The Rangers haven’t yet agreed on a contract extension with Josh Hamilton, who will be a free agent after the 2012 season if not locked up beforehand, but in the meantime they have agreed to hire his father-in-law, Michael Dean Chadwick, to fill the support role (a position termed by some as “accountability partner”) vacated when Johnny Narron became Milwaukee’s hitting coach in November.
Texas hired Narron as Hamilton’s confidant and mentor within days of the club’s trade with Cincinnati that brought Hamilton here in 2007. He’d coached Hamilton as a youth in North Carolina and served in a supportive position with the Reds during Hamilton’s one season there.
But if you look at Narron’s bio in the Rangers’ 2011 media guide, it talks about his role as assistant big league hitting coach and added duties in pro scouting. Mike Napoli credited Narron – during the brief time that Thad Bosley was the club’s hitting coach – for getting his swing straightened out and his season turned around. The Brewers (whose bench coach is Jerry Narron, the former Rangers manager and Johnny’s brother) obviously thought enough of Narron’s coaching ability to hire him a month and a half ago to replace Dale Sveum, who had departed to manage the Cubs.
Hamilton’s name is not mentioned in Narron’s bio, which is not to ignore or diminish the huge responsibility he was entrusted with to counsel and support Hamilton in his daily recovery from substance abuse. The point is that Narron was also an important part of Ron Washington’s baseball staff, and in that sense the nature of the club’s effort to put a system in place to give Hamilton (and accordingly, the club) the best chance of success has changed. I’m not sure if Chadwick, without question a crucial figure in Hamilton’s life (which you know if you’ve read Hamilton’s book), will have a bio in this year’s media guide, or what it would say.
It’s an interesting decision, one that Evan Grant and others have suggested could present a slippery slope should other Rangers players decide that their own family members ought to be added to the Rangers family, for one reason or another. The thing that gives me some amount of confidence that this won’t become a problem, however, is that this is a club whose players celebrate Hamilton walkoffs and playoff clinchers with Ginger Ale and, by all accounts, are fully supportive of Hamilton’s recovery to the point at which he’d recognize his teammates as key figures in his battle themselves. This is a really good clubhouse, and that minimizes the odds that the Chadwick hire could become any sort of issue. I hope.
I don’t think this move makes it any more likely that Hamilton will be in a different uniform in 2013, or that it leaks the organization’s plans on what to do with his contract.
The other thing is I don’t know Chadwick at all. And for that matter, I don’t know Johnny Narron. Or Josh Hamilton.
I don’t know what goes on in the Rangers’ clubhouse, either, but I get the very strong sense (thanks to Grant and others who are in the room on a daily basis) that Texas has a tremendous clubhouse, with a tone set by Ron Washington and the veterans on the team and the players that this front office chooses to introduce each year to the mix.
And we all have plenty of evidence that this front office thinks through every move that it makes, and every possible consequence, that it doesn’t make any key decision without thinking five steps ahead of it.
So I’m not going to worry about this. I can’t dream up a risk that the organization might not have thought through.
The bigger issue is whether the team and Hamilton can agree in the next three months to rip up his $13.75 contract for 2012 and replace it with a deal that extends further, because he won’t be traded during the season.
He could certainly re-sign with Texas a year from now, even with other teams in the mix in a way that they can’t be now, but – if the organization feels like Hamilton is someone worth investing in at market value (in years more so than in dollars), and that might be a significant “if” – the process would be far more tranquil to work through this off-season than next.
On a similar front, Texas and Mike Napoli have reportedly moved off of talks on a long-term deal (the 30-year-old reportedly sought four years) and are now focused on a one-year contract to avoid the catcher’s final year of arbitration, before he too can become a free agent next winter. That doesn’t prevent the two sides from getting a one-year agreement done and then talking right away about replacing it with a multi-year commitment.
In a development that has absolutely no more impact on Hamilton or Napoli or Mitch Moreland (and sheds no more light on the team’s plans) than last week’s trade for Brandon Snyder, Texas (according to T.R. Sullivan) is reportedly interested in first baseman-corner outfielder Brad Hawpe, whose game has disappeared the last two seasons. Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reported last night that at least three teams are interested in the 32-year-old, who had Tommy John surgery in August, and that he would accept a minor league contract with an opportunity to make an Opening Day roster.
I spent more than 1,600 words a couple months ago on the prospect of Mike Olt helping this team at first base down the road rather than as a trade piece, even if it diminishes the value of his plus-plus fielding tool. Grant reported this week that Olt is expected to get an invite to big league camp, where he’ll in fact split time between the infield corners.
I’m still open to the idea of trading Olt as part of a package to alter the top of the Rangers’ rotation, but just as there’s nobody who can’t be traded, there’s nobody who must be traded. All possibilities should be considered.
Toronto’s one-year deal with Darren Oliver (with a club option for 2013) guarantees him $4 million in 2012, and there’s two shocking facts about that. It’s the highest base salary that the 41-year-old Oliver will have had since 2002 ($5 million). And, according to Mike Axisa of MLB Trade Rumors, it’s the most expensive contract that aggressive Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has brought a free agent in on in what is now three off-seasons at the helm of the club.
