Yoenis Cespedes has found a home (with Oakland), Jorge Soler is apparently on the verge of doing so (with the Cubs), and though Roy Oswalt still lingers, the trucks are loading up in 30 cities, bound for Arizona and Florida, with the game of musical chairs nearing an end.
The Rangers suggest that they’re probably done altering the group they’ll take to Surprise, but there’s still the possibility of a non-roster addition or two and a little trade activity, according to local reports.
The business of trading Koji Uehara, for one, seems like an inevitability, held up perhaps only by the club’s disinclination to water down the ask just to get a deal done. Whether moving Uehara’s $4 million contract creates enough payroll cushion to come together on a deal with Oswalt – and whether Texas is as interested in that marriage as Oswalt appears to be – is unknown.
One local reporter suggested that the Rangers “backed away from [Oswalt] 10 days ago,” but at least one club rumored to be interested in the righthander, Cincinnati, believes the reason he has yet to sign with anyone is that he’s “waiting for Texas to clear money” so he work something out with the Rangers (according to a note from Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News).
Left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez remains available, an apparent indication that, for now, he’s asking interested clubs for more of a commitment than any of them are prepared to make.
Then again, this may be the year when the Rangers decide it’s time to entrust one of the roles Gonzalez and Darren Oliver held down last year to Michael Kirkman, who will be on his final option in 2012. Veteran southpaws Joe Beimel and Mitch Stetter are around on non-roster deals to compete for jobs as well, but Kirkman has held left-handed hitters to a .214/.313/.286 slash in his two big league seasons and punched out a quarter of them.
All the key prospect evaluators had Kirkman around number 5 or number 6 in the deep Rangers system a year ago. If he can sharpen his fastball command, there may be a relief weapon from the left side already set to trot out to the back fields a week from Thursday.
Speaking of prospect rankings, most of the winter’s much-awaited lists have now been rolled out, and Texas is well represented.
Kevin Goldstein (Baseball Prospectus) has five Rangers on his Top 101 Prospects list: shortstop Jurickson Profar (4th overall), lefthander Martin Perez (36th), third baseman Mike Olt (45th), righthander Neil Ramirez (77th), and catcher Jorge Alfaro (101st). He added in a chat session that if he considered Yu Darvish a prospect, he’d be “[s]omewhere in the top four,” which would give Texas two of the top five prospects in baseball.
Goldstein also included San Diego lefthander Robbie Erlin (53rd) and righthander Joe Wieland (74th), the two players Texas traded for reliever Mike Adams, on his list.
Four Rangers land on the Top 100 Prospects list that Keith Law prepared for ESPN: Profar (7th), Perez (20th), Olt (75th), and Ramirez (99th).
Law ranks the Texas system seventh overall, though he doesn’t consider Darvish a prospect. He has Oakland ninth (though that was before Cespedes signed), up from a bottom-10 ranking when the off-season began – that is, before the Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Andrew Bailey trades restocked their system. Law has the Mariners 11th and the Angels 15th.
Baseball America’s Top 100 should be revealed in the next few days.
Goldstein’s top 11 Rangers prospects should be revealed soon.
Law’s top 10:
5. Robbie Ross, LHP
6. Rougned Odor, 2B
7. Leonys Martin, CF
8. Cody Buckel, RHP
9. Leury Garcia, SS
10. Jorge Alfaro, C
BA’s top 32 Rangers prospects:
Unsigned when list published: Darvish
8. Christian Villanueva, 3B
10. Matt West, RHP
12. Jordan Akins, OF
13. Ronald Guzman, 1B/OF
15. Justin Grimm, RHP
16. Tanner Scheppers, RHP
17. Luis Sardinas, SS
18. Luke Jackson, RHP
19. Roman Mendez, RHP
20. Barret Loux, RHP
21. Will Lamb, LHP
22. Kevin Matthews, LHP
23. Kellin Deglan, C
24. Jake Skole, OF
25. Tomas Telis, C
26. David Perez, RHP
27. Odubel Herrera, 2B
29. Miguel de los Santos, LHP
30. Nomar Mazara, OF
31. Zach Cone, OF
BA also said – before Darvish signed – that Texas had the number two farm system in baseball. Executive Editor Jim Callis makes Darvish his number 4 prospect in baseball.
In a chat session, BA’s Matt Forman said he’d take the Rangers’ number 11 through 20 prospects over the White Sox’s top 10.
Jonathan Mayo’s top 20 Rangers prospects for MLB.com:
2. Martin Perez
16. David Perez
20. Engel Beltre, OF
Mayo has Akins and lefthander Victor Payano as his “under the radar” picks from the Rangers system.
John Sickels’s top 20 Rangers prospects:
Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus and Texas Farm Review has been counting his Rangers prospects down in reverse, and is just now getting to the top 20. When his list is complete, I’ll publish it.
My own Top 72 list can be found here.
Remember something about this system and the reports coming out of Arlington this week that the team has hit its projected payroll for 2012 and may even be a tick over budget.
When this organization sets its budget for the season, it typically includes plans to spend in July at the trade deadline – certainly in this period when the club has gone into each season believing it would contend.
In July, when the biggest hole on the club was in set-up relief, Texas traded Erlin and Wieland for Adams, and Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis for Uehara. Erlin and Wieland, at this time a year ago, sat in the number 5 and number 20 range in the Texas system.
The depth that Texas has in its prospect pipeline means that this summer, assuming that there’s once again a line item in the budget for a trade deadline boost in payroll, the club could go out and trade for another arm, or an impact outfielder, or a bat for the bench.
Maybe it costs Robbie Ross and Barret Loux to make a significant deal. But this is now an organization that, at the moment, doesn’t have a real need for Roy Oswalt, and could break camp with relievers Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman as reinforcements should a starter need arise, Neil Ramirez and Martin Perez waiting at Round Rock, Ross and Loux at Frisco, Cody Buckel and Justin Grimm and Roman Mendez at Myrtle Beach, Luke Jackson and Will Lamb at Hickory, and so on.
The loss of a couple pitchers like Ross and Loux, if it meant a playoff club got measurably stronger in the process, would be survived, just as seeing Erlin and Wieland pop up on league-wide prospect rankings as members of another club doesn’t hurt so much when the bigger picture has Texas positioned as one of the best teams in the Major Leagues and still boasting one of the strongest farm systems in the game.
This is how it’s done.