- Speaking of massive contracts for aces, Rangers righty Yu Darvish was “very open” to discussing a five- to six-year extension worth around $30MM per annum earlier this offseason, but no serious talks have occurred yet, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. While the two could still reach a deal prior to the season, hammering out an agreement of that caliber during spring training would be difficult, Grant writes. For now, Darvish is on track to hit free agency after next season.
- If a long-anticipated reunion between the Rangers and free agent first baseman/designated hitter Mike Napoli is going to happen this offseason, Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) could be a date to watch, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. As Grant explains, the Rangers will no longer have to carry the retired Prince Fielder or the ailing Jake Diekman on their 40-man roster that day, which is when pitchers and catchers begin reporting to spring training. By waiting until then to ink Napoli, the Rangers would afford themselves some roster flexibility and wouldn’t have to expose any of their pitching depth to waivers.
3:25pm: Texas is not embarking on a new endeavor to land Quintana, despite their longstanding interest, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Two sources that spoke with him “downplayed the possibility of significant talks.”
As Grant suggests, one must consider the possibility that there’s some gamesmanship at play. Chicago has been known to be fielding offers on Quintana for months, and the Astros — rumored to be one of the primary suitors for Quintana — are a division-rival of the Rangers and would assuredly hate to see the left-hander open the season in Arlington. Chicago has reportedly asked Houston for a hefty package containing right-handers Joe Musgrove and Francis Martes as well as outfielder Kyle Tucker in exchange for Quintana in the past, and Houston has seemingly been steadfast in its refusal to meet that price.
2:47pm: The Rangers have “suddenly increased their pursuit” of White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports (Twitter link). He cautions that it’s not clear if the Texas will ultimately be able to pull off a deal, though their emergence is nonetheless the first apparent step forward in the Quintana trade market in several weeks.
A pursuit of Quintana makes sense on paper for the Rangers, who lack clarity in the rotation behind Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Martin Perez and Andrew Cashner. Texas signed Tyson Ross to eventually pitch in the fifth slot of the rotation, but he’s not likely to be ready to open the season. Beyond that, shifting to a six-man rotation later in the year could help keep not only Ross but the remainder of the rotation healthy. Darvish, in particular, has had recent injury woes, missing the 2015 campaign due to Tommy John surgery. Furthermore, Darvish is a free agent upon completion of the 2017 season, so adding Quintana would give the Rangers an affordable rotation piece that is controlled for three more seasons after Darvish is set to depart.
Certainly, there are obstacles to any Quintana trade. The Rangers, for one, have seen their once-vaunted farm system diminished in recent years by executing win-now trades for Hamels, Jonathan Lucroy, Jeremy Jeffress and Carlos Beltran, among others. While they once rated among the best minor league organizations in all of baseball, the Rangers recently placed 15th on this week’s rankings from ESPN’s Keith Law (subscription required and recommended). That said, the team still has appealing young talent in both the minors and in the Majors. Law placed outfielder Leody Taveras, right-hander Ariel Jurado and lefty Yohander Mendez all in his top 75 prospects, and the big league roster has controllable pieces such as Nomar Mazara, Rougned Odor and, to a lesser extent, Jurickson Profar — any of whom could pique the interest of White Sox GM Rick Hahn and his staff. Slugging corner infielder Joey Gallo, too, has long seen his name bandied about trade rumors — especially since Adrian Beltre inked a two-year extension with the team last year.
It’s also worth questioning exactly how Quintana would fit into the Rangers’ plans from a financial standpoint. While the roughly $37MM that Quintana is owed over the next four seasons is eminently affordable for a pitcher of his caliber, multiple reports this offseason have suggested that Texas is nearly tapped out in terms of payroll. The Rangers are projected to enter the season with a $166MM payroll, which would represent a new franchise record.
Adding Quintana’s $7MM salary to the ledger could be considered a stretch, although Texas has reportedly been trying to broker a one-year contract with Mike Napoli. If that’s the case, it’s hard to imagine that the team definitively cannot add another $7MM to its payroll — a deal for Napoli would figure to be in that range, at minimum — though perhaps Texas does not have the financial capital available to pull off both additions.