Daniels told reporters that when Oliver retires, he will have a front office opportunity with Texas if he wants it.
Texas reportedly remains interested in bringing free agent left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez back.
I still think closer Ryan Madson makes too much sense with the Angels not to happen (even though GM Jerry Dipoto calls a match “very unlikely” – we’ve seen that press play before), but Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) suggests this morning that the Rangers, who were in on Andrew Bailey until he went to Boston a week ago, have “checked in” on Madson. There was also news this week that Mike Adams had surgery to repair a hernia in December and probably won’t be at 100 percent when camp opens in six weeks, though he’s expected to be ready to go for the start of the season.
Righthander Greg Reynolds and hitter Chad Tracy, traded for each other this week, came out of Stanford and Pepperdine (respectively) in the 2006 draft, and both played in the High A Cal League, the AA Texas League, and the AAA Pacific Coast League, but as far as I can tell never played against each other at any of those college or pro levels. So there.
(Can’t say whether Reynolds’s Terra Nova High School Tigers faced Tracy’s Claremont High School Wolfpack in 2000, 2001, 2002, or 2003, but the California schools are over 400 miles apart. Deal with it.)
The Braves released Marcus Lemon, who was drafted a round later than Tracy in 2006 but signed for twice as much. Tracy’s bonus was $427,500 (right at slot), while Texas paid Lemon $1 million not to go to the University of Texas.
The Rangers signed 23-year-old Jon Edwards to a minor league deal. Drafted by St. Louis out of Keller High School 318 picks after Lemon went to the Rangers in 2006, Edwards failed to advance out of Low Class A in five seasons as a corner outfielder in the Cardinals system and spent 2011 in the independent leagues, playing outfield for the San Angelo Colts (North American League) and Alpine Cowboys (Pecos League) – and pitching two innings for Alpine. Texas signed him as a pitcher.
I’ve gone an entire report without mentioning Yu Darv . . . . [snip].
The Angels hired Mike LaCassa to serve as manager of minor league operations. The 25-year-old, who worked as an assistant in player development administration and Arizona operations with Texas last year (after interning with the organization in 2010), will report to Scott Servais, as he did with the Rangers. This is clearly a situation in which Texas, in spite of an agreement that precludes Servais from hiring Rangers employees for one year, waived the restriction to allow LaCassa to advance his career.
The Angels also signed first baseman Jorge Cantu to a minor league deal, another move that Texas likely had no objection to. Outfielder Doug Deeds took a non-roster deal with Los Angeles, too.
According to Heyman, righthander Brandon Webb is throwing and his arm feels “strong and loose.”
Oakland signed right-handed reliever Merkin Valdez to a minor league deal.
Toronto gave a minor league contract to right-handed reliever Stephen Marek, who along with Casey Kotchman was what Atlanta got from the Angels for Mark Teixeira, a year after they traded Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Beau Jones to Texas for Teixeira and Ron Mahay.
The Yankees released righthander Francisco Cruceta.
Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune and others talk of trade discussions between the Cubs and Orioles about Alfonso Soriano, which seems sort of strange to me considering that Buck Showalter managed in Texas when I thought Soriano resisted a move to the outfield and was subsequently traded to Washington.
The Rangers are staging a pitching mini-camp in Arlington from January 16-19. Feliz and Alexi Ogando are expected to participate, along with roster members Jake Brigham, Miguel De Los Santos, Wilmer Font, Mark Hamburger, Michael Kirkman, Roman Mendez, Justin Miller, Martin Perez, Neil Ramirez, and Matt West, plus prospects Justin Grimm, Robbie Ross, and Tanner Scheppers.
Coaches expected to participate are Washington, Mike Maddux, Greg Maddux, Andy Hawkins, Danny Clark, Terry Clark, Jeff Andrews, Brad Holman, and Jayce Tingler. It will be Greg Maddux’s first official work with the club.
Jason Parks identifies Jurickson Profar, Perez, Olt, Ramirez, and Ronald Guzman as his top five Rangers prospects and breaks down what could go wrong for each of them in 2012 in an excellent piece he wrote for Baseball Prospectus.
Wherever you think Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland would fit in the Rangers’ prospect rankings if they were still here (I’d guess around the 5 and 10 range), Baseball America’s Jim Callis had them at 9 (Wieland) and 10 (Erlin) in the Padres system, before San Diego moved Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs this week. Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein (assuming he’d have Yasmani Grandal ahead of them) has the two former Rangers pitching prospects at 3 (Erlin) and 6 (Wieland) in what he calls “an insanely deep system.”
Rangers fan Carson Leslie, as many of you know, passed away two years ago at age 17, after a courageous, dignified three-year battle with cancer. His family has devoted their lives to the fight against pediatric cancer and, in support of their efforts, are hosting the second annual Carson Leslie Foundation “A Sunny Place for Shady People” event at the Fashion Industry Gallery (f.i.g.), across from the Fairmont Hotel, on Friday, January 13, from 6:30-11:30 p.m. The fundraising event includes a Texas Hold’em tournament, blackjack tables, roulette, and craps, plus the “World Famous Chicken Drop.” There will be silent and live auctions with sports memorabilia and other cool stuff.
The cost to attend is $75 per person. For more details, click here.