Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals pitcher, agreed to a seven year, $175 million extension with the Nationals, according to reports that came out last night.
Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo are expensive current Rangers who, it has been suggested, the Rangers could look to move this offseason in order to get their salaries off the books.
So, how are these two things related?
Well, Strasburg was the jewel of the 2016 free agent class. With Strasburg off the market, its a pretty motley looking collection of free agent options available. Among starting pitchers, the standouts are Brett Anderson, Andrew Cashner, R.A. Dickey, Jered Weaver, and C.J. Wilson. Position players are headlined by Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, a couple of very good hitters in their mid-30s, and then after that there's...Matt Wieters? Colby Rasmus? Ian Desmond?
The 2016-17 offseason free agent market is pretty desolate in terms of talent available. Unlike this past offseason, when a hefty class resulted in some guys having to wait until after New Year's before signing deals below what was expected, the pickings are slim this winter. Teams that have money to spend aren't going to have much to spend it on.
Which gets us to Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo. We've talked about trying to move one or both of these guys, with an eye towards clearing out roster space and freeing up money to spend elsewhere...but what, exactly, would the Rangers be spending it on this offseason, if they were to find a taker and not have to subsidize those entire deals?
If we assume the Rangers exercise their option on Derek Holland and keep their meaningful arb-eligible guys, Texas would be projected to have a payroll in the $140s ($140Ms? I'm not sure...), without a lot of glaring holes. You would expect something like:
C -- Robinson Chirinos
1B -- Joey Gallo
2B -- Rougned Odor
SS -- Elvis Andrus
3B -- Adrian Beltre
LF -- Nomar Mazara
CF -- Lewis Brinson or Delino DeShields
RF -- Shin-Soo Choo
DH -- Prince Fielder
Rotation -- Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Derek Holland, A.J. Griffin
That simply assumes filling the existing roles on the team with players who are already in place. Maybe the Rangers bring Colby Lewis back if he has a solid 2016, or trade for a pitcher this summer, or something like that, and we can certainly debate whether Prince Fielder should be a DH or not...
But the point is, moving Choo or Prince with the idea of clearing payroll room for 2017 isn't going to do much for you if your plan is to go spend big in free agency, because really, there's not much to spend big on. Texas has long coveted Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, so you could make a case for them pushing to add one of those guys, but I'm not convinced the Rangers are going to want to spend big money on guys their age when their existing roster has the options it does.
The other issue, of course, is neither player has done anything so far in 2016 to suggest anyone would take them without the Rangers eating so much of the salary as to make the savings negligible anyway. Prince isn't hitting, and Choo is hurt. Now, if Choo comes back and performs, maybe you could find someone to take him while eating $5M per year on his existing deal, then make a run at Encarnacion or Bautista on a short-term deal...but even then, I don't know how viable that is.
Anyway, its early in 2016, and lots can change between now and the end of the year...but for now, I'm finding myself wondering if the Rangers aren't best served holding onto both players through 2017, then examining where the market stands when the existing obligation to each player is down to three years.