It's December 20th, and the townspeople are restless. Justifiably so, in fact. You don't expect a franchise coming off a World Series appearance with abundant payroll space -- which even the skeptics can agree is above and beyond $20 million -- to roll into Christmas week having engaged in so little resembling substantive hot-stove activity, and having acquired even less of what might objectively be considered roster upgrades. You could see it going wrong, as Josh Garoon did almost exactly one month ago to the day, but you certainly didn't expect it, and you really didn't want to think about it.
Now, to be clear, "wrong" is a very relative term, and only a few of Josh's worst-case scenario prognostications have actualized to this point, but there are two principal off-season fears with which every baseball fan is acquainted: (a) gross overpayment in dollars or trade assets for a roster upgrade, or (b) doing nothing, or doing so little that the net effects are practically negligible. Pick your poison. A team in the Rangers' competitive/financial position is much better suited to incur the risks associated with the former scenario, and yet it's the latter scenario that's presently unfolding, with one big name after the next flying off the board and contributing to this underlying sense of frustration and despair.
But should this frustration be directed in its entirety towards the front office responsible for the Rangers' lack of activity to date? No. In fact, the two greatest obstacles to this point have been neither a lack of money nor a lack of quality trade assets, but rather prudence and circumstance. Cliff Lee wanted a guaranteed seven-year commitment from Texas in order for him to shun Philadelphia -- a demand which the Rangers smartly rejected. In the curious case of Zach Greinke, Dayton Moore's motives -- that is, to acquire major league-ready positional talent, and to ship Greinke out of the American League -- proved a significant impediment to any prospect of agreement with Texas.
And in keeping in line with the prudence theme, one can reasonably see how Texas wouldn't want to sign Carl Crawford ($142 million), or Adam Dunn ($56 million), or Victor Martinez ($50 million), or Paul Konerko ($37.5 million). I'll personally be shocked if even two of the four generate the requsite value to justify their deals. This is where an interesting bit of cognitive dissonance appears to have set in -- the majority still desperately craves a big-sized (or even medium-sized) splash, but only if the price is right, which is still damn near impossible in this market. This isn't a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too-type situation, and as that realization has set in, so has the frustration -- either overpay, or walk away empty-handed.
From a personal standpoint, the most worrisome eventuality goes something like the rest of Josh's worst-case scenario plan -- Texas throws some money at Brandon Webb and Vladimir Guerrero and calls it an off-season, while Anaheim signs Adrian Beltre. One could at least manage to tolerate this if it also comprised the acquisition of a mid-rotation starter, but history has taught us just how often pitchers returning from injury-induced missed seasons end up paying off (not very often), and signing that sort of pitcher, regardless of pedigree, should be more of a complementary addition than a hot-stove season highlight.
That season may not yet be over, but that glimmer of hope doesn't alter the reality that it's December 20th, the townspeople are restless, and they don't quite know what to do with themselves.