Earlier today we learned that Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder was “seriously considering” season-ending surgery to fix a herniated disc in his neck. Later, an afternoon conference call with Rangers GM Jon Daniels confirmed that the five-time All-Star will go ahead with that plan. Naturally, the injury to Fielder raised speculation from many that the Rangers could consider free agent Kendrys Morales. While Daniels didn’t refer to the former Mariners slugger directly, I asked him if he might consider making a notable out-of-house pickup to fill the void in the batting order.
“Not today, not right now,” Daniels said. “I think that our focus right now is on the group of guys [including the injured Jurickson Profar and Dan Robertson] that are going to come back…There’s a group of guys that are up here in the big leagues that have put together a few good games this week, and we want to see if we can build on that and then evaluate where we are and adjust if that time comes.”
The Rangers received $30MM from the Tigers to help cover part of Fielder’s deal, but with an Opening Day payroll north of $136MM, one might wonder if the owners are feeling tapped out. When I asked Daniels if he might be afforded some financial flexibility to make a significant out-of-house addition, he simply said that he’s not willing to divulge one way or another.
In addition to losing Fielder, the Rangers also got some bad news concerning Profar, who will be sidelined another 8 to 12 weeks thanks to the Grade 2 strain in his right arm. That’s similar to the timeline we initially heard on Profar in late March, but the clock has been reset and this time around his rehab process will be “even more conservative.” With the rash of injuries that the Rangers have had to deal with, Daniels had a hard time concealing his frustration.
“My reaction to the news unfortunately wasn’t surprise just because from talking to [Prince] and seeing him, we knew that this was serious. We were hoping the injection could keep him comfortable and get him through the season. Sometimes you have that response. His response was initially positive,” Daniels said. “The upside is that I’ve been told that this particular surgery has a high success rate. It doesn’t have the same level of risk that a lumbar [problem] of the lower back has in terms of how you use those two parts of the body and the weight you have to support. I’m looking forward to seeing this guy healthy and what he can do, but that’s more of a 2015 and beyond thing.”
The other silver lining, if there is one, is that Profar is not ticketed for surgery at this time. For Fielder, he’ll have to have a cervical fusion on his c5 and c6 vertebrae on Tuesday. One might wonder if the problem could have been caught if the Rangers had Fielder undergo a full physical after acquiring him, but Daniels says that a cervical MRI wouldn’t have been conducted anyway since there was no prior issue there.
It remains to be seen whether the Rangers will make a splashy move to help bolster their weakened lineup, but there’s no doubt that they’ll miss Fielder in 2014.