Will the Rangers try to keep up with the Angels?

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The Rangers can come close to matching their AL West rivals; all they’d need to do is commit $150 million-$200 million to free agent Prince Fielder and then another $80 million-$100 million in the form of a posting fee and a contract for Yu Darvish. What’s the big deal?

As things stand now, the Rangers are currently looking at about a $111 million payroll with a 25-man roster that looks like this:

C Mike Napoli
1B Mitch Moreland
2B Ian Kinsler
3B Adrian Beltre
SS Elvis Andrus
LF Josh Hamilton
CF Leonys Martin
RF Nelson Cruz
DH Michael Young

C Yorvit Torrealba
INF
OF David Murphy
OF Craig Gentry

SP Colby Lewis
SP Derek Holland
SP Neftali Feliz
SP Alexi Ogando
SP Matt Harrison

CL Joe Nathan
RP Mike Adams
RP Koji Uehara
RP Darren Oliver
RP Scott Feldman
RP Yoshinori Tateyama
RP Mark Lowe

I’m assuming that an Oliver deal gets done for about $4 million, leaving the utility infield spot as the only hole on the roster. The Rangers could opt to non-tender Lowe, making Mark Hamburger the favorite for the last spot in the pen, but that’d only save about $1 million. Trading Uehara, on the other hand, would free up $3.5 million.

The Rangers opened last year with a $92 million payroll, so it’s not at all likely that they’d jump all of the way to the $140 million-$150 million range, which is what it would take to include both Fielder and Darvish. Still, it’d sure be nice if they could squeeze in one of the two. Fielder would look awesome behind Josh Hamilton in the lineup, and Darvish’s arrival would push Ogando back to the pen, giving the Rangers a potentially dominant setup man or closer if Nathan falters. Carlos Beltran is another who would make sense for the team. Young could then play first base most of the time, with Beltran, Hamilton and Cruz all sharing time between the outfield corners and DH.

Texas did win the AL West by 10 games in 2011, so it’s not as though the Rangers necessarily need an impact player. Still, a lot of things did go right last season and GM Jon Daniels can’t count on Napoli, Kinsler and Harrison to perform so well again.

Carter Stewart will get $7 million over six years to play for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

Associated Press
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Yesterday we wrote about Carter Stewart, the American pitcher who, after failing to sign with the Braves last year, went to junior college. Rather than re-enter the draft this year, Stewart has signed with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League.

Jeff Passan of ESPN has the details on that deal: $7 million for six years. That’s five million more than the lowball offer the Braves gave him after drafting him last year and over $2 million more than he would’ve gotten if the Braves had paid him slot last year. This year he was projected to be a second round pick, Passan says, so his slot bonus would’ve been under $2 million.

As Passan notes, though, he has the chance to make out far better than that, though. That’s because his six-year deal would allow the now-19-year-old Stewart to come back to the U.S. as a 25-year-old free agent via the posting system. Passan does some back-of-the-envelope figuring, comparing what he’d make in the U.S. had he stayed vs. the $7 million he’s now guaranteed in Japan:

In a near-optimal scenario, Stewart would receive around $4 million for the next six years — and would not reach free agency until after the 2027 season, when he will be 28. His deal with the Hawks would guarantee Stewart $3 million more and potentially allow him to hit free agency three years earlier.

He could flame out, of course. The Braves’ lowball offer was based on concerns about his wrist. Even without that, there are no guarantees when young arms are involved.

But there is a $7 million guarantee for Stewart now, and the chance to do better than if he had stayed in the U.S. And the opportunity was created, in large part, by Major League Baseball’s clamping down on pay for draft picks and doing whatever it can to extend team control over players via service time manipulation. Stewart, and his agent Scott Boras, are merely exploiting an inefficiency in the market.