So the Tex era ends with a bang, or a whimper, depending on who you talk to. At the very least it ended with a single, in a humiliating loss to KC, part of a humiliating sweep in KC, and you’ve got to know that Tex is jumping for joy at the chance of getting out of this mess. After yesterday’s game, did you notice what he did? He walked in from second base, where he had been stranded, took off his helmet and gloves, then looked around in the crowd, then took off his cap and threw it to someone in the crowd. The cameras didn’t show who he threw it to. Was it someone he knew, or just a Rangers fan? Was he pretty much saying “yeah, it’s over”? When Pudge left, everybody loved him, and I was so happy when he won the World Series the next year with Florida, I felt almost like the Rangers had won it. Tex doesn’t have anywhere near that love, but I will be happy if he makes it too.
Whether you like it or not, you have to admit that Tex was not the solution here. Part of the solution, yes, but unfortunately a part that didn’t have all the other parts ready to be solved. It’s like baking a cake, being partway through when you put in the Tex baking powder, then realizing that oops, you don’t have any cocoa (or Coco?), so your chocolate cake is going to end up a bland vanilla, ending up in third or fourth place every year. Okay, so we got Tex via the draft, not free agency, but the concept is the same, the waste of a top talent while he was here. It’s kind of like when A-Rod came along, he was going to be the straw that stirs the drink, but they forgot that you have to make the drink before you can stir it. In yet another metaphor, they were busy looking for the final piece of the jigsaw when they still had half of it to build.
Okay, so what are the pieces we just obtained worth? First, Saltalamacchia, or Salty as he is obviously known, replaces Teixeira in the Rangers scrabble game. I hope they charge by the letter when printing his shirts. On Opening Day this year, some kid was asked to spell Catalanotto, and couldn’t, then on Opening Night another kid was asked to spell Teixeira, and couldn’t. Here’s a tip for the kids: if someone asks you to play the game on Opening Day next year, just take the consolation prize and walk away.
It bothers me a little that Salty was in AA last year, then jumped to the majors this year as a first baseman, when they needed help. My first thought when they said his name was that he would slot in at first, but every comment I read said catcher, which makes me think he’ll be there. So my second thought was “what about Laird”? He’s proving himself defensively, and his hitting is improving. A couple of years ago I thought he was going to be the new Pudge, settling in for a decade at catcher. Then along came an injury, and some absolutely worthless years being blocked behind Barajas, of all people, and Laird’s star slipped a little. Is he going to regress back to backup catcher again? I hope not, I hope there’s a way to get them both in the lineup. Everyone says that Salty has great defense, but needs to work on offense a little. He’s 22, and in the big leagues, so maybe he’s the next Pudge instead. One liner from the Baseball Prospectus annual says it all: “back to being one of the best catching prospects in the game”. I love Gerald Laird, but given the five year difference in age, Salty is the better prospect.
Elvis Andrus. My wife will love him, just for his first name (Stojko, not Presley). 19 years old in one month, and a long way from the majors. Hasn’t hit much yet, but apparently fields well, was in the Futures game, and named his league’s most exciting prospect. Very much a reach, if not three or four years away at best. Of course, Michael Young has that position locked up, which means one of them will have to move somewhere. Baseball Prospectus quote: “a potential All-Star, and there’s a chance he’ll be more than that”. Let’s hope for more.
Neftali Feliz has apparently made a lot of people spell his name wrong today. Another 19 year old, which the BP annual says has hit 98 on the radar gun, but Baseball America says he touches mid 90’s with ease. Control issues. In A ball. His walks are of concern, but he can also strike them out. Project him years away too, he’s probably round about the same level as a Kasey Kiker.
The fourth one is the interesting one. Some sites say Matt Harrison, others say a player to be named later. I read a couple of days ago that there are arm issues, and the Rangers are examining medical records on him. One report is that they have a list of four other players they can choose from. Baseball America says Harrison projects as a number three or four starter. Yep, we need more of those. Has good walk to strikeout ratios, and apparently control of several pitches. If the Rangers take him, he’ll presumably go to Frisco and get a whole lot of publicity.
So what to make of them? One legitimate top prospect in Salty, and three projections. As always in projections, especially those so far ahead, a lot of it is a crap-shoot. Will any of them pan out? Remember Drew Meyer, Rangers first round pick a few years ago? Did almost nothing for us. But the good news here is that we got the Braves #1, #2 and #3 prospects, according to the Baseball America rankings. That can only help our system, which is terrible but improving a little both with the draft and with this trade, and the Lofton trade on Friday. The argument goes that the more prospects you have, the more likely some will pan out. The alternative argument is that prospects are just that, prospects (TINSTAAPP – There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect). Yes, you’d rather have Tex playing every day, but you’d rather do it in meaningful games, and this might help make some meaningful games in about 2012.
Remember back when the Red Sox traded a couple of their best prospects for Pedro Martinez, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth that followed? One of them was Carl Pavano, who’s had about two good years since, and the other Tony Armas Jr, who barely even had that. The point being, from the Atlanta perspective they’ll say yay, they got a stud hitter, future MVP, for a bunch of prospects who may or may not pan out. The Rangers will take the opposite tack, and say that they’re building for the future, and got a good package of prospects in return for someone they couldn’t sign. Right now, I give this trade a little advantage to Atlanta, but it will only take two of these prospects to make it a good deal for the Rangers.
Oh yeah, Ron Mahay was in the deal. We liked you too, Ron, but let’s face it you weren’t a player we were building our hopes around. Sorry. We’ll slot someone else into the bullpen and hardly miss ye.
In other news, with a little over half a day until the deadline, we still have Sammy Sosa, and we still have Eric Gagne. Teams are lining up for Gagne, or so they say, but if we trade him, who’s gonna be the closer since Aki is on the DL? Well, first of all, we don’t need a closer, because we’re not winning anything. Second, I think you’ll see Benoit and Wilson stepping into that slot, and I’ve been saying for a while that CJ Wilson is the closer of the future for the Rangers. The future is now, as they say.