With Cliff Lee gone, what’s next for the Rangers?


First, a little perspective about what the Rangers actually offered Cliff Lee. Though they wouldn’t guarantee a seventh year, they were reportedly willing to offer $23 million per season over six years with a vesting option for a seventh year that would have brought the value of the entire deal to $161 million. It wasn’t more guaranteed money than what the Yankees offered, but no matter the final tally, the Rangers clearly wanted this guy. They didn’t get him.

With that out of the way, it was refreshing to hear that even after lengthy and ultimately unsuccessful negotiations, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels gave Lee credit for not chasing the most money possible (via Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram):

“Let’s give the guy some credit. How many people criticize players for running after the last dollar?” general manager Jon Daniels said. “Cliff didn’t do that. He made a decision for other reasons, and I have to respect that.”
This is still a tough blow for an organization who clearly wanted to retain him, but I have a feeling this could end up being a blessing in disguise for the Rangers in the long run. Still, where do they go from here?
  • They could explore the trade market for a starting pitcher. We already know that Matt Garza and Zack Greinke are available. The problem? They will cost premium prospects in return. While the Rangers’ farm system has produced excellent talent in recent seasons, they aren’t anywhere near as deep as they have been in the past. It won’t be a slam dunk to outbid teams for either pitcher.
  • Also known as the elephant in the room, the Rangers could move Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation. Feliz set a rookie record with 40 saves this past season and posted a sparkling 2.73 ERA and 71/18 K/BB ratio over 69 1/3 innings. He has a chance to be much more valuable as a starting pitcher in the long run, but will the Rangers be willing to move him next season? The bullpen might not skip a beat if Alexi Ogando or Frank Francisco is moved into the closer role. The Rangers could even consider signing Rafael Soriano.
  • Sign Adrian Beltre. Why? Because he’s the best player available, that’s why. Yes, he is represented by Scott Boras, so it’s not like they’ll get him for cheap, but Beltre is coming off an MVP-type season where he batted .321/.365/.553 with 28 home runs and 102 RBI. He’s also one of the best fielding third baseman in the game and an obvious improvement over Michael Young at the hot corner. If the past is any indication, Young probably won’t be very happy with having to move positions again, possibly to first base/DH duty this time, but the Rangers could continue to explore a trade in the months leading up to spring training.
There’s no easy answer here, but please don’t count the Rangers out for 2011 already. It’s not like the Angels have gotten any better this offseason, aside from adding a pair of left-handers to their bullpen. And plus, while Lee didn’t stay with the Rangers, he didn’t go to the Yankees, either, which has to be worth something. Right?

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.