One also has to at least consider that the possibility that there’s some gamesmanship at play on behalf of the White Sox in this scenario as well. Chicago has been known to be fielding offers on Quintana for months, and the Astros — rumored to be one of the primary suitors for Quintana — are a division-rival of the Rangers and would assuredly hate to see the left-hander open the season in Arlington. Chicago has reportedly asked Houston for a hefty package containing right-handers Joe Musgrove and Francis Martes as well as outfielder Kyle Tucker in exchange for Quintana in the past, and Houston has seemingly been steadfast in its refusal to meet that price.
Feb. 1: Despite Stewart’s comments, Carter “made it clear” to Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM that he wants to play in Major League Baseball as opposed to signing a contract overseas (Twitter link).
Jan. 31, 10:48pm: Topkin writes that Stewart told him as recently as tonight that nothing was close between Carter and the Rays. As Topkin explains, Tampa Bay is taking its time in evaluating multiple right-handed bats for a spot on their roster.
6:08pm: It’s been a slow-moving market for slugger Chris Carter this winter, and agent Dave Stewart (the former Diamondbacks GM who has resumed control of his agency since being replaced in Arizona) tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that signing in Japan is a possibility. “I think at some point we have to make it a serious consideration,” said Stewart, who also tells Rosenthal that Carter received interest from Japanese clubs last winter before signing with the Brewers.
Carter hit .222/.321/.499 and tied Nolan Arenado for the National League lead with 41 home runs in 2016, but Milwaukee elected not to tender him a contract for the 2017 season. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected an $8.1MM salary for Carter, and Carter’s glut of strikeouts (an NL-high 206) and lack of defensive value led the Brewers to consider a raise of that nature too steep.
The rest of the league, it seems, has generally agreed with the Brewers’ assessment, as there’s hardly been a robust market for his services. That this offseason’s free-agent market was teeming with defensively limited sluggers certainly couldn’t have helped Carter’s case, but it’s nonetheless a bit surprising that his camp is giving consideration to signing overseas.
Rosenthal cites Stewart and other league sources as stating that the Rays offer the best opportunity for Carter at this point. Stewart tells Rosenthal he’s spoken with Tampa Bay enough to “know what they’re thinking” but adds that talks haven’t advanced just yet. That gels with a recent tweet from Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, who reported that while the Rays are considering many options, nothing is close with Carter or with fellow right-handed slugger Mike Napoli.
Rosenthal writes that the Rangers, another potential fit, are seemingly more focused on Napoli and have told Stewart that they may rotate younger players at first base (which would be a poor outcome for both Carter and Napoli). Perhaps the Rangers would take a more serious look at Carter in the event that Napoli signed elsewhere, but Napoli has seemingly struggled to find a multi-year deal all winter, and most teams have filled their first base and designated hitter voids already.
The Yankees, for instance, signed Matt Holliday to a one-year deal at the start of the Winter Meetings, while the Astros signed Carlos Beltran to a similar pact and also acquired Brian McCann from New York (pushing Evan Gattis further into the DH mix). Boston filled its first base/DH void by inking Mitch Moreland to a one-year deal (he’ll pair with Hanley Ramirez), while the Rockies went outside the box and signed Ian Desmond to be their regular first baseman. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, quickly grabbed Kendrys Morales to replace Edwin Encarnacion, only to see Encarnacion’s market stagnate to the extent that the Indians were able to land him on a three-year, $60MM deal.
More recently, the Royals agreed to a two-year deal with Brandon Moss, removing yet another on-paper fit. And the Orioles, a once-popular prediction as Carter’s ultimate landing spot, re-signed Mark Trumbo and acquired Seth Smith, thus making it hard to see Carter fitting into the picture.
And yet despite all that movement, Carter and Napoli are hardly alone as first baseman/designated hitters remaining in free agency. Pedro Alvarez, Logan Morrison, Adam Lind, Mark Reynolds, Billy Butler, Justin Morneau and Ryan Howard are all still on the market and hoping to find jobs for the 2017 season, giving the few teams with interest in that type of player a good bit of leverage in negotiations with agents.
