You will read two dozen stories today, if you so desire, about Manny Ramirez and the Rangers' taste for giving second chances.
This story is about Texas giving first chances.
If you get the Dallas Morning News "Texas Rangers Daily Newsletter" in your email each morning, packaging links to the top stories and most recent blog entries from the publication's writers, you'll notice that today's is all Manny: all five top stories are about the 41-year-old, and all five blog entries are, too. (If you scroll down to the "More Rangers" section, you'll see a link referencing the extra-inning baseball game Texas played last night.) I read two of the 10 Manny stories, which was enough for me, for now. One of the two talked about Ramirez's MLB suspension, which he served out last year while playing for Oakland's AAA club.
This post is going to start with a note about another suspension coming to an end.
Jairo Beras suited up Tuesday night for a game that counted. For the first time.
Venezuela's Eduard Pinto singled to lead off the AZL Rangers' first. Australia's Todd McDonald replaced him at first base after a 6-4 fielder's choice. Georgia's Travis Demeritte walked. Up stepped Beras, the 6'6" Dominican.
The at-bat we all waited 16 months for, the last 12 of which Beras had to sit out due to perceived birthdate fraud, promptly ended in an inning-ending, double play grounder to third.
We only had to wait another 40 minutes for Beras's next opportunity, and that one went better. The 18-year-old stepped up in the bottom of the third, after a Pinto lineout and a McDonald strikeout and another Demeritte walk, and Beras tripled the opposite way, giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead it wouldn't relinquish.
The two at-bats were a useful reminder that — even for players who commanded $4.5 million as amateur free agents — there's going to be lots of hit-and-miss.
Like with Hickory third baseman Joey Gallo, the 6'5" 19-year-old who leads all of minor league baseball with 25 home runs (ahead of teammate Ryan Rua and former Rangers farmhand Mauro Gomez, both of whom have 24), but who is also second in the minors (in all of professional ball, in fact) with 125 strikeouts, trailing only teammate Lewis Brinson (127), the 6'3" 19-year-old outfielder who has 15 homers of his own.
I remember when, in the summer of 2005, having brought A.J. Preller and Don Welke over from the Dodgers' scouting department, the Rangers announced with their wallets that they were back in business in Latin America, where the organization had been so successful mining talent in the 1980s before relative international irrelevance had set in. Texas invested $1 million that July — combined — on catcher Cristian Santana, righthander Fabio Castillo, and third baseman Johan Yan.
I remember Texas signing Venezuelan lefthander Martin Perez for nearly $600,000 in July 2007, weeks after a draft in which Texas made five first-round picks and weeks before trades of Mark Teixeira and Eric Gagne and Kenny Lofton would bring in another haul of young talent, including Latin American minor leaguers like Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Max Ramirez, and Engel Beltre, a flashy Dominican outfielder who had spent part of his high school years in New York City, which is the only thing he has in common with Manny Ramirez, a player Beltre could be teammates with later this summer.
I remember the Rangers landing the top two international shortstops in July 2009, paying Jurickson Profar (Curacao) and Luis Sardinas (Venezuela) about $1.5 million each.
Then, in 2011, the last summer in which international spending was uncapped, the Rangers spent $12.83 million in signing bonuses, over $5 million more than the next-highest-spending club (Toronto). The haul was highlighted by Dominican outfielder Nomar Mazara, Dominican first baseman Ronald Guzman, Venezuelan lefthander Yohander Mendez, and a Venezuelan second baseman signed six months beforehand named Rougned Odor. The $12.83 million figure didn't include the $15.5 million invested that May on Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin, or the $51.7 million the Rangers put up seven months after that to win the right to sign Japanese-Iranian righthander Yu Darvish, which they did for an added $60 million a few weeks later.
In 2012, there were CBA limitations in place, but Texas out-due-diligenced everyone else before July and got Beras signed (weeks after finalizing the deal with Darvish) for $4.5 million, far more than he would have gotten if he'd had to wait until July 2 to sign (as most clubs assumed). A lengthy MLB investigation into Beras's age and his role in misrepresenting it in the past held the deal up for months, and when it was finally blessed the league suspended him from official play until July 2, 2013.
