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Thinking about Mike Lowell and Ryan Garko

Ryan Garko was non-tendered by the Giants yesterday.

This was surprising to me, because the Giants sent a pretty decent prospect to the Indians for him in July.

Back in July, when the Rangers were desperate for a righty bat who could DH and play some first base, I thought Garko was the best target out there for Texas

T.R. Sullivan writes that the Rangers were interested in him at the trade deadline last year, before he was dealt to San Fran, and suggests that he could be a target now.

Of course, if the Rangers had interest in him, it would be as a righty-hitting DH/1B option, and as we all know, Max Ramirez is supposedly heading to Boston so that we can pay Mike Lowell $3 million for the privilege of filling that role.

Garko has been about as productive as Lowell the past few years, doesn't come with the injury issues that Lowell does, will probably cost less on a one year deal than $3 million, and, of course, wouldn't cost the Rangers Max Ramirez.  Garko also has a career .313/.392/.495 line against LHPs, and if you are looking for someone to fill a platoon role, that's pretty impressive.

Lowell, on the other hand, has a longer track record, can play third base, and has gotten praise from the Rangers for his leadership, experience, and role on a championship club.

Max Ramirez, coming off a lost season in 2009, has seen his value drop significantly...he's going to be out of options after the 2010 season, and I think the Rangers -- and most other clubs -- don't view him as a catcher on the major league level, other than as a very short-term or emergency option.  And he doesn't really have another position, so he's either going to stick as a DH or he's a minor league lifer.  How much value you think he has is going to depend on how likely you think he is to hit well enough to be a decent DH for at least a few years.

More telling to me, though, is the targeting of Lowell by the Rangers, and their willingness to apply a pretty big chunk of their very limited resources this offseason to acquiring him.  Lowell isn't much of an offensive threat at this point...he's benefited from the Monster (he had a 932 OPS at home last year, 713 away, and 993/767 in 2007, although he was a little better on the road than at home in 2008), and while he's probably better than, say, Andruw Jones, he's not likely to be a good DH in 2009.

And yet, he's clearly someone the Rangers have zeroed in on, even with Garko and Jonny Gomes coming available at the non-tender deadline, and Vlad Guerrero and Fernando Tatis, among others, already on the free agent market.

Really, I struggle to understand what you get with Lowell that you can't get with Tatis, who is a free agent righty hitter who can play the four corners and who is likely going to cost less than $3 million per year, who appears to be a fair bet to be as productive with the bat as Lowell and who wouldn't take Max Ramirez out of your farm system.

There's a couple of possibilities.  One is that the Rangers, having viewed the free agent landscape and determined that the utility infielder choices are scarce, have decided that Michael Young will back up Elvis Andrus this year.  And since Elvis isn't going to start 162 games, they want someone who can give them 30 games a year at third base and acquit himself well there.  That means that you could have Esteban German or Joe Inglett in a bench role, along with a backup catcher and David Murphy, and leave your 25th spot for someone like Craig Gentry or Brian Anderson or Jeremy Reed, a true backup centerfielder who can spell Julio Borbon when he needs a day off and who can pinch run late in a game.  Presumably, you don't want Murphy or Nelson Cruz or Josh Hamilton to be your backup plan in center

The other possibility -- one that doesn't necessarily preclude the first one -- is that the Rangers feel leadership and championship experience is more of a need than offense, and Lowell is this year's Brian Jordan, the pretty much washed-up, broken down veteran who the team hopes to squeeze a productive season out of, but who is primarily here to provide intangibles to a young team.

I don't know Lowell, and can't say what he brings to the table in terms of the off-the-field intangibles.  But I do know that an inability to score runs is what kept the Rangers out of the postseason in 2009, and I find it troubling that the team seems committed to go to the well once more with the well-worn veteran retread/bounceback candidate, after seeing  Jordan, Brad Fullmer, Phil Nevin, Andruw Jones, Greg Colbrunn, Richard Hidalgo, and Sammy Sosa all provide mediocre at best performance when brought in under similar circumstances.