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

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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?

Watch: Mike Trout ties MLB record with his 25th home run

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It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:

In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.

Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.

Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.

Blue Jays acquire Tom Koehler from Marlins

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The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.

The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.

Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.