Make it up as we go along

I spent much of today Christmas shopping, which was clearly a bad choice since so did everyone else in the Metroplex.  I ended up walking out of a few stores with nothing, simply because the lines were so long.  Since I sort of know what I want, and where I want to go, I will try again one morning this week, when the lines should be much shorter.  One item eluded me though: a can of snakes.  You know what they are, right?  When you open the lid, all the foam rubber snakes pop out?  I wanted it for part of a gag gift for Monday, and since I couldn’t find it, I’m going to have to improvise, badly.

Which brings me to the point of this article:  the Rangers’ off-season plans.  Improvising badly seems like a good description.  At the end of the season Jon Daniels and Ron Washington told us what they wanted, and told us who they were going to go after.  All of those plans have come to a dead end.  Admittedly, some of them (like Torii Hunter) were pursued, but upon realizing what a state this team is in, wisely chose to take the money elsewhere.  Others were pipedreams (actually the whole centerfield thing was a joke, because at the start they told us how many good free agent center fielders there are, and pretty much guaranteed one would be coming here, only to end up with Milton Bradley on a one year deal).  I read somewhere that the Rangers had kicked the tires on Johan Santana.  I’d love to get him, but to actually think he’s going anywhere other than Boston or New York is crazy.  The Rangers would have to give up a ton of prospects, and even then they’d be assured to lose him when free agency strikes.  By that time the team might be competitive, but in the meantime he’d be wasted here.

So Jon Daniels said in the last few days that the Rangers were pretty much done with any deals or free agent signings.  I find it hard to believe there’s not anyone out there that wouldn’t improve the team.  But I am conflicted, because I know the team will not contend this year, and probably not next year.  Since they need to work towards 2010, it’s probably a good thing they’re done – they won’t be wasting money on free agents, and they won’t be wasting prospects on veterans.

Let’s do some more house-cleaning though.  Here’s my not-so-radical suggestion:  trade Millwood and Padilla.  I hear you saying I’m crazy, and I probably am, but what will those two guys bring us the next two years?  Padilla, with two years on his contract, will bring an incredible amount of angst, with the other 24 guys in the clubhouse (and the manager) hating him all year long.  Works too slow, gets too wild, randomly decides to hit someone and mess things up.  On top of injury worries, he’s a big risk.  What can we get in return?  Anything will do, if we can save some contract money and some headaches.  Millwood, however, is pretty decent, due for a big season (every third year he has one, according to his career stats), and could be considered a leader.  Doesn’t that make his value higher?  Or do we wait for the end of the year (or even the middle) and get rid of him while he’s riding high?  Either way, his value to the 2010 and later teams is in what prospects he can bring in.

Of course, if you trade both Millwood and Padilla, you’ll make Michael Young mad, which in turn may mean you have to trade him.  Not necessarily a bad thing, with his contract and declining value.  So let’s concentrate on trying to get Padilla out, who no-one likes, and work on Millwood (and Young) later.  There are plenty of starting prospects in the organization, and they should be given a chance to sink or swim.  Imagine getting some of these guys two or three years starting experience by the time 2010 rolls around.  Why, you’d almost be like the current Tigers team.

My 2008 rotation would look like this:  Kevin Millwood.  Brandon McCarthy.  Edinson Volquez.  Kason Gabbard.  Luis Mendoza.  Armando Galarraga.  Eric Hurley.  Okay, so there’s seven names, and no I would not take all seven.  But I included Millwood, which adds one to the list, and then added one at the end just waiting for whoever breaks down.  That, by the way, is the order I’d use them in, too.  And as a target, I would like to see four of them in contention for a rotation spot in 2009.  Some of them I would like to write in ink right now (McCarthy and Volquez) and some of them I’ll pencil in (Mendoza and Hurley), but really any of them could get the nod.  The reason being that if four of them are successful (and by successful I mean look decent, and learn, regardless of stats) in 2008, then we only have one gap to fill in 2009.  That could be a free agent, or someone else who stepped up from the minors.  Then, repeat that in 2010, and the likes of Kasey Kiker will be knocking on the door.  By 2011 there should be another two or three starters working their way in.

The other day I did an analysis of the hitters by Runs Created, and said I’d follow up with pitchers.  The more I looked at them, the less there was to see.  I ended up ignoring most of what I discovered, because you already know the answers:  the Rangers had the worst rotation and the third best bullpen in the majors in 2007.  So where did we see the team looking?  That’s right, at the bullpen.  They release Aki Otsuka (remember when they wouldn’t put him on the DL, back in June, because they thought it would be a couple of days, and now they’re releasing him because they don’t think he’s healthy?).  They sign some other Japanese pitcher, who is automatically contending for the closer role (I’ve described the dumb moves of Ron Washington before, suffice to say that CJ Wilson is going to make some team a great closer one day, but who knows if it will be us?).  And they say they’re happy with the rotation as it stands.  Jon Daniels has apparently never read a history book, or at least a baseball stats encyclopedia.  The bullpen means nothing if the rotation can’t do anything.

I want to take one paragraph to talk about the steroid report.  I think I am like most people, pretty blase about it.  Sure, there’s the shock value of the Clemens/Pettitte/Tejada thing (gotta love the Astros’ timing), but overall I don’t really care.  My all-time favorite player, David Justice, was named, and then denied it.  Do I believe him?  Or the report?  Actually I haven’t made up my mind, but it doesn’t really matter.  Come on, you have the National Football Steroid League, and you care about a few people in baseball?  Did Clemens really go from Joe Blow to superstar because of it?  No.

What’s funny is the headline on the Rangers site, “Current Rangers not listed in Mitchell Report”, and the pride the team seemed to take in that.  Firstly, they just missed by a week having Jerry Hairston on the roster, Gagne was there this season (Jamey Newberg’s report yesterday suggested that a lot of people in the league knew that Gagne was using something), and they had a minor leaguer suspended 50 games on Friday for using.  Plus, they were tied for fourth for most players named.  The Rangers were definitely not squeaky clean in all this, and to say “oh well, what’s past is past” is a little disingenuous.  Still, the report is done and gone, and we can ignore the whole issue again for a few more years.

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