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Adolis Garcia’s arbitration case

Adolis Garcia and the Texas Rangers not agreeing on his 2024 salary harshes my mellow

World Series - Texas Rangers v. Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Five Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Every time I call it a game, you call it a business! And every time I call it a business, you call it a game!

The 2023 Texas Rangers are the World Series champs. For the first time in franchise history, they won it all. They exorcised the demons of 2011, shut up the critics who lambasted them for overspending in free agency, and gave those of us who have been fans for all these years feelings that I, personally, am incapable of describing.

The 2023 Rangers were a vibes team. When they got off to that incredibly hot start, there was a lot of talk about what a great group had been assembled. When the team struggled, there never seemed to be a sense of panic. Even when the wheels seemed to be coming off in September and fans were losing their minds and a storybook season appeared to be destined for a horror movie ending, everything from the team and the players seemed to suggest they weren’t worried, they had this.

Stumbling into the playoffs with two healthy starting pitchers, having to go on the road against arguably the best team in league for a Wild Card Series, that attitude was shown to be justified. Texas rolled the Rays easily, knocked off the Orioles, didn’t lose a game in the postseason until Game 3 of the ALCS. And even after going down 3-2 to Houston, the third loss coming in as devastating fashion as one can imagine, the vibe from the team continued to be, we got this.

And they did have this, beating up on the Houston Astros in the Juice Box in the final two games of the series to advance, wiping out the Diamondbacks in five.

It was magical. There was joy in Mudville. The hapless Texas StRangers had done it.

When you think of the 2023 Texas Rangers, who do you think of? There’s Corey Seager, RoboStar, the guy who got a $325 million contract that now seems like a bargain.

There’s Marcus Semien, the new Michael Young, the stand up guy with the quiet confidence who leads by example and is in the lineup every day and is always there to face to the media, win or lose, bad game or good.

There’s Bruce Bochy, the guy who has seen it all, been through it all, who came out of retirement to lead this team and whose quiet confidence and unflappability was such a big part of the season.

There’s Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi, the last two men standing for the Rangers’ playoff rotation. Eovaldi, whose huge first half helped get Texas out of the blocks so fast, and Montgomery, the deadline acquisition whose terrific August and September helped keep the Rangers afloat down the stretch, both of whom were critical parts of the playoff success.

There’s Max Scherzer, Mad Max, coming in to give the Rangers a shot in the arm at the deadline, then going on the injured list in September, season seemingly over, only to return way ahead of schedule and gut his way through three outings.

There’s Jose Leclerc and Josh Sborz, two guys Rangers were clamoring to have shot into the sun during the 2023 season, but who were nails in the playoffs.

There’s Josh Jung and Jonah Heim, coming back early from injuries that could have ended their seasons. There’s Evan Carter, showing up in the middle of September and doing a Roy Hobbs impersonation. There’s Austin Hedges, Vibes King, first guy out of the dugout to congratulate a teammate, putting numbers on his ass for the hitters meetings. There’s Mitch Garver and Nathaniel Lowe, Jon Gray and Dane Dunning, a whole cast of characters.

But when you think about the 2023 Texas Rangers, when you’re talking about the Vibes and how this team makes you feel as a fan, it always comes back to one guy...

Adolis Garcia.

Remember this?

And this?

Adolis Garcia wasn’t the best player on the 2023 Texas Rangers, wasn’t the most important player. But he’s the guy who probably connected with the fans more than anyone else, whose emotional displays got us pumped up, who slashed .323/.382/.726 in the playoffs, with 22 — 22! — RBIs in just 15 games, who came up with huge hits and faced off against Martin Maldonado. He’s the guy who I think, years from now, folks will most remember from the World Championship club.

And here we are, two months later, with the Rangers and Adolis Garcia $1.9 million apart in their proposed numbers for arbitration — the biggest gap between player and team in MLB this year. MLB Trade Rumors projections had Garcia at $6.6 million — a hefty sum for a first time arbitration-eligible player, but still a bargain for a guy who has been a 3-4 win player the past three years, a key part of the championship team.

When numbers were exchanged yesterday, Garcia came in at $6.9 million — very reasonable, one would think.

The Rangers came in at...$5 million.

The reaction was intensely negative. $5 million? For a team with a $200M+ payroll, for the guy who was instrumental in bringing Rangers fans their first title? GTFO with the man. Give him his $6.9 million and be happy.

If we look at this as a business, I understand the Rangers’ position. Arbitration cases are all about comps. As a first year eligible player, Garcia is going to compared to previous first year eligible players. And the Rangers will no doubt point to Houston Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker as the perfect comp for Adolis.

Tucker was first time arb-eligible last offseason. Like Garcia, he was a right fielder for a World Series winning team who was an All Star and won a Gold Glove in the season before. Tucker slashed .257/.330/.478 in 150 games, Garcia slashed .245/.328/.508 in 148 games. Garcia hit more homers (39 to 30), Tucker stole more bases (30 for 35, compared to 9 for 10 for Adolis). Adolis finished 14th in the MVP voting in 2023, while Tucker finished 15th in the MVP voting the year before. Each player put up a 4.8 fWAR.

It would be hard to find a better comp, for arbitration purposes, to 2023 Adolis Garcia than 2022 Kyle Tucker. Based on the way arbitration works, they seem to be close to a perfect match, which means that an arbitrator would seem likely to say that Garcia’s salary for 2024 should be more or less the same as Tucker’s 2023 salary.

Kyle Tucker and the Astros went to arbitration last year. Tucker asked for $7.5 million. The Astros proposed $5 million.

And the Astros won the case, meaning that Kyle Tucker’s salary in 2023 was $5 million.

So yeah, from a business perspective, you can see why the Rangers proposed $5 million. They would settle for more than $5 million, of course, something between the $5 million they propose and Garcia’s $6.9 million ask. And yes, he’s been a terrific player, but he’s also first year arb-eligible, and what he makes this year will have a multiplying effect on what the Rangers would have to pay him the next two years, and there’s a budget after all to keep in mind.

I can understand all that.

But the fan in me says...its Adolis Fucking Garcia, man. He helped carry this team to a World Series. He’s a fan favorite. His highlights from the 2023 playoffs will be shown from now until the end of time. Pay him his fucking money.

I imagine the Rangers and Garcia will settle. They will compromise, and he’ll get something starting with a 6, and we’ll all go down the road.

But man, if this isn’t a reminder of what this sport is all about. Its a buzzkill.