Diving into the depths: Texas Rangers

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Texas Rangers
Rotation
1. Scott Feldman
2. Rich Harden
3. Colby Lewis
4. Tommy Hunter
5. Brandon McCarthy
6. Derek Holland
7. Matt Harrison
8. Neftali Feliz
9. Dustin Nippert
10. C.J. Wilson
11. Guillermo Moscoso
The additions of Harden and Lewis would seem to ensure that both Feliz and Wilson will remain in the bullpen for now. Holland might have a chance to crack the rotation, but McCarthy is the favorite and Harrison will be a factor if he shows up healthy after shoulder surgery.
Eric Hurley, another pitcher coming back from shoulder surgery, isn’t expected to be a factor during April or May.
Bullpen
1. Frank Francisco
2. C.J. Wilson
3. Neftali Feliz
4. Darren Oliver
5. Darren O’Day
6. Chris Ray
7. Dustin Nippert
8. Derek Holland
9. Doug Mathis
10. Warner Madrigal
11. Clay Rapada
12. Geoff Geary
13. Pedro Strop
14. Willie Eyre
15. Ben Snyder
16. Luis Mendoza
17. Michael Kirkman
The bullpen looks pretty strong with Wilson and Feliz in setup roles. O’Day was stellar last year, so there should be five spots spoken for. Ray, who was picked up for Kevin Millwood, will get every opportunity to secure one of the openings, while the other could go to more of a long man, possibly Nippert or Holland.


Catcher
1. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
2. Taylor Teagarden
3. Toby Hall
4. Max Ramirez
5. Kevin Richardson
First base
1. Chris Davis
2. Matt Brown
3. Justin Smoak
Second base
1. Ian Kinsler
2. Khalil Greene
3. Esteban German
4. Joaquin Arias
5. Ray Olmedo
Third base
1. Michael Young
2. Khalil Greene
3. Esteban German
4. Matt Brown
5. Chris Davis
Shortstop
1. Elvis Andrus
2. Khalil Greene
3. Joaquin Arias
4. Ray Olmedo
Given that they don’t seem to have a lot of faith in Teagarden, the Rangers might yet add a catcher to help protect them in case Salty’s shoulder problems limit him during the season. I can’t imagine that Hall will prove to be the answer.
Left field
1. Josh Hamilton
2. David Murphy
3. Craig Gentry
4. Brandon Boggs
Center field
1. Julio Borbon
2. David Murphy
3. Josh Hamilton
4. Craig Gentry
Right field
1. Nelson Cruz
2. David Murphy
3. Vladimir Guerrero
4. Brandon Boggs
Designated hitter
1. Vladimir Guerrero
2. Josh Hamilton
3. Max Ramirez
Borbon has already been penciled in as the leadoff man, and it appears that Kinsler will hit down in the lineup. I can see Borbon excelling as a fantasy outfielder, but I doubt he’ll have a great OBP in front of Young and Hamilton.
The Rangers could still add another bench bat to go along with Murphy, Greene and the backup catcher. As is, German could be considered the favorite for the last spot.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.