesn’t give you defense at any position, and he’s not likely to hit enough to be an asset. As for Josh Hamilton, I’ve been writing for a couple of years that I think he’s going to have a steep decline phase, and that it wouldn’t make sense for the Rangers to pay him what it would take to keep him in Texas. I thought 3 years, $60 million would be about as much as I’d be willing to go to keep Hamilton, and the Angels obviously blew that out of the water.
CTH: It seems like the Rangers had their name linked to nearly every big-named free agent or trade target during the offseason (Greinke, Bourn, Upton, Hamilton, Lohse). They ended up with none of them. What’s your take on that?
Adam: The Rangers had a lot of irons in the fire, but at the end of the day, teams either significantly overpaid in terms of prospects (Dickey, Shields) or in money (Greinke, Hamilton), and the Rangers are committed to being able to maintain long-term success by not overpaying for the short-term. I don’t know that Greinke was ever a realistic possibility, nor do I think the Rangers were going to bring Hamilton back unless there simply wasn’t a market out there for him. The one deal that didn’t happen that is mildly surprising to me is Justin Upton. A package headed up by Mike Olt and Martin Perez was supposedly offered by the Rangers, and that seems like a better fit than what the Diamondbacks ended up getting. At the end of the day, I think there were multiple scenarios out there that the Rangers were exploring that they probably felt they had a 20-25% chance of coming to fruition, but as sometimes happens, none of them panned out.
CTH: There has been a lot in the news lately with the possibility of Nolan Ryan leaving the Rangers. What do you think has happened there to possibly sour the relationship with Nolan and John Daniels, and how important is Nolan to the Rangers?
Adam: The short answer on the Ryan/Daniels flap is that they have different visions for how the front office should be run, and while Ryan generally has deferred to Daniels, there have been times he’s imposed his will and overruled Daniels. Tim Purpura (Astros’ GM from 2005-2007) was hired as the team’s farm director in the 2011-12 offseason at Ryan’s direction rather than hiring Jayce Tingler, who was Daniels’ pick, and the decision to sign Roy Oswalt was made, some think, by Ryan over the objections of Daniels and his people. There’s also been a lot of talk about jealousy among some of Daniels’ lieutenants over the amount of credit Ryan has gotten for the success of the team, when Daniels and his people have been doing the heavy lifting. Evan Grant (Dallas Morning News sports blogger) wrote things came to a head this offseason when Jon Daniels fired minor league hitting coordinator Randy Ready. Ryan didn’t want Ready fired, went to ownership, and ownership said that, on baseball matters, Daniels would have the final say. As a result, Ryan apparently feels he’s being turned into a “figurehead,” and reportedly is considering leaving. It would be unfortunate if that happens, because having Ryan in the organization brings value, but I think ownership is concerned that if they keep Ryan and allow him to continue making his hires in the front office, they run the risk of losing Daniels and his people, the way Theo Epstein left Boston. Ownership apparently decided that they’d rather keep Daniels.
CTH: What do you think the strengths of the 2013 Rangers will be? What will be their weaknesses?
Adam: The team should have a solid rotation and a quality infield, both offensively and defensively. The team’s biggest weaknesses are the state of the bullpen and the outfield, and in particular, the potential lack of depth in the outfield, particularly if Nelson Cruz is suspended because of the Biogenesis connection.
CTH: What is the Rangers’ plan for top prospect, Jurickson Profar?
Adam: At this point, I think the Rangers plan on having Jurickson Profar start the season in AAA. If Ian Kinsler or Elvis Andrus miss significant time with an injury, Profar would come up and take their place. Otherwise, I think he stays in AAA for most of the season, possibly coming up in August in a utility role (and if not then, definitely in September). This offseason, Texas tells Elvis Andrus that he can sign an extension or else they’ll trade him. If Elvis doesn’t sign, Profar takes over at shortstop in 2014. If Elvis does sign, the Rangers probably plan on Profar moving in at 2B for 2014.
CTH: Finally, what is your opinion on the Houston Astros’ move into the American League West? Do you see the potential for a pretty intense in-state rivalry down the road?
Adam: I think a potential Houston/Texas rivalry is going to depend on the two teams having success. The Rangers’ primary rival is going to be whoever the best team (other than Texas) is in the A.L. West. I don’t get the sense there’s a big sense of rivalry with the Astros right now.
Thank you Adam for your time, and I look forward to the day that you hate our Astros more than you hate the Angels.