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?

Former minor leaguer Aaron Cox, brother-in-law of Mike Trout, dies at 24

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Aaron Cox, until recently a minor leaguer in the Angels’ system, and the brother-in-law of Angels star Mike Trout, has died at the age of 24. The circumstances of Cox’s death are not known. Trout, who is married to Cox’s sister, Jessica, has left the Angels to be with his family and will likely miss the next couple of games.

Cox, like Trout, was a star at Millville High School in New Jersey. He was a few years behind Trout and went on to play at Division II Gannon University, where he pitched a no-hitter. He was drafted by the Angels in the 19th round of the 2015 draft and pitched for three seasons as a reliever in the lower rungs of the Angels system. This season he pitched 11 games for high-A Inland Empire but had recently retired. He had missed the entire 2017 season after being hit in the eye by a line drive during spring training and then getting a 50-game suspension for unauthorized use of a stimulant.

The Angels just released a statement from the Trout and Cox families:

Early this morning our families lost a phenomenal human being. Aaron Cox was a tremendous son, brother, and brother-in-law. He had a deep love for his family and a passionate dedication and commitment to his friends. As our families grieve together, we will also celebrate the memories, the laughter, and the love we each shared with Aaron in the short time we had him. He will forever be at the forefront in the hearts and minds of the Cox and Trout families. We will rely on the love and strength of God first and foremost during this difficult and channeling time, as well as our dear family and friends. We thank you for your thoughts and prayers, and our Lord and Savior for His precious gift of Aaron Joseph.