Using the offensive and defensive projections that are currently available, the Rangers look like an 88-win team in 2010. On paper, that places the team slightly ahead of the other three contenders in the AL West. Adding a couple of wins would provide a boost to the team's chances of making the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
With 20 pitchers vying for 12 spots in the rotation and bullpen, 10 position players who will be on the active roster if they are healthy (the starting eight, plus Vladimir Guerrero and David Murphy), and competition for the backup catcher (Taylor Teagarden vs. Toby Hall) and utility infielder (Khalil Greene vs. Joaquin Arias) positions, there appears to be only one spot left on the 25-man roster that can impact the team's 2010 record.
The team likely has no more than a few million dollars left in the budget to add a player salary (see table and description at the bottom of this article), and the recent flurry of free agent signings has left only Eric Bedard and Johnny Damon as players whom CHONE projects to be worth at least two wins above replacement (WAR) in 2010.
So how do you squeeze two wins out of the 25th spot on an active roster with only a few million dollars to spend and very little from which to choose? Interestingly, signing Ryan Garko would likely do the trick. So how, you might ask, could Garko be worth two wins wins as the 25th man on a roster if he is projected to be a 1.0 WAR full-time player? Take a look below, and remember, math is your friend.
RYAN GARKO -- BECAUSE 1.0 + 1.2 DOES OCCASIONALLY EQUAL 3.8
Prior to the signing of Vladimir Guerrero, 29-year-old Ryan Garko appeared to be a candidate for the Rangers; right-handed DH spot. CHONE predicts that Garko will hit .275/.350/.445 while playing in 130 games in 2010. With average defense at first base, Garko is expected to be worth one win for the team that signs him. While the going rate for free agents has been approximately $3.5 million per win this off-season, it seems likely that Garko will receive a salary in the $1-2 million range, since there are no teams that are in the market for a full-time first baseman or DH.
With Chris Davis penciled in at first base and Guerrero manning the DH spot, how can Garko be expected to impact the Rangers win-loss record? Combining the CHONE, Bill James, and Marcel projections, Chris Davis is expected to have a hitting line of approximately .276/.332/.510 in 2010. With average defense and above-average power, CHONE projects that Davis will be worth 1.2 WAR as the Rangers' primary first baseman in 2010.
In his first 736 plate appearances in the major leagues, Davis has been much better against right-handed pitchers (.272/.319/.515) than against left-handed pitchers (.226/.271/.428). If Davis' left/right splits persist and his 2010 projections prove to be accurate, then he would be expected to put up a stellar line of .290/.350/.562 vs. right-handers and a far less impressive line of .248/.296/.406 against left-handers this season.
And that brings us back to Garko. In 1714 career major league plate appearances, the right-handed first baseman has hit .313/.392/.495 against left-handed pitchers and just .266/.335/.420 against right-handers. Using his historical splits to break down his projection for 2010 (.275/.350/.445 in 430 at bats) produces a .308/.391/.479 projected line against left-handers and a .259/.330/.428 line against right-handers.
If the Rangers sign Garko and Ron Washington can be convinced to platoon the right-hander with Chris Davis, then the Rangers' first basemen would be expected to hit something along the lines of .296/.364/.536. Assuming that their defense is at least average, then the Davis/Garko platoon would figure to sit comfortably between the 4.4 WAR performance of Kendry Morales (.306/.355/.569 in 2009) and the 3.2 WAR performance of Justin Mourneau (.274/.363/.515 in 2009).
The resulting 3.8 WAR of Davis/Garko would increase the Rangers' production at first base by 2.6 wins (versus the 1.2 WAR that Davis is expected to produce as the full-time player) and significantly increase the team's chances to exceed 90 wins in 2010. When you consider that Oakland made a $10 million investment in Ben Sheets for the 2.0 WAR that he is expected to produce in 2010, dropping $2 million on Garko looks like a steal.
A RUNDOWN OF THE RANGERS' SALARY COMMITMENTS
Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan have both indicated this offseason that the team has allocated roughly $68 million in the 2010 budget to player salaries. As noted in the table below, the team's current salary commitments total between $62-63 million depending on the ultimate salaries of Scott Feldman and a slew of pre-arbitration players. Performance incentives could add an additional $3.9 million to the 2010 budget. Depending on how the team's accounting department counts potential bonuses, it appears that the Rangers have between $1-6 million left in their 2010 budget for player salaries.
[* -- salary estimates for players who have not yet signed 2010 contracts.]