In a Wednesday evening SI.com blog entry entitled "Rangers emerge as suitor for Andruw," hot stove rumor monger Jon Heyman wrote that Texas "could emerge" as a potential landing spot for unemployed outfielder Andruw Jones, citing an anonymous American League executive ("If someone wants to resurrect their career, Texas is the perfect place"), the presence of venerable Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, and the "just announced" move of Josh Hamilton from center field to right field as reasons why Texas could sign him -- operative word in that sentence being could.
Now, Rich Lederer of the Baseball Analysts already launched a scathing, all-out assault against Heyman's credibility as a baseball reporter three days ago (namely, for his reputed position as a "mouthpiece" for superagent Scott Boras, who indeed represents Andruw Jones), and it is not my intention to hop aboard the "Jon Heyman Doesn't Know What He's Talking About" bandwagon, regardless of how tempting it might actually be; that said, there are several conspicuous oddities here that stick out like a sore thumb:
● First of all, I was under the distinct impression that "emerge" and "could emerge" were mutually exclusive terms. The former implies definitive, independently confirmed interest in Jones on the part of the Rangers (which, as you can probably guess by now, I don't think actually exists), while the latter implies idle conjecture on the part of Heyman. Which one is it?
● Assuming that this is nothing more than Heyman-concocted speculation, what, exactly, is he predicating this Andruw-to-Texas notion on? Surely he's not basing this solely off of that incredibly vague and largely inconsequential remark from an AL executive -- the Rangers' possession of a good offense and an inviting haven for hitters is a compelling reason for Andruw to want to come to Texas, not for Texas to want to sign Andruw.
The same logic applies to Heyman's haphazard mention of Jaramillo. After hitting a mind-bogglingly horrific .158/.256/.249 in 238 plate appearances with the Dodgers last season, reportedly looking terrible during a brief stint in the Dominican Winter League and then being unconditionally released by the Dodgers on January 15th with an outstanding balance of $22 million on his two-year, $36 million contract, which side really stands to gain more from this hypothetical union: a presumably humiliated Andruw, who is drawing only modest interest despite being available for the league minimum ($400,000), is staring the unpleasant possibility of early retirement in the face and could benefit from the tutelage of baseball's preeminent hitting instructor, or a Rangers squad already struggling to find enough playing time for its deep stockpile of outfielders?
Andruw needs the Rangers far more than the Rangers need Andruw.
● General manager Jon Daniels has already downplayed the purported imminence of Hamilton's permanent move to right field, stating that "it isn't likely to happen this season" and further asserting that his 2009 usage pattern won't differ too dramatically from last year's, when he manned center field approximately 70 percent of the time and logged the remainder of his starts between right field and designated hitter.
For the sake of argument, however, let's pretend that Heyman is correct and that Hamilton is moving to right field full-time, which then begs the question: can Andruw still competently roam center field? Ultimate Zone Rating (3.7 runs above average in 2008) suggests that he can, while the plus/minus defensive rating system (four plays below average in 2008) is somewhat less optimistic, and both metrics concur that his range in center field is sliding, as do the scouts quoted in the above article from ESPN.com's Buster Olney:
Scouts believe his [Andruw's] defense is quickly regressing, largely because ... well, he's gotten large. "He's just too heavy to play at the level he used to play at in the outfield," one scout said Saturday.
"He's fat," said another.
If what these scouts profess is indeed accurate, then that remarkable string of consecutive seasons where his once-legitimate Gold Glove-caliber fielding ability bolstered his overall value by anywhere from 15 to 25 runs per year is no longer relevant to the discussion, because if his range has dramatically regressed and his arm is not what it used to be, then he's a run-of-the-mill defensive center fielder with a terrible bat, underwhelming athleticism and a questionable work ethic -- the epitome of a washed-up ex-star, barring one of the more unlikely career resuscitations in recent memory.
But, hey, at least Texas makes sense for him. Too bad for Andruw that interest doesn't appear to run both ways.
Quick Hits: MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan does not get the sense that the Rangers will manage to reach an agreement with free-agent right-hander Ben Sheets, citing the considerable delay since the meeting two weeks ago involving Sheets, agent Casey Close and the Rangers' brain trust and the apparent lack of progress made since that meeting.