I sprained my thumb working out on Saturday and then my back locked up trying to play tennis through the thumb thing on Monday (yeah, I’m not sure either) and now I’m sleeping horribly because of the medication prescribed for the back thing and I feel pretty much like a Picasso subject looks, a Picasso subject done in crayon but only black and white and gray crayons, and if all that’s not a green light to wake up from non-sleep thinking about and then writing about a signing/trade scenario that I don’t really think has much of a chance of happening, basically yanking a spitball of likely non-existence into this meat — then you’re encouraged to read no further and maybe I’ll leave this entry out of next year’s book.
In a story he published yesterday for USA Today, Paul White handicapped the market for 10 free agents whose job purgatory may theoretically be relieved after Masahiro Tanaka makes his decision by Friday on where he’ll sign (there are rumors this morning that the Yankees could announce a deal today at seven years and $155 million, with an opt-out after year four). In it White suggests Kendrys Morales will take two years and $25 million from the Rangers, while Nelson Cruz will sign with Detroit on a one-year, $9 million pillow contract.
Setting aside for a second the likelihood of either Texas or Cruz himself allowing things to shake out that way if that’s truly what it would take to sign either DH, let’s assume there’s something to White’s prediction.
First, ignore what you’ve been hearing about the draft pick consequence. I’ve heard some on local radio suggest the Rangers would lose their second-round pick (having already forfeited their first for signing Shin-Soo Choo) by signing Morales but wouldn’t lose a pick if they bring Cruz back.
That’s not really true. Texas, by signing Cruz, would “lose” a supplemental first-round pick (around 33rd overall), since that’s what the club will receive if Cruz signs somewhere else.
And in fact — I think — the Rangers would lose that supplemental first, and not the second-rounder (around 60th overall), if they sign Morales (which would certainly result in Cruz signing somewhere else). As I understand the rules, the Rangers would lose their highest-slotted pick by signing Morales (even if that were to happen chronologically before Cruz signs somewhere else), and even if that would temporarily mean they’d forfeit their second-round pick, it would revert to the loss of the supplemental first once they were awarded that pick for Cruz’s departure, and they’d recoup the second-rounder.
So in other words, I’m pretty sure that signing Morales or signing Cruz would have the same result for Texas: no supplemental first-round pick in June, with the club’s second-round pick intact.
OK, back to the White scenario.
While signing Cruz could conceivably make Mitch Moreland a part-timer at DH and first base and the outfield corners, you would think that adding the switch-hitting Morales would be more likely to lead to a Moreland trade.
The Pirates are a playoff team still planning to roll Gaby Sanchez out at first base (unless they decide to move Pedro Alvarez across the diamond), with most of the free agent options dried up at this point and the Mets reportedly asking for too much in return for Ike Davis. At best, the 30-year-old Sanchez (.987 OPS against left-handed pitching in 2013, .619 OPS against righties) is a right-handed hitter who could really use a left-handed hitting platoon partner.
I’ve written a couple times this winter about my guess that Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who was Moreland’s batting coach when he broke into the big leagues in 2010 (putting up an .879 OPS over the season’s final month and then hitting .348/.400/.500 in 51 playoff plate appearances), is probably a Moreland fan.
Recall when Peter Gammons said on MLB Network during the Winter Meetings that Texas and Pittsburgh were discussing a deal that would send Moreland to the Pirates for left-handed reliever Justin Wilson, whose power repertoire would fit great here — especially now that Robbie Ross could be asked to audition for a rotation spot in Derek Holland’s absence. Wilson would be under club control for the next five seasons. Neal Cotts can be a free agent a year from now.
I understand the fear that Moreland could blossom elsewhere, after what happened with Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Davis. And I’m a believer that Moreland could start to figure things out. But he’s been pretty close to league average since that rookie season in 2010, and he’s already 28.
In fact, Morales (30) is closer to Moreland’s age (28) than he is to Cruz’s age (33). That may surprise you. It surprised me.
But yeah, that whole thing about Moreland earning $3.25 million or $2.025 million in 2014 (or a settlement amount in between), compared with the $12.5 million for Morales under White’s scenario — that’s a pretty important factor, considering where the Rangers’ payroll is.
As for the draft pick forfeiture, if the rules allowed it would you trade a supplemental first-round pick for Justin Wilson? Not sure I wouldn’t, and that (aside from the payroll impact) would be the upshot of signing Morales (with Cruz going elsewhere) and trading Moreland for the Pittsburgh lefty, who would conceivably give the bullpen a major boost, now and for the next few years.
Not that I’m sure the Pirates would make that deal. They evidently wouldn’t in December (or perhaps it was Texas that wouldn’t sign off on the trade that Gammons thought was imminent), but the first base options are far fewer now for Pittsburgh than they were then.
And then there would be the tricky part about leverage, which the Rangers arguably have now since they’re not in a position of having to trade Moreland, and which would shift the other way if they were to sign Morales — though Scott Boras is probably a nice enough guy to agree quietly in principle on a Morales deal while Texas takes care of Moreland business with the Pirates first. (Maybe it doesn’t hurt that Alvarez is a Boras client, and he’s more valuable at third base than at first.)
As usual, stick this one in the not-gonna-happen category, but at least it wasn’t one big run-on sentence and, given how broken down and sleep-deprived I feel, I can’t promise that’s not what’s coming next.