Looking around the league, the White Sox could still theoretically fit Carter as a designated hitter, while the Mariners could weigh the merits of signing him as an upgrade over the unproven Dan Vogelbach. The Marlins still don’t have a right-handed complement to Justin Bour at first base, though they’re said to be at their payroll capacity. The A’s, conceivably, could push Yonder Alonso to the bench and pair Carter with Ryon Healy at first base/DH, but there hasn’t been any serious talk of a reunion there. Those four teams, however, are mere speculation on my own behalf. Given the saturated market for sluggers and the fact that no team was willing to trade for Carter when his salary was projected to be in the $8MM range, it does seem possible that the best financial offer he’ll receive this winter could come from an overseas club.
- Rangers center fielder Carlos Gomez brought assistant hitting coach Justin Mashore to his home in the Dominican Republic for a one-week refresher on the alterations the Rangers made to his swing this past August, writes Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. Mashore and Texas hitting coach Anthony Iapoce both worked with Gomez to balance out his swing in an effort to see pitches a bit longer and to cut down on some of the wild hacks he’s been prone to taking at various points in his career (especially in his time with Houston). After hitting .221/.277/.342 in parts of two seasons in Houston, Gomez came to life with a .284/.362/.543 batting line and eight homers in 33 games with the Rangers late last season. The 31-year-old Gomez re-signed with Texas on a one-year, $11.5MM contract earlier this offseason in hopes of replicating that production over the course of a full season and re-entering the market next winter with a much stronger platform.
- Agent Scott Boras is trying to engage the Rangers in talks about slugger Pedro Alvarez, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). Texas has been tied to a different first base/DH option, Mike Napoli, for the better part of a month. There’s somewhat of a disconnect between Napoli and the Rangers, though, as Napoli has reportedly been seeking a multi-year deal while the Rangers only want to make a one-year commitment. Alvarez would represent an alternative with comparable power but a worse glove at first base. Texas could theoretically mix Alvarez into a first base/designated hitter carousel that also features some combination of Jurickson Profar, Joey Gallo and Ryan Rua, though Crasnick’s report doesn’t specify if the Rangers have any genuine interest in Alvarez.
The Rays have at least opened a dialogue with the Rangers about infielder Jurickson Profar, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. It seems that the discussions are just preliminary at this point, but it does seem there’s a rather intriguing possible match on paper. Tampa Bay is in need of a second baseman after trading Logan Forsythe (and might also like the idea of having another player capable of playing short). For Texas, Profar is something of an underutilized asset; the Rays possess a variety of pitchers that might be of greater function. Of course, lining up on value and finding common ground isn’t as simple as finding mutual interest; it remains to be seen whether these talks will gain traction.
Nearly two months have passed since the Rangers lost longtime primary first baseman Mitch Moreland, who signed a cheap deal with the Red Sox in early December. Moreland was never particularly spectacular as a member of the Rangers, with whom he batted .254/.315/.438 in 2,762 plate appearances from 2010-16, but the three-time 20-home run hitter’s departure has left the club without an established option at first.
Led by general manager Jon Daniels, the Rangers have been on the hunt for a first base/designated hitter type to help replace Moreland and Carlos Beltran, who signed with AL West rival Houston one day before Moreland went to Boston. Texas hasn’t reeled in anyone yet, though, largely because it hasn’t been willing to make multiyear commitments in free agency. The Rangers have signed three players – Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner and Carlos Gomez – to major league deals this offseason, and all received one-year contracts.
Texas, which would like to at least partially fix its first base/DH issues by signing yet another player to a single-year pact, has targeted two-time Ranger Mike Napoli. Having hit .239/.335/.465 with 34 home runs as an Indian last season, Napoli would be a capable replacement for Moreland. The 35-year-old has not been amenable to the Rangers’ one-year offer, however, and they don’t seem open to locking him up through 2018.
Fellow free agent slugger Chris Carter has also drawn the Rangers’ attention after co-leading the National League with 41 home runs in 2016. Carter’s blend of power and patience is enticing, but his low-contact, high-strikeout ways and negative defensive and baserunning value led the Brewers to non-tender him in December. Those flaws have also prevented him from landing anywhere else since. As is the case with Napoli, the Rangers are open to adding Carter, but only for one year (on an incentive-laden accord, no less).
With Brandon Moss now off the market, Pedro Alvarez is arguably the second- or third-best free agent first baseman/DH remaining (depending on your opinion of Carter). To this point, though, the Rangers haven’t been connected to him or other unsigned options like Mark Reynolds, Adam Lind, Logan Morrison or Ryan Howard.
