Were the Rangers ahead of the curve when they made the Mark Teixeira Trade, a blockbuster deal involving an impact hitter with multiple pennant races of control remaining in exchange for the game’s most precious commodity — vertical depth in frontline prospects — a load-up deal the likes of which rarely gets made any more? Or was it just good timing?
Was Texas ahead of the curve when it overhauled its Latin American scouting process, treating the Dominican and Venezuela and Curacao and Colombia and every other corner of the baseball world — in manpower and in philosophy — the way most organizations treated the States, getting more looks at players and spending more time with their families and developing a book on those kids with as much grind as they would for a player from Galveston Ball High School, or Mississippi State? Or does it just seem that way?
Was the club ahead of the curve when it loaded up internationally in the summer of 2011 and the following winter, paying landmark bonuses to Dominicans Nomar Mazara, Ronald Guzman, and Jairo Beras (months after paying Cuban Leonys Martin over $15 million), plus Venezuelans Yohander Mendez, Eduard Pinto, and an under-the-radar second baseman without loud tools curiously named Rougned Odor, just before MLB put international spending caps in place the following year?
Or when, unfazed by the $1.9 million international bonus pool allocated to them in 2013 (or the limited ability to spend in 2014 as a result), the Rangers spent more than $8 million, going big on players like Marcos Diplan, Yeyson Yrizarri, Jose Almonte, and Michael De Leon and paying the heavy associated tax for blowing their cap away?
What about focusing on amateur shortstops a few years ago, when it appeared that the market in prospects around the league was relatively soft there?
Or going all in on power hitters (Mazara, Beras, Joey Gallo) at a time when that commodity was more scarce, at least among pre-arbitration assets?
Or structuring Ian Kinsler’s contract extension so that the later years decreased in value, making the contract more tradeable than it would have been if it looked like 99 percent of the long-term deals around the league that leveled out at the end, or even escalated?
Or Rule 5-ing Russell Wilson, which wasn’t the gimmick that Rule 5-ing Ricky Williams 15 years ago?
Were the Rangers ahead of the curve when they sealed a bid of $51.7 million in December 2011 to win the rights to negotiate a $56 million contract with Yu Darvish in January 2012, two years before the next elite-level pitcher was likely be posted, and with the likelihood that more teams would be in on the bidding the next time, not only because of rumblings that the posting system could be overhauled but also because teams were about to come into tens of millions more in TV money, both in national TV revenue and shockingly massive local broadcasting deals?
Or were they just infatuated with Darvish, and did everything they felt they could under the rules at the time to get the player?
Darvish for $56 million, and Masahiro Tanaka — who very few expect to be more of an impact pitcher than Darvish already is — for $155 million. It doesn’t seem right that Tanaka, the same age now (25) that Darvish was when he signed his deal, would land a contract for $99 million more.
The Rangers’ starting rotation — even including Derek Holland — is set to make less than $27 million total in 2014.
Tanaka will make $22 million himself.
But I’m in the camp betting that the Rangers’ off-season blueprint sessions included long-term thinking not on how Darvish’s $10 million salaries will fit the payroll in 2014, 2015, and 2016, and not on whether he’ll be able to void his $11 million in 2017 with more final-discussion Cy Young rankings, but instead on how Tanaka’s eventual deal, whatever it ended up being, might force Texas to rip up Darvish’s contract sometime soon and replace it with one more in line with what it would have been in today’s market.
Or, the way I’d prefer to look at it, might prompt Darvish to be open to such an extension.
And maybe if that’s the upshot here, it might generate another ahead-of-the-curve story, because we’re going to look back before the end of Darvish’s current deal and see that David Price and Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg and Johnny Cueto and more than one of Jose Fernandez and Matt Harvey and Gerrit Cole and Shelby Miller will have signed for huge money and a lot of years, maybe not Kershaw money or Kershaw years but something close to what Tanaka got, and in many cases a good bit more.
Because of where pitching dollars are headed, signing Darvish now — and by “now” I mean a lot closer to today than to the end of his current commitment — would probably end up looking like a bargain, and would make the $99 million more that Tanaka is presently entitled to a non-issue.
Sure, maybe this will not go well, and Darvish (who reportedly consulted with Tanaka this winter about life in the big leagues) will go into 2014 with a chip on his shoulder, and not the good, competitive kind, and he’ll be off his game and not happy and stories will start popping up that he’s already thinking about a new home when his commitment to the Rangers expires.
But if I led with that, it would have screwed up the worst story title in Newberg Report history, and, you know, in spite of how stinkin’ Jay-Z I am to the core, maybe that part wouldn’t have been the worst thing.
Bottom line: Good for Tanaka, and as a Yankee I hope he fails majestically.
But in the meantime, I hope the deal New York just gave Tanaka pushes Darvish himself to the table, something that I’d like to think the Rangers anticipated, planned for, and more than anything are eager to do something about.
Maybe I should unsend this and retitle it “Holy Grail.”