So last night, Ken Rosenthal dropped a column on us that said that the Rangers were likely not going to be players for either Prince Fielder or Yu Darvish because the team's payroll flexibility "is not as significant as many in the industry previously believed."
Joey Matches has a lengthy piece talking about those issues up at BBTiA that's worth checking out, and I've got a few thoughts, as well.
First of all, Rosenthal is the same guy who broke the first Michael Young trade demand story,* along with quite a few other Ranger-related items over the past few years. Rosenthal and Jon Daniels reportedly have a good relationship. I don't think we can simply dismiss this out of hand because he's a national writer and doesn't know the Rangers.
I believe that was the story that prompted Randy Galloway to say that Jon Daniels was going to have to start giving more of the local writers info like that, or else they'd stop treating him with kid gloves.
Secondly, there's a big difference between the Prince Fielder situation and the Yu Darvish situation, from a cash-flow perspective. Fielder requires a big financial commitment, but in terms of total dollars spread over time, not up front. Both Mark Buehrle and C.J. Wilson, for example, have significantly backloaded deals in which their 2012 salaries are $6 million and $10 million, respectively. If the concern is short-term, you can backload a deal with Fielder if you really want him.
Darvish, on the other hand, requires a posting fee. That amount has to be paid up front, in cash. If you bid $50 million and you win the bidding, you have to put up that $50 million. That's not insignificant, particularly if, as Rosenthal says, the Rangers have a $30 million payment due they have to make to Chuck Greenberg, along with a $12 million expenditure for ballpark improvements. That $42 million figure, right there, is probably pretty close to what will be the winning posting fee for Darvish.
Third, you also have the fact that ownership has had to kick in a lot more money over the past 18 months than was anticipated. The amount they had to pay for the team went up significantly through the auction process (thanks so much, Mark Cuban and Jim Crane), and they are now having to shell out $30 million to buy Greenberg out. That's (back of the envelope math) $100 million or so above what it appeared the buy in would be.
Fourth, it is troubling that this is coming down at the same time we learned that the new CBA is going to put significant limits on what can be spent in international free agency and in the draft. The Rangers have been one of the biggest spending clubs in terms of amateur talent, and handed out signing bonuses in excess of $15 million for international signees in 2011. With the cutbacks in what can be spent internationally, you'd like to think that those funds would end up being funneled towards the major league payroll. That appears not to be the case.
Fifth, while there may not be the "flexibility" we anticipated, it isn't as if the 2012 Rangers are going to be Tampa Bay or the Pirates. Texas looks like it will have a payroll of at least $110 million for 2012, which would have put it 10th in the majors last year, when the Rangers were at $92 million. Payroll is going up. The question is, is it going up as much as we would like, or as much as we thought it would. And by cutting back on what can be invested in international talent, it raises the importance of paying for major league talent.
Sixth, let's see what happens. This is troubling, but it isn't as if the team is broke. It isn't as if we still have Tom Hicks at the helm, wanting $60 million payrolls. Let's see where payroll ends up this year. Let's see what is done as far as locking up the "core" this offseason. Let's give this a little time before we start lumping the Rangers in with the Tampa Bay Rays of the world.