Okay...as I think folks here know, I loved the Brad Wilkerson/Alfonso Soriano trade this past winter. Loved it. Thought it was a brilliant move by Jon Daniels, for a multitude of reasons, but with the primary one being that I thought Wilkerson would hit at least as well as Soriano in 2007.
Obviously, I was wrong about that.
So wrong, in fact, that there has been talk in the DFW media about the Rangers non-tendering Wilkerson this offseason, rather than going to arbitration with him.
I don't think that's going to happen, though.
Here's the thing...the Ranger outfield situation in 2007 is going to be in flux. GMJ, Carlos Lee and Mark DeRosa -- the guys getting the bulk of the playing time out there right now -- are going to be free agents, as will Matt Stairs, the guy getting the majority of the DH ABs at this point.
Internally, the Rangers have Nelson Cruz, who they will probably look to break in at right field, and Jason Botts, who would seem to either be at least a part-time DH for the Rangers in 2007, or be traded, given that (as so many folks pointed out, when explaining why he was sitting on the bench in Texas earlier this year) he's got nothing left to prove in AAA.
The Rangers will probably bring GMJ back in 2007 to play centerfield, although we're talking about a guy who has historically been a 4th outfielder...GMJ isn't a lock to necessarily continue to be a starting caliber centerfielder. I think the Rangers would be interested in bringing Mark DeRosa back, but as a utility man/super sub type, not as a full-time outfielder. And as I mentioned a couple of days ago, I think there's a good chance DeRosa is going to get offered more money by a team that wants him to play an infield position than the Rangers will offer him to be a bench player.
What other free agent outfielder/DH types are out there? There are a lot of middling options out there, a lot of guys I think you'd be fine with as a 4th outfielder or platoon player, but not a lot of guys who are going to be worth making a big-time play for.
Which, of course, is why I've advocating trading for Gary Sheffield in the offseason and exercising his $13 million 2007 option. If you do that and re-sign GMJ, it solidifies your outfield without getting hamstrung with big, bad, long-term deals.
Which gets us back to Brad Wilkerson. With the remnants of the Chan Ho money dropping off the books this year, and not much in the way of funds committed, the Rangers have money to spend. But there's not a whole ton of attractive options out there in the market to spend money on.
You could probably keep Brad Wilkerson around for $4-5 million for 2007...maybe do something like a $4 million deal for 2007, with an $7 million team option for 2008 and a $500K buyout. If his offseason shoulder surgery results in Wilkerson coming back and being the player he has been historically, the Rangers get a bargain season out of him. If he struggles again, you aren't out much money on him.
But bringing Wilkerson back this way gives you options...and if you can get the old Wilkerson, you've got one of the better corner outfielders in the league, and putting yourself in a much better position to compete in 2007.
It is a gamble, much like bringing in Richard Hidalgo on the one year deal in 2005 was a gamble, and much like bringing Carl Everett in was a gamble. And while Hidalgo didn't pan out, Everett, once he got his shoulder fixed, worked out pretty well for the Rangers.
But it is a fairly low-risk gamble, one I think Jon Daniels is going to be willing to take, knowing that the potential upside is worth the cost.