Prolonged exposure to the yearly ritual that is baseball's hot stove season has taught us that, in general, the month of November is reserved for the "feeling-out period" between executives and agents, whereas the months of December and January -- excluding the Christmas-time cessation in activity -- comprise the bulk of baseball's winter transactions. February, then, is the time when teams go bargain-shopping for back-of-the-roster pieces who have been injured, inconsistent, incendiary or some nasty combination of the three.
This loosely defined pattern in off-season activity became even more evident exactly one year ago today when, on February 8th, Texas took a Rudy Jaramillo-spearheaded flier on Andruw Jones; two years earlier, the Rangers famously stirred up the masses by signing Sammy Sosa on the penultimate day of January, which supplied some milestone-fueled thrills down the line but, like the Jones signing, very little in the way of quantifiable value. Thus, in light of recent history, why should we adopt any position other than hard-line skepticism towards this year's apparent February object of intrigue: Rocco Baldelli?
We've already mused at some length about the logical foundation underlying this Baldelli-to-Texas notion, which, at a glance, doesn't appear all that remarkable from an upside standpoint. Conversely, going out and snagging Baldelli via the incentive-laden minor league deal also wouldn't seem to entail much in the way of downside, in the sense that his durability-related limitations and a dearth of major league-quality outfield depth are likely going to prevent any sort of playing time crunch and/or overexposure -- two leading concerns of mine regarding last year's Jones signing that fortunately proved unfounded.
Here are the two thoughts that keep boomeranging around my head, neither of which concern his potential on-the-field value (we'll run through that discussion if/when a signing actually happens): first, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein has been absolutely smothering Baldelli in praise (describing him as "a great person, an excellent teammate and an asset to any organization), and with certain people "in the know" assuring me that the Rangers are going to miss Marlon Byrd's leadership qualities more so than most realize, you find yourself wondering if Baldelli might be a suitable short-term successor to that Byrd-vacated clubhouse role.
That second thought concerns (what else?) the tenuous state of Baldelli's health, which certainly works against him, but not to the extent that it might with another team relying upon him to fill an expanded role. Put another way, if Baldelli might only be good for 40-50 games divided between first base, center field and designated hitter, then the fit might be optimal for both sides -- particularly when you consider that the Rangers' medical staff currently ranks among baseball's best, a team attribute that would most certainly behoove Baldelli as he attempts to return to prominence.