The Rangers had a surfeit at catcher, if you listened to anyone worth listening to. They were going to deal some of them, and get some big-time pitching prospects in here, guys who were going to jump into a major league role right away. The top four (Laird, Saltalamacchia, Teagarden and Ramirez) were all mentioned in different ways.
Of those, Salty was the one talked about most, and Ramirez hardly at all. Jamey Newberg had Salty on the way out the door, Boston bound, and we were going to get Clay Buchholz or Michael Bowden in return. We’d be pretty happy with either of those guys, right? Either one would step into our rotation plans, probably as a 5th starter in 2009 but you’d expect them to be a 2 or 3 by 2011, the earliest the Rangers are likely to contend.
So what did the Rangers actually do? They traded Gerald Laird to Detroit for nothing. To be more precise, a 25 year old still struggling to get out of A ball (= No Prospect), and a 17 or 18 year old who has a thousand mile per hour fastball but is a crapshoot.
Yeah, genius work. Much of the value of the catchers was in Salty, and if you consider that Teagarden is the one for the future, then it wouldn’t matter if you deal Salty or Laird, except for the fact that you get a much better return on Salty than on Laird.
So we presumably go into 2009 with Salty and Teagarden as our two catchers, two guys who have little experience at the job. Yeah, they can learn on the job, but who are they going to learn from? My ideal situation would have been to trade Salty for one of those Boston guys, and let Teagarden learn from Laird for a year or two before turning into our catcher of the future. As it is, Salty hasn’t shown much of anything either with the bat or behind the plate, and may be destined to be yet another prospect who turned into a pumpkin at the big league level.
My biggest fear hasn’t been realized (yet): that they will bring in a veteran to help the young guys. You know, an Einar Diaz, Sandy Alomar, Rod Barajas, someone whose only job is to block young players from getting playing time. It’s fine to have them as a teacher, but you don’t deal someone who could do that and then go get another one at twice the price.
This is the same brain trust that has them talking about bringing in Randy Johnson. I defy you to find a more bone-headed move that the Rangers could make. RJ would take a lot of money, and would bring back 300 wins (he’s at 295 now), so would get a lot of publicity. But it would be Sammy Sosa publicity, where nobody around here really cares, because we know he did it all with another team. It would be a publicity stunt to try and get the local fans interested, and God knows they’re going to have to do a lot to get the Texas fans interested in 2009.
My favorite line about Johnson was in the Dallas Morning News. Nolan Ryan was quoted as saying he’d be a great teacher for the young pitchers we have coming through. But then, Johnson’s agent said that he was a good teacher if the young guys asked him about things. Not that he’ll be volunteering anything, but if some snot-nosed 20 year old comes up to future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson and asks him for help, he will offer it. Yeah, that’ll happen.
And they bring back Mark Connor, to a minor league role? Did they forget how he was destroying young pitchers?
Seeing Sabathia and Burnett sign with the Yankees was very demoralizing. The Rangers are left with Ben Sheets, hoping he’ll take a home town discount (except then there’s the story that he’s trying to sell his house in Dallas!). Not a good long-term bet. And I don’t think the Rangers should be signing anyone long-term, they should be concentrating on getting the kids in short-term. Once we see the upswing in the team’s chances (and I said 2011 above), then you look for a free agent or two who can help put the team over the top. Every dollar spent on top level free agents right now is a wasted one. On bottom level ones too, for that matter. Recognize the team isn’t going to win, and go with the kids, don’t bring in roster filler who are taking their time away.