July 2, 2013 was also the day on which this year's international class was first eligible to agree to terms on pro deals, and according to widespread reports, on Tuesday Texas signed 16-year-old Dominican righthander Marcos Diplan, considered by Baseball America to be the top pitcher in this year's J2 class, for an estimated $1.3 million.
And 16-year-old Venezuelan/Dominican shortstop Yeyson Yrizarri (BA's number two shortstop), for a reported $1.35 million.
And 16-year-old Dominican outfielder/third baseman Jose Almonte, for a reported $1.8 million.
And 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Michael De Leon, for a reported $550,000.
And 16-year-old Mexican righthander Edgar Arredondo, for some amount.
Add it up, and those five players alone cost Texas $5 million plus Arredondo.
But not exactly.
Because under the current CBA, Texas was capped at doling out $1.94 million in signing bonuses internationally.
The codified penalty?
A 100 percent tax on everything over the cap, plus a max of $250,000 per player signed in next year's J2 class.
So add to that $5 million plus Arredondo's cost another $3.06 million plus another Arredondo amount.
A $1.94 million "cap."
And an outlay of more than $8 million, plus two Edgar Arredondo's — not to mention Dominican lefthander Francis Cespedes, an 18-year-old the Rangers signed three weeks ago for a reported $750,000.
I love this ownership group.
And that part about being limited to $250,000 players next summer? Just expect the line item in the budget for Venezuela and the Dominican and associated territories to be reallocated in part toward Asia. Or Cuba. Or some other region where players ready for their first chance here aren't subject to CBA constraints.
Or maybe it gets reallocated toward the trade deadline budget.
Diplan, Yrizarri, Almonte, De Leon, and Arredondo may not have the same buzz as the Rangers' Fab Five from a year ago — draftees Brinson, Gallo, Nick Williams, Jamie Jarmon, and Collin Wiles — or of the 2011 international haul that included Mazara, Guzman, Mendez, and Odor (not to mention Martin and Darvish), or of last summer's Beras signing, but buzz is what the 2006 Rangers needed, when they felt they had to make a statement that they were back in business in Latin America.
Not so much any more on the need for buzz. This is a franchise that thought Profar was a shortstop when every other interested club wanted him to pitch. A franchise that got Profar signed — in an uncapped year — for less money than it reportedly took this week to sign Almonte, a player that Baseball America doesn't even consider one of the top 30 players available in this summer's class.
We'll see if BA is right about that.
I'd like to write about Matt Garza and the fascinating thing about his trade value, but that will have to be next time. It's a discussion that might even involve some of the names covered in this report, and that's part of the point.
Talent accumulation is everything. The Texas Rangers are very good at it, and ownership here is fully and tenaciously invested in it, in every sense of the word.
Though he did score the tying run in a ninth-inning Arizona League Rangers comeback win last night, Beras went 0 for 4 in what was his second official game in the Rangers system, two more than Manny Ramirez has played so far. I'll admit that I'm going to keep an eye on the Round Rock box scores and Scott's reports with a little bit of an added purpose the next few weeks, but I'm pulling those AZL boxes up every day, too, fired up to see how this Beras journey gets going, now that it's happening between the lines.
I'll also admit that when the current Rangers DH stepped to the plate last night with men on in the bottom of the sixth and again in the bottom of the eighth, both times in a tie game, I would have been just as happy to have Manny up to bat, straight off the street. Maybe Manny — born three days before Raul Ibanez — has something left, maybe he doesn't. But the current guy looks done.
And that's where a deep and heavily subsidized farm system could very well come into play, as we start thinking about Alex Rios or a different bat, or Matt Garza or another arm. Those are things we'll talk about the next time I write.
You can go read a hundred Manny Ramirez stories in the meantime, if that's your thing.