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The Rangers and the free agent market

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There's a certain frustration that I feel, and that other Rangers fans appear to feel, over the lack of activity this offseason.  The idea of going into 2009 with our big offseason additions being Guillermo Moscoso, Beau Vaughan, and Derrick Turnbow is reminiscent of what happened after the 2004 season, when the Rangers built on a surprisingly succesful year by doing...nothing.

Part of the problem, such as it is, though, is that as far as the free agent market goes, there's not a ton of guys out there that match up well for the Rangers.  Looking at Jon Heyman's list of the top 20 free agents still out there, there's not a lot that gets the pulse racing.

Among positional players, the only thing the Rangers would seem to be in the market for is a third baseman, and maybe -- maybe -- a righty hitting DH (which presumes that a Hank Blalock trade could be made). 

On Heyman's list, there are 5 OF/DH types that are lefties, which doesn't help the Rangers (since, with Hamilton, Davis, and Murphy presumably playing regularly and hitting in the middle part of the lineup, you are already a bit lefty-heavy, even if Blalock is gone). 

The three guys in the OF/DH category who aren't lefties are Milton Bradley, who wants a multi-year deal; Manny Ramirez, who wants a multi-year deal and is, well, Manny Ramirez; and Pat Burrell.

Given that it doesn't really make sense for this team to go more than one year for a DH addition, with Justin Smoak and Max Ramirez in the pipeline, Bradley and Manny are out. 

But Burrell is a guy who would be intriguing.  The market for him appears to be weak, because there are other guys with his skill set out there flooding the market (Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi), and he, much like Javier Vazquez, seems to not get the recognition for being as good as he is because he didn't turn out to be as great as people once hoped. 

So if you're a power hitter coming off a middling year and wanting to take a one year deal and then test the waters again in a more inviting free agent market (and the 2009-10 offseason looks like it will be bereft of exciting options), wouldn't Texas be the ideal place to land?  Really, isn't that what Milton Bradley did?  And didn't it pay off?

Wouldn't Burrell be able to put up some impressive numbers at TBIA, hitting behind Kinsler, Young and Hamilton, and with Davis-Cruz-Murphy coming up behind him?  Doesn't that set him up pretty well to jump back in the free agent pool next season?

And for the Rangers?  That allows you to let Max Ramirez spend the year in Oklahoma working on his defense and letting you figure out once and for all if he will stay behind the plate or have to be relegated to DH duties, gives you a replacement for Bradley in the middle of the lineup, and gives you all the advantages that a veteran on a one year deal offers to a team (which we've discussed the past few years ad nauseum).

Wouldn't that money be better spent on pitching?  Yeah, sure.  But look at Heyman's list...what pitcher on that list to you really want to spend money on?  There's Ben Sheets, no question...I'm on board with bringing him here, if you can make a deal work. 

But who else?  C.C. Sabathia was the only other starter on the market I really was on board with.  Jon Garland is basically a lesser version of Kevin Millwood or Vicente Padilla, and is going to likely get more money for more years than either of those guys received from the Rangers when they signed.

Oliver Perez?  He's an enigma, and I think has the potential to still be great.  But there's a Ho quality to him, a certain Ho-ness that I think makes him a bad risk for the Rangers.  I could see the Rangers giving him 5 years, $65 million, and having him get hurt, become a head case (or more of one than he already is), and implode.  He seems like a terrible fit in Texas...he's a guy who needs to stay in the N.L. and go to a team with a pitcher-friendly park.

On the relief market, Brian Fuentes and Kerry Wood were the two high-profile guys the Rangers were in on, and they are off the board.  I don't see anyone else out there spending significant money on.

So where are we on free agents?  As far as I'm concerned, the dream scenario would be to add Burrell on a one year deal for about what you paid Bradley last year, add Sheets, give Blalock and either Millwood or Padilla away to whomever will take their salaries and (one would hope) give you a halfway decent prospect, and the find a lefty reliever to bring in.

If you could add either Sheets or Burrell, that would be fine, as well.  But otherwise?  As far as the free agent market goes, I'd pass.

I suspect the Rangers still want to try to land a young starting pitcher via trade, and of course, the catcher to Boston talk still won't die, but at this point, it seems a lot less likely to me that a deal is going to end up going down.  Millwood or Padilla aren't going to be dealt unless the Rangers have a replacement arm in the rotation, and that isn't likely to happen as part of that trade, but would involve a catcher trade going down.  Moving Blalock means either committing to having your backup catcher DH a lot (which the team seems loathe to do) or committing to Max Ramirez as your DH (ditto), unless a righty DH is added from elsewhere.  And Burrell seems the most likely possibility there.

So, there are still possibilities, and it is certainly possible things could fall into place.  But I just don't see a big re-making out there.  And at this point, I'd be willing to bet that no major league free agent is signed between now and the start of spring training (and if one is signed, is a lefty reliever on a one year deal).