The 2007 incarnation of the Texas Rangers is on pace for a 65-97 record, and I�m not sure that it is going to get any better anytime soon. As I mentioned in a previous post, the schedule doesn�t really let up until the 3rd week of May, at which point the Rangers may be more than 10 games out of 1st place in the AL West.
There are a lot of questions surrounding this team, and nothing seems to be going right � with the exception of the dynamic duo of Kinsler and Sosa. This ballclub is going to have to learn to scratch and claw its way to wins if they are going to climb out of the cellar. If this team can�t turn things around in a few weeks, it is pretty obvious that there are more than a few moves that will need to be made over the next weeks and months and I�ll attempt to cover some of the major ones and their timeframes.
- Move Brandon McCarthy to the bullpen [Timeframe: Now]. McCarthy is having serious control issues right now, and if he�s not hurt, he needs to regain some confidence. Many teams break-in their pitchers by having them pitch out of the pen. I believe that having B-Mac pitch out of the pen for a month or two might allow him to iron out some of his mechanics in a less-than-stressful situation. Sending McCarthy to AAA, doesn�t necessarily reduce the stress as he�ll counted on to dominate in Oklahoma. What if McCarthy goes to Oklahoma and gets shelled in back-to-back starts? Then the Rangers are really in trouble. McCarthy pitched well out of the pen last year and in his one relief effort this season. The only issue with moving McCarthy to the pen is creating a spot for him. With Wood, Feldman, and Eyre ready to go to the minors, and Francisco ready for a call-up, things could be worked out if they had to be. At this point, you know McCarthy would get quite a bit of work as the long-man.
- Let Cruz play every day [Timeframe: Now]. Not playing Cruz everyday is ridiculous and the Rangers are close to �Mench-ing� the young outfielder. It�s hard for a young player to get into a groove and work out the kinks if they can�t play every day. The difference between Cruz and McCarthy is obvious in that McCarthy is having location and velocity issues, whereas Cruz just needs to keep getting at bats. Give him the day off every 10th day or so, but otherwise, let him play!
- Get rid of Matt Kata, Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Brad Wilkerson, and find out what you have in Victor Diaz, Marlon Byrd, Freddy Guzman and Jason Botts [Timeframe: 2-4 weeks]. Kata, JHJ and Wilkerson are not going to help this team past this year. Chances are that Byrd won�t be on this club next year either, but Botts and Diaz could be, if we could only find out what they can do at the major league level. I�m almost convinced that Fast Freddy could help this club if only he had the chance a la Termel Sledge. If Wilkerson keeps hitting, we might actually be able to get a little bit of trade value out of him.
- Start auctioning off pieces to the best bids [Timeframe: 1-2 months]. If this team continues to fold, it might be time for Rangers GM Jon Daniels to make his last stand. Prominent names like Teixeira, Blalock, Padilla, Lofton, Sosa, Otsuka, and Mahay need to start circulating in trade rumors. Tex�s slow starts have killed this team for the last time. Tex should rebound and start to hit, and when he does, his value will be at its highest. If Tex is not traded by the trade deadline, his value will be diminished over next off-season as he will only have one year left on his contract. Blalock�s limited range and abysmal strikeout rate might determine that he needs a change of scenery. It is pretty likely that someone will give up a decent prospect for him as he could still return to form. Sosa, should he continue to hit, would be a very attractive option to a playoff team. With his low salary and power-potential, teams could give up a decent pitching prospect or young outfielder for a rental of Slammin� Sammy. Lofton could be traded to a contender and return a prospect of value. Otsuka is 35-years old and despite his age, should bring great value on the trade market. There are plenty of teams in the hunt for a closer and bullpen help and both Aki and Mahay could turn into pieces that would help this team. I still think a trade with the Red Sox centering around Otsuka and top OF prospect Jacoby Ellsbury can be consummated. With trades being made for prospects, the holes on the big club can be filled by players that the Rangers will need to take a look at and make decisions on next year. The idea of Jason Botts at 1B, Drew Meyer at 3B, and Freddy Guzman in CF probably doesn�t appeal to a lot of Ranger fans and certainly wouldn�t lead to winning too many games, but it gives you a head start on next year. First base and other positions can be filled through free agency in the off-season if need be.
- Set the rotation as Millwood, Tejeda, McCarthy (after his stint in the pen to correct his issues) and Loe (and one of Volquez � after his tour of the minors, Hurley � when he�s ready, Rupe, or young prospects acquired in trades) and let them pitch the entire season [Timeframe: Now]. Just like their handling of Nelson Cruz, the Rangers need to be patient with their pitchers and let them work through some rough outings. If some of the kids struggle to the extent of that of McCarthy, then they can take turns pitching out of the pen.
- Inform key players of the possibility of having to re-tool the team and tell them that it is in their best interest [Timeframe: 4-6 weeks]. Kinsler, Michael Young, and Millwood are the leaders of this team and it is unlikely that any of them would be traded. The burden is on the players of this team to produce. If this team continues to struggle and an overhaul takes place over the next few months and 2008 off-season, it will be the fault of the players, and they will have to be ready to accept that.
Ultimately, I think a team here in Arlington is going to have to be built around defense, speed and high on-base-percentage guys that can work the count. Right now, we don�t have many players that fit those categories. Hopefully, the Rangers will start to learn how to manufacture runs even if they are just a few at a time.
It starts tonight with Victor Diaz hitting cleanup and Kameron Loe on the bump.
Its baseball time in Arlington!