The response to yesterday’s Yu Darvish post was interesting, in some instances making me consider whether I failed to state clearly enough my basic point, which was merely that I think Darvish — who is great and an ace and my second favorite pitcher in Rangers history — has room to be better (that would be good thing, right?). Based on the responses, I know many of you understood the point I was trying to make, but some didn’t, and that’s my fault, but either way, the issue of whether there’s a potentially correctable piece in Darvish’s already extraordinary game is one on which there is some clear disagreement.
Anyway, I didn’t suit up in a flak jacket before sending Sunday morning’s report out, but I’ve got it on right now as I throw the following out there . . . .
David Murphy makes $5.775 million this year, a product of his third and final arbitration-eligible season. He’ll be 32 in October, and is having his worst big league season, whether you measure it by OPS or OPS+ or WAR or none of those.
At this point, what is he this winter? A two-year, $9 million player? One year and 6 million? Two years and $10.5 million, given how thin the free agent market is?
Hypothetically, what if Murphy cost only $500,000 or so in 2014? Would you take him back in the fourth-outfielder role that he’s held for most of his career, with Leonys Martin in center, Alex Rios in right, a new left fielder, right-handed-hitting center fielder and runner Craig Gentry on the bench, and someone like Nelson Cruz at DH?
What if Murphy were a little better defensively than he is, and capable of playing a reasonable center field? Would he fit for you, especially at a league-minimum salary?
What if he could play a little first base as well?
What if he were a baserunning threat?
What if he were 28 years old this off-season, rather than 32?
I don’t think Murphy will be back in Texas after this season. He’s entering the first free agency of his career, and at age 32 it will be his one chance to shop the market for a contract that could set his family up for life, perhaps coming close to doubling the $13 million he’s made so far.
For various reasons, it would make sense that it would come from a club not loaded to contend right away, as 2013 has probably sent signals that he’s better off (especially in his declining years as far as age goes) as a fourth outfielder on a contender, though he might fit in an everyday role on a young team with a front office that values Murphy’s playoff experience and his intangibles, counting on a bounceback year statistically. That’s probably where he stands the best chance at maximizing his next contract.
What I’m wondering is whether Jim Adduci, at age 28 the epitome of a 4-A baseball player, might not be able to step in next year, at the league minimum, with better defense, versatile enough to handle center field and first base in addition to the outfield corners, offering a left-handed bat that is hitting .296/.378/.465 against AAA pitching this year — including .395/.471/.547 this month — while torching right-handed pitching to the tune of .314/.402/.498, with the added ability to run a little bit (32 steals in 41 tries), and help the Texas bench.
Adduci’s not on the 40-man roster, but maybe in a week you get him up here for a handful of targeted opportunities down the stretch. (The roster has one open spot, but even once Neftali Feliz comes off the 60-day disabled list to fill it you have other options, like putting Roman Mendez or perhaps Justin Miller on the 60.) We will see Engel Beltre back in Arlington when rosters expand, and maybe Joey Butler (a right-handed bat) and even Joe Benson (also a right-handed bat), who is on his final option. If Adduci came up his opportunities would probably be very limited, but he’d get around the team and the coaches for a month, and there’s some benefit to that.
Fortunately, Neal Cotts, whom the Rangers had on a minor league deal in 2012 but didn’t add to the roster last September, felt enough loyalty to Texas to sign a new non-roster contract in the winter rather than take advantage of one of what was probably a handful of other opportunities around the league. Maybe Adduci, who spent three seasons in the Marlins system and then six seasons as a Cubs farmhand before signing in November with Texas — on the recommendation of pro scout Scot Engler, who is also responsible for Cotts and Ross Wolf and several other off-the-radar acquisitions — and who hit .388/.464/.612 in camp this spring for the Rangers while playing more games (31) than anyone besides Julio Borbon, is prepared to build off his breakout minor league season by returning to the organization he’s turned that season in for.
Adding Adduci to the 40-man roster in September would prevent other clubs from approaching him this winter and fighting Texas to bring him to camp in 2014.
It might also give the Rangers another look, in addition to the one he gave them in 55 plate appearances in Surprise and the 526 plate appearances he’s given them so far in Round Rock, that even in very small doses can help to start put a picture in the frame, as the organization decides what its reshaped outfield and bench might look like going into 2014.