Of all the internationally signed prospects appearing on someone’s top 30 list in Baseball America’s 2014 Prospect Handbook, the Rangers didn’t originally sign the most, but their total of 14 was second only to Boston’s 15. And yet BA’s Ben Badler ranks Texas, and not the Red Sox, as having the number one international program in baseball.
That’s all cool and everything, until you see that, among the three highest-profile international prospects signed by each club, nestled between Venezuelan second baseman Rougned Odor and Colombian catcher Jorge Alfaro on the Texas list is Venezuelan lefthander Edwin Escobar, who checked in this winter as San Francisco’s number two prospect, and will probably be making starts for the Giants before he turns 23.
You might not be familiar with the name — he only appeared in 13 games for the sixth of the Rangers’ six stateside farm clubs while in the system — and only slightly more up on the player he was traded for, left-handed reliever Ben Snyder, who made over 120 appearances for Frisco, Oklahoma City, and Round Rock between 2010 and 2012, and if you know where Snyder has been since then, you’ve done a better job keeping tabs on him than I have.
The sequence of events that made Escobar someone else’s number two prospect went something like this:
* Texas traded Kevin Millwood and cash to Baltimore for reliever Chris Ray and a player to be named on December 9, 2009 (the club would eventually sign Colby Lewis and Vladimir Guerrero for less than what it would have had to pay Millwood).
* The next day, in that winter’s Rule 5 Draft, the Rangers had the Orioles use the third overall pick to take Snyder, who had converted to relief in the Giants system that season, putting up video game numbers against Class AA left-handed hitters. Snyder was immediately conveyed to Texas as the player to named in the Millwood deal, and writers like Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein opined that he was the best bet in that draft to make an impact.
* Snyder went to 2010 camp with the Rangers to compete against Clay Rapada and Zach Phillips and Michael Kirkman (and whoever among C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, and Matt Harrison didn’t win a rotation spot) for a second bullpen lefty job alongside Darren Oliver (who was signed two weeks after Snyder was acquired).
* Even though Wilson executed on his camp audition to become a starter, Harrison broke camp as the number five starter, and Holland started the season in AAA, and even though neither Rapada nor Phillips nor Kirkman earned a roster spot, and even though Snyder had to make the club or be run through waivers, the 24-year-old gave up eight runs (seven earned) on 12 hits and a pair of walks in seven spring training innings and didn’t win a job.
* As camp ended, Texas ran Snyder through waivers unclaimed, and — under the provisions of Rule 5 — had to offer him back to the Giants for half the $50,000 draft fee. As often happens when Rule 5 picks don’t stick, the Rangers went to San Francisco with an interest in keeping Snyder once he cleared waivers, and the two teams struck a deal on April 1: 17-year-old Edwin Escobar for the AA-bound Snyder.
It’s a trade that never gets talked about — BA had Escobar somewhere outside their top 40 Rangers prospects that off-season (I had him at 43), and Snyder never showed up in Arlington in that 2010 World Series season or anytime after that — but it will, soon enough.
If you think this is going to be an article focusing on bad Rangers trades, sorry. That’s not where this is headed. Bad trades happen to great organizations with great General Managers.
Ask Billy Beane how Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street, and Greg Smith for Matt Holliday after Gonzalez’s rookie year worked out, especially once Holliday’s half-season of Harold Baines-esque production led to Beane shipping him to St. Louis for Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen, and Shane Peterson. Or the Tim Hudson trade. Or AA prospect Andre Ethier for Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez. Or Nelson Cruz and Justin Lehr for Keith Ginter.
This is an article about sunk costs and what happens next. I hate that Texas traded Escobar for Snyder, but what’s done is done, and I’m pulling for Escobar to keep marching on his path to AT&T Park and to settle in somewhere near the middle of the San Francisco rotation.
Tanner Roark and Ryan Tatusko for Cristian Guzman happened four months after Escobar for Snyder, and Guzman did no more to help that inaugural World Series club than Snyder did from Frisco and Oklahoma City. Meanwhile, Roark (whom Texas had found in the 25th round) has eight quality starts in 11 tries for the Nationals (including a three-hit shutout against the Padres 10 days ago), Tatusko (18th round, and then a spin as a baseball blogger) is pitching well enough in AAA that a big league opportunity with the Nationals can’t be ruled out, and I’m good with all of that.
Most Julys and most Decembers Norm Hitzges recirculates the meme that you’d better run away from the Braves when they’re offering you a pitching prospect. I’ve always taken some amount of issue with that — seems to me that the ones who paid off for the new team (Jason Schmidt, Odalis Perez, Kevin Millwood, Adam Wainwright, Jason Marquis, Harrison, Neftali Feliz) soundly outnumbered the flops (Dan Meyer, Randall Delgado, Joey Devine, Micah Bowie, Matt Belisle, Tim Spooneybarger). But you don’t want the reputation that your prospects are overhyped, or that their minor league numbers are optical illusions.
Like, say, those early 1980s Dodgers hitters (Mike Marshall, Greg Brock, Candy Maldonado, Sid Bream, Franklin Stubbs, R.J. Reynolds, Ralph Bryant) whose voyages from San Antonio and Albuquerque to Cooperstown were interrupted by big league reality.
The Matt Garza trade didn’t work. Neither did the Koji Uehara deal, or the Ryan Dempster deal, but the wins on Jon Daniels’s trade ledger decisively outweigh the losses, the Rangers’ farm system pipeline has been deep enough to survive the hits, and the last thing I want from my team is a gun-shy front office.
Myrtle Beach lefthander Andrew Faulkner and righthander Jose Leclerc both shoved last night in Winston-Salem, with Daniels on hand (according to BA’s J.J. Cooper). That’s a very good thing for Texas as far as those two arms, legitimate but not on the top two tiers in this system, are concerned.
If what Roark and Kyle Hendricks and Pedro Strop have gone on to do helps build a big-picture reputation regarding the prospects Texas scouts and develops, if back-of-the-draft picks like Edwards and Danny Ray Herrera and Cody Eppley continue to outdevelop players taken 30 rounds earlier, if the next-step success that Escobar and Chris Davis and Christian Villanueva have gone on to have suggests anything at all, all of that can help the next time the Rangers make a third tier of prospects available for a set-up reliever or a platoon bat, or gets into talks about not only the lead piece but also the next two and the one after that when it’s time to discuss Giancarlo Stanton or David Price or Max Scherzer. At least theoretically.
Trading Leury Garcia for Alex Rios isn’t the same as losing Danny Amendola off your practice squad. Shipping Jake Brigham (and then Barret Loux instead) for Geovany Soto is not moving Kris Humphries for Eduardo Najera, or Corey Brewer for half of a second-round pick.
Texas has built a deep inventory over the last six or eight years of prospects that other organizations want. That’s a good thing. Matt Garza was here and is gone, and whether C.J. Edwards goes on to be a number three starter for the Cubs, or is chronically dogged by the shoulder problems that have him sidelined now, isn’t going to change that.
I will always pull for that kid, and for his trade-mates Mike Olt and Neil Ramirez (now up to four scoreless appearances out of the Cubs bullpen) and Justin Grimm, not to mention Nick Masset, whose ninth-inning work against Texas last night was his first big league appearance in nearly three years, in part because I became a fan when they were here and that doesn’t change, but also because I’d rather not have a talk show host in Miami — or a senior advisor in Tampa — wondering aloud whether trading for Texas Rangers prospects is too often an exercise in chasing mirages, a premise that Baseball America, at least, would continue to take issue with.