Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Texas Rangers of 2013 spend conservatively-Kepner

3/26/13, "Rangers, Free to Spend, Don’t Spend Freely," NY Times, Tyler Kepner

The Cardinals won that night, and the next, and now Berkman is here, at 37, with a chance to make amends. He gladly reminds teammates that he has what they wanted. “It’s fun to dig these guys on occasion about it,” Berkman said. “Those are bragging rights that will last for a long time.” 

Berkman considered retirement after last season, when he played only 32 games and had two operations on his right knee. He was not a priority for the Rangers, who had hoped for much bigger moves after losing the American League West to Oakland on the final day of the regular season and dropping the wild-card game to Baltimore. 

The Rangers tried to retain the star outfielder Josh Hamilton. They negotiated with the free-agent starter Zack Greinke. They explored trades for starter James Shields and outfielder Justin Upton. The off-season seemed full of possibility. 

“We all know that you don’t win by making announcements in the winter — but they’re fun,” General Manager Jon Daniels said. “We all like doing them. We all want to put the big gift under the tree.” 

Berkman was not exactly coal in the stocking. Two years ago, he hit .301 with 31 homers and 94 runs batted in. Mickey Mantle is the only switch-hitter in major league history with a better career on-base percentage than Berkman’s .409 (minimum 3,000 plate appearances). 

But with last season’s injury, and his own ambivalence, Berkman was not in high demand. When all their targets wound up elsewhere, the Rangers had to overwhelm him with a one-year, $11 million offer....

The Rangers made other short-term commitments, signing catcher A. J. Pierzynski to replace Mike Napoli and the setup man Joakim Soria to replace Mike Adams. They also traded Michael Young, the team’s career leader in hits, to Philadelphia for reliever Josh Lindblom and a prospect. 

It was an off-season without sizzle. But it was consistent with the Rangers’ sensible approach under Daniels, who was promoted this month to president for baseball operations but still reports to the chief executive, Nolan Ryan....

Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, the Chicago Cubs, the New York teams, the Los Angeles teams, even Seattle and Cincinnati have absorbed significant risk in keeping their stars or chasing free agents. The Rangers, hardened by the lessons from Alex Rodriguez’s first free agency in 2000, never act out of desperation....

Instead, he has a team without anyone making more than $16 million, including three starters — Darvish, Matt Harrison and Derek Holland — signed through at least 2016. The bullpen might be thin, with Alexi Ogando joining the rotation and Soria still recovering from elbow surgery, but the Rangers should contend....

The Rangers have enough depth in young position players — Leonys Martin, Mike Olt, Jurickson Profar — to expect to stay competitive this season and beyond. Daniels has a track record of acquiring talent in midseason, and believes the players will trust him to do so, if needed.

Yet he knows, deep down, that the fans and the core of the team probably expected more this off-season. Smart shopping and careful long-term planning feel only so satisfying in a competitive industry."...


Ed. note: Tyler Kepner can tell a story, has a way with words. However, my experience with his pieces since being a national columnist is as follows: I read along happily thinking all of it might lead to a larger point, or an opinion that might involve a tiny bit of risk for Mr. Kepner. But it never does. Which is fine, I've gotten the message by now. Nothing in the world will change as a result of Mr. Kepner's articles.

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