The 2011 season is over. Time to start looking at the 2011-12 offseason, and what possibilities loom as far as moves heading into the 2012 season for the Texas Rangers.
And those moves are going to be dictated, of course, by money. How much is already committed, how much will be available to spend. So let's take a look at what the Texas Rangers' 2012 payroll situation looks like, how much the Rangers have to pay the guys they have in place, and what that means for the moves they can make this offseason.
Contract data is courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts website.
First things first...let's look at the guys who are the Rangers property who are currently under contract with the Rangers:
|Player||Amount Owed for 2012|
|Ian Kinsler||$ 7,200,000|
|Scott Feldman||$ 6,500,000|
|Koji Uehara||$ 4,000,000|
|Colby Lewis||$ 3,250,000|
|Yorvit Torrealba||$ 3,250,000|
|Leonys Martin||$ 1,250,000|
That is a total of $71,700,000 for nine players, one of whom will likely start the season in AAA, and one of whom will likely be a backup (if he is here in 2012). Leonys Martin's contract info comes from this USA Today story. The Orioles kicked in $2 million in the Uehara deal this past summer, supposedly to help cover his 2012 option that was going to vest, so we can back that $2 million out if we like and say that the expenditure by the Rangers would be $69.7 million.
Next, we have the Rangers' arbitration-eligible players, who I list below, along with their anticipated salaries:
|Player||Anticipated 2012 Salary|
|Andres Blanco||$ 600,000|
A couple of caveats here...these are estimates that I'm making without putting a ton of analysis into it. I'm pretty comfortable with these estimates, other than Lowe or O'Day, who I may be low on. That said, I think if the Rangers anticipated they'd have to pay significantly more than what I have above for O'Day or Lowe, then they'd probably either trade or non-tender them instead, and their spots would be taken by other players who'd be making around the same amount of money.
Similarly, Blanco is arbitration eligible, but the Rangers would probably just non-tender him if he didn't agree to something like $600,000, and if he were non-tendered, they'd sign another UIF for about that same amount of money.
So your arbitration-eligible players here total $30,850,000 in obligations, assuming you bring them all back. Add that to the guys already under contract, and you are at $100.55 million.
Payroll in 2011 was $92 million and change. So we're already looking at the Rangers being over that mark with their arb-eligibles and their guys now under contract, before we consider your various minimum salary guys or signing any free agents, or bringing their #1 starter back for 2012.
Now, this isn't necessarily a problem. With the new Fox Sports Southwest contract, record attendance, and two consecutive World Series appearances, you have to imagine ownership is in a position to raise payroll for the coming year. And Texas handed out $13.5 million in bonuses last summer to Martin, Ronald Guzman, and Nomar Mazara, which is money they could decide to allocate to the major league team in 2012.
My guess, at this point, is that we are looking at a payroll in the $110-120 million range for the 2012 season, which is a significant bump from 2011, but which also gets the Rangers at a level that's about where the other non-LA/Boston/NY big market teams are. A $120 million payroll would have put the Rangers at #7 in MLB last year, a $110 million payroll at #10, which isn't an unrealistic range for this team to be at.
Even then, though, the Rangers don't have a ton of room to make a lot of moves. There are three areas where you figure the team could or should be considering spending money to improve next season: centerfield, first base/DH (whichever position Michael Young doesn't man), and the rotation.
None of those positions are exactly glaring holes -- you could bring back Endy Chavez or Julio Borbon to platoon with Craig Gentry in centerfield, for example, and be okay. You could give Mitch Moreland a mulligan on 2012 and give him another shot at first base, at least against righthanders, with Yorvit Torrealba moving into the lineup behind the plate against lefties. And there are worse things than going into next season with a starting rotation of Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, and a pick two out of Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz, Scott Feldman, Michael Kirkman, Neil Ramirez and Martin Perez.
But if the Rangers are going to spend money, one of those areas is where they are likely to do it.
The first, obvious suggestion is to bring C.J. Wilson back. He was the team's best starter last season, he's been durable the past two years, he doesn't have a lot of mileage on his arm despite his age, and he takes care of himself in a way that has to make you feel good about his ability to hold up physically going forward...at the very least, you don't expect to hear that he signed a contract and prompted got fat and started playing video games and eating fried chicken during the games.
I've figured the Jered Weaver contract -- five years, $85 million -- is the benchmark for what C.J. is going to get this offseason. But lets say he gives the team a hometown discount, or other teams are scared off by his postseason struggles, or whatever, and he inks a 5 year, $75 million deal, structured like Adrian Beltre's, where it starts off lower and escalates by $1 million per year.
That means that Wilson is getting $13 million in 2012. And that means that the Rangers, once they sign him, and then take care of their minimum salary guys, are at about $120 million.
In other words, even with a $120 million payroll for 2012, if you re-sign C.J. for relatively cheap and don't dump anyone under contract right now, you're basically bringing back the same team. You don't have money for any other significant offseason additions.
Which puts the "let's go get Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols and also sign Yu Darvish" talk into perspective. That could happen, but in order for it to happen, you'd either have to get payroll up to the $140 million range, or you'd have to jettison significant salary that's already in place. If you are committed to keeping payroll below the $120 million mark, just bringing back C.J. and either getting a veteran bat to play some 1B or DH -- something I believe is a priority -- or adding a Marlon Byrd would require moving some contracts.
Koji Uehara will be pointed to as someone to move, given that he wasn't real good in Texas, talked about wanting to go back to Baltimore, and is owed $4 million. But again, with the $2 million Oriole subsidy, Uehara's true cost is just $2 million. He may be dealt, but that isn't going to create a whole ton of salary relief.
No, the three guys who would seem to be at risk of getting moved to create significant payroll room would be Scott Feldman, Yorvit Torrealba, and David Murphy.
Feldman had a pretty decent second half of the season and looked great at times in the playoffs, which means that there would probably be a trade market for him. I doubt you could move him without eating some salary, but if the Rangers were willing to absorb $2 million or so in a deal, that would free up $4.5 million that could be allocated to other needs.
Murphy has been a valuable insurance policy for the Rangers, a guy whose presence is key because of the injury histories of Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton. He has value as someone who accepts and understands his role while being productive off the bench. That said, he's also not someone who you probably don't want to rely on as a starter on a championship club, and at $3.75 million, he's an expensive fourth outfielder. I could see the Rangers moving him if they could add a righthanded bat who could play some centerfield (such as Marlon Byrd).
Then there's Torrealba. If he's your backup catcher, you probably want to get rid of him, because you don't want to pay your backup catcher $3.25 million. On the other hand, Mike Napoli doesn't have a great track record in terms of staying healthy, and you're probably going to want to avoid having Napoli catch too much because his bat has so much value, and you want to be able to keep him fresh and use him as a DH and first baseman as well. And if you do dump Torrealba, you've still got to go find a backup catcher. And with Taylor Teagarden being out of options, you don't have a third catcher you can bounce up and down between the majors and minors without the risk of losing him.
Its a tricky situation right now for the Rangers. They have the opportunity to make some moves to improve the team this offseason, but until we have a better idea where management expects payroll to be in 2012, it is hard to say what moves are available to them, or what they'd have to do in order to be able to pursue one of the few marquee guys on the market.
But its also a hell of a lot better from where we were a few years ago, when our general manager was publicly proclaiming that the Rangers were going to be "bottom feeders" who were going to wait until the top guys signed, then see if they can find someone cheap in the bargain bin.