With the Texas Rangers' post-season odds finally laid to rest at the zero percent mark, and an opportunity to amass 90 wins for the first and only time in this decade quickly slipping away, the focus is going to be diverted away from the forgettable remnants of this exhausting 2009 season and towards more significant roster-molding matters, including 40-man roster finalizing, free agency and the all-important winter trade market.
Imperative to several of those dimensions of baseball's off-season is the issue of salary arbitration, a compensation-governing mechanism which figures to amply nourish the bank accounts of several newly arbitration-eligible Rangers this coming winter ... and maybe, just maybe, will furnish scouting director Ron Hopkins and his cadre of scouts with additional ammunition in next June's amateur draft.
Courtesy of Eddie Bajek and ESPN.com's Keith Law (via Tim Dierkes), here is where the Rangers' seven free agent-eligible players rank in the Elias Sports Bureau's numerical player rankings, which are used by Major League Baseball to determine a free agent's "type" -- Type A, Type B or unranked -- and award compensatory draft picks to teams losing ranked free agents:
['ST' denotes major league service time as of April 1st, 2009. All WAR (wins above replacement) figures courtesy of FanGraphs.]
The Rangers are exceedingly unlikely to offer salary arbitration to any of the non-highlighted players; a still-recuperating Benoit seems poised to be retained on a minor league deal, Guardado is on a collision course with retirement, Blalock and Jones will be doing the vagabond shuffle to some other organization and Vizquel ... well, is there any real upside to offering Vizquel arbitration? Not really, given that he's not going to recoup draft pick compensation if he were to decline the offer, and if the Rangers want to bring Vizquel back for another season-long tutoring session with Elvis Andrus, they'd probably prefer to do it independent of the arbitration process.
Rodriguez is a far stickier proposition, given the state of flux the catching situation seems to be mired in; Jarrod Saltalamacchia hasn't yet proven capable of curtailing the sky-high swing percentage that's undermining his entire offensive game, Taylor Teagarden has been an unmitigated disaster against right-handed pitching and Max Ramirez is about to be an unproven 25-year-old catcher with suspect defensive credentials -- a far cry from the good position this organization appeared to be in a year ago catching-wise. There's evidently mutual interest between the Rangers and Pudge as far as a potential reunion tour in 2010, and, frankly, it wouldn't remotely shock me to see that happen.
I find it a tad surprising that Pudge's Elias score actually isn't all that far removed from that of the bottommost Type A catcher, which is probably something of a blessing in disguise: affix the Type A label to his jersey lapel, and he becomes significantly less appealing league-wide (see also: Cruz, Juan), since any general manager interested in signing him would be forced to relinquish a second-round pick at best and a highly coveted first-round pick at worst. Of course, even if the Rangers were to decide that they didn't want Pudge and offered up arbitration in the hopes of his rejection (thereby securing a supplemental-round draft pick), there's a reasonable chance that he, wanting to stay in Texas, would foil the entire plan by accepting the offer.
Byrd is a far more open-and-shut case; the Rangers can offer arbitration with confidence, knowing full well that he's going to decline the offer irrespective of whether Texas elects to lock him up with a multi-year contract or allows him to browse the free agent market. It's either a healthy amount of untapped capital and a draft pick in the No. 40-50 range, or Byrd's services -- but not both.
What's baffling to me is the latest scuttlebutt wave from MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, which suggests that the Rangers have prioritized re-signing Byrd (?!) and prominently features this quote from Michael Young: "We have to sign Marlon Byrd. No question about it." You'll have to pardon me for vesting belief in the notion that a low-payroll team working through a murky financial situation doesn't have much business sinking $15-20 million into a non-essential and non-elite player, regardless of the innumerable leadership qualities he might possess.
Injury News: The Rangers have officially shut down ailing outfielder Josh Hamilton (pinched sciatic nerve) for the remainder of the 2009 regular season; he will undergo further treatment and embark upon a rehab program in preparation for 2010 spring training ... Outfielder Marlon Byrd (hip capsule strain) is officially day-to-day, but it might be prudent for the sake of his own health to shelve him for the remaining five games ... First baseman Chris Davis (strained hamstring) is day-to-day.
Quick Hits: Manager Ron Washington on 21-year-old fireballer Neftali Feliz: "I do believe, from what he's shown out of the bullpen this season, that he could be a threat four or five times a week rather than once a week." ... Washington apparently doesn't want to play Julio Borbon in center field until the Rangers have clinched second place in the division; Borbon will play center field this winter for Águilas Cibaeñas of the Dominican Winter League with the intent of sharpening his outfield defense.
Sinkerballer Scott Feldman effectively removed himself from the fringes of Cy Young Award contention on Tuesday evening, logging just 3.2 innings of four-run baseball while yielding seven hits and three walks ... Dennis Gilbert, whose investor group hopes to place the prevailing bid for the Rangers, attended both Monday's and Tuesday's games in Anaheim; previous reports relayed by Reeves suggested that team president Nolan Ryan could be dislodged if Gilbert's group were to acquire the Rangers, but an associate of Gilbert's characterized those reports "erroneous." ... Media shifting: Richard Durrett has joined ESPN Dallas, while Evan Grant has returned to the Dallas Morning News.