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Tim MacMahon and Carlos Lee

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Tim MacMahon (Mac, not Mc) has responded to my defense of the Carlos Lee trade, and was a lot nicer about me than I was to him...

So I'm going to respond to his response, and try to avoid the sniping I engaged in in my previous post...

His points:

I'll be generous and call the Kevin Mench/Laynce Nix-for-Nelson Cruz part of the trade a wash.

I don't think that's generous...I think that part of the trade is a toss-up, at least at this point. I know if I'm Jon Daniels, and Doug Melvin calls me today and offers me Mench and Nix for Cruz right now, I'd turn him down.

Mench has virtually no value right now. He's on a $3.5 million contract, is arbitration-eligible after the season, and barring a four month hot streak, there's no way he gets tendered a contract after the season, since he's looking at around $5 million in arbitration. So Mench is going to be gone after 2007, and as a non-tender, there's no draft pick compensation.

The Brewers spent all offseason and spring training trying to peddle Mench. He was expected to be non-tendered, but the Brewers offered him arbitration, expecting they could flip him to a hitting starved team this spring training.

But coming off a season where he hit .269/.313/.419 in a part-time role, where he fell off the map after his 1025 OPS April with the funny stories about the wrong-sized shoes, no one wanted him. And Mench is now sporting a .262/.266/.393 line in an organization with other outfield options, meaning he's a likely candidate to get DFA'd in the next couple of months. The Rangers could probably get him right now for Scott Shoemaker and picking up the rest of Mench's contract.

Now, you can justifiably say that the Rangers blew it by not dealing Mench last offseason, when he was more in demand, and when the Blue Jays were supposedly talking about giving the Rangers Miguel Batista and either Brandon League or Alex Rios for Mench. If that deal was, in fact, on the table, and Daniels turned it down, he blew it, big time...and I said at the time that the Rangers should take that package for Mench.

So...that leaves us with Laynce Nix versus Nelson Cruz. Cruz has mashed in the minors, but not in the majors, and he can't hit the breaking ball. Nix can't stay healthy, and hasn't had a good offensive season since 2002. Cruz turns 27 in July, making him old for a guy just breaking in. Nix turns 27 in October, making him old for a guy in AAA.

Nix is hitting well in the minors right now, but has only played in a handful of games due to injury. Cruz isn't hitting in the majors, but he hasn't gotten hurt. Nix is a centerfielder who is probably better suited to play right field (defensively). Cruz is a right fielder who probably has the range to play some centerfield in a pinch.

I'd rather have Cruz, at this point, although there's a good chance neither will be more than a fourth outfielder in the majors.

My C in Psychology 101 doesn't qualify me to read Cordero's mind, but I reckon a guy with his stuff and track record had significant value. Too much value for the Rangers to give up for a rental player, and Lee made it clear before leaving Milwaukee that he'd go to the highest bidder after the season.

The question implicit here is, would the Rangers have been better off moving Cordero to another team for a different deal, rather than to the Brewers for Lee?

Tough question, in large part because I don't really know what else is out there. But I have a hard time believing that the Rangers could have gotten a better deal than the best hitter available at the trade deadline. Particularly since they were trying to flip Cordero for something that would help them win in 2006. The Brewers were, realistically, the only contender in a position to do that...and in a sweet bit of synchronicity, they were also run by the g.m. who traded for Cordero in the first place (and who drafted Mench and Nix).

But I think that, either way, the depth that the Rangers had (and still have) in the bullpen, and the nature of Cordero's performance in TBIA in 2006, made it a necessary move.

And as a point of reference, the Astros, in a similar situation with Brad Lidge -- a guy with better stuff and results than Cordero -- are finding it hard to get what they feel is fair value for him.

But the Rangers gave up too much when the potential reward wasn't very big. The best-case scenario was that the Rangers snuck into the playoffs and got sent home right off the bat.

Anybody familiar with the Rangers' brief playoff history knows that pitching wins in the postseason. And last season's club -- heck, make that every team in Rangers history -- didn't have the pitching to compete in the playoffs.

The best-case scenario was that the Rangers snuck into the playoffs and won the World Series, just like the Cardinals -- with worse pitching than the Rangers, with Jeff Weaver and Al Reyes and Jeff Suppan starting World Series games for them -- did.

If the Cards had the pitching to compete in the playoffs, then the Rangers had the pitching to compete in the playoffs. If the Cards had the pitching to knock off the Tigers -- the team that was the prohibitive favorites, because of their starting rotation -- then so did the Rangers. Yes, the Rangers didn't have Chris Carpenter, but the rest of the Ranger starters were at least even with the rest of the Cards starters, and the Rangers had a big edge in the bullpen.

The Rangers' 4.60 team ERA, in TBIA, in the superior league and facing the DH, was better than the Cards' 4.54 team ERA. And yet, the Cards won the World Series.

Moreover, the Ranger teams of the late-90s didn't get knocked out of the playoffs because they couldn't pitch. For the most part, those teams pitched well in the playoffs...they allowed 39 runs in 10 games, an average of fewer than 4 per game. The problem was they scored just 18 runs in 10 games, an average of 1.8 runs per game, and were outscored 23 to 2 in the 1998 and 1999 playoff series.

This urban myth has arisen, that Rangers fans and the media alike continue to perpetuate, blaming the playoff failures of the late-90s Ranger teams on bad pitching. In reality, the Ranger pitching in those three series was fine...the Rangers lost in 1996, 1998 and 1999 because the offense failed miserably.

Finally...let's assume that, in fact, the Rangers snuck into the playoffs and then were swept in 3 games.

Is that a bad thing?

To quote myself in Deadspin:

The experience of seeing the Rangers stomped in their only playoff appearances has scarred Rangers fans, to the point that some argue that it isn't even worth it for Texas to make the playoffs without a truly dominant team, because they'll just get swept in the first round anyway.

I'd love to see the Rangers get swept in the first round of the playoffs. It would mean the Rangers were in the playoffs. It would mean they were in a pennant race. It would mean more enthusiasm from the fans, who consider the 2004 "miracle" season (with a 3rd place finish) to be the highlight of the 21st century. It would be a selling point for free agents, and a building block for the players already here.

As a fan, I would say that, if giving up Francisco Cordero led to a 3-and-out first round playoff loss, then I'd ship out Cordero every time.