If Texas doesn’t pick up a free agent to potentially slide in at first/DH, they could let in-house options sink or swim to at least begin the season. The Rangers have added multiple brand names – first baseman James Loney and former superstar outfielder Josh Hamilton – on minor league deals this month. The contact-oriented Loney didn’t hit with either the Rays or Mets during the past two seasons, which led to a dismal minus-1.5 fWAR over 744 plate appearances. Hamilton has no first base experience, meanwhile, and has played in only 50 games since 2015 (none last season) while dealing with major injury issues. Thus, the Rangers would be hard pressed to expect much from him or Loney in 2017. The same applies to Ryan Rua, a lifetime .255/.308/.404 hitter across 464 PAs.
Other than those three, the Rangers possess a pair of 23-year-olds, Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo, who used to be elite prospects and who could play significant roles during the upcoming season. The switch-hitting Profar is the front-runner to start the campaign at first for the Rangers, but his production (.235/.311/.341 in 648 PAs) hasn’t come close to matching the hype he garnered in his prospect days. The lefty-swinging Gallo could begin in the minors, and even if he doesn’t, his prodigious power comes with worrisome swing-and-miss tendencies. Gallo has struck out in just under 50 percent of his 153 trips to the plate in the majors, which would be less alarming if not for the lofty strikeout rates he has also posted in the minors.
As evidenced above, the Rangers have a high quantity of choices to fill two lineup spots, but there isn’t a single one who’s a good bet to succeed at the big league level in 2017. On the other hand, the track records of Napoli and Carter suggest they’ll fare well offensively next season, but will one of them (or another free agent) end up in Texas? Or will the reigning American League West champions go forward with what they have and perhaps reevaluate during the season?
(Poll link for Trade Rumors App users)
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Rangers’ interest in first baseman Mike Napoli is real, but the pursuit hasn’t exactly been all-out, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes. While there’s certainly a financial component to the current standoff, Wilson argues that the team’s mix of alternatives at first base and DH may also be an independent factor. It’s time the club finds out whether Ryan Rua, Jurickson Profar, and Joey Gallo can handle regular MLB roles, he suggests, and that may be holding the Rangers back from pushing to land Napoli.
The Rangers announced on Friday that they’ve signed veteran left-handed reliever Wesley Wright to a minor league contract and outrighted right-hander Brady Dragmire to Triple-A Round Rock. Both players will be invited to Major League Spring Training, per Rangers executive VP of communications John Blake.
Wright, who turns 32 tomorrow, didn’t appear in the Majors in 2016 (the first year since 2007 that he hasn’t thrown a big league pitch). He did log 31 1/3 innings with the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate, posting a 4.31 ERA with 21 strikeouts against 13 walks.
Wright lost most of the 2015 season to injury (a strained left trapezius muscle, to be more specific), but from 2011-14 he was a quality contributor to the Astros, Cubs and Rays. In those four seasons, Wright logged a 3.25 ERA with 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings against 3.2 walks per nine. Over the course of his career, Wright has held opposing left-handers to a rather timid .237/.313/.334 batting line through 606 plate appearances.
As for Dragmire, the 23-year-old’s lengthy and tumultuous trip through the offseason waiver circuit will now end with the Rangers. Originally the property of the Blue Jays, Dragmire was designated for assignment in late September and traded to the Pirates, only to be claimed back by the Rangers in early December. Texas tried to sneak him through waivers two weeks later after signing Carlos Gomez, at which point the Pirates re-claimed him off waivers. As if that wasn’t enough movement, Dragmire was again designated by Pittsburgh and again claimed by the Rangers, who designated him for assignment yet again last week after signing Tyson Ross. The Rangers have now finally succeeded in passing him through waivers, meaning they’ll be able to retain his rights without committing a 40-man roster spot to Dragmire.
Last season, Dragmire logged a 4.38 ERA with 5.1 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 in 72 innings at Double-A New Hampshire (Toronto’s affiliate). While those numbers aren’t exactly eye-catching, Dragmire also logged a robust 63.6 percent ground-ball rate, which seems to have made him highly appealing to both Texas and Pittsburgh. He’ll hope to replicate that trait with some improved run prevention in the upper minors as he looks to make his way to the Major Leagues for the first time in 2017.