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?

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.