One of the first revelations to strike you after studying the market of any professional team sport for any length of time is that every signing/trade has consequences -- some good, some bad, some inconsequential (heh), some involving playing time/roles, some involving performance, some involving the soothing of bruised egos, and so forth. The manner in which those consequences affect the team ultimately determine the perceived success of the transaction, and, to a lesser degree, the success of the team and the employment (or lack thereof) of the people who presided over the transaction(s) in the first place. We're all very well aware of how this is supposed to work, even if it doesn't actually always unfold that way.
And generally speaking, the more complex or high-profile a transaction is, the more likely it is to have a wide or significant array of consequences attached. I say "generally speaking" because I don't think the typical trade comprising the exchange of two good, but certainly not great, players has this many different little ramifications across so many areas of the above-stated spectrum:
The Bullpen: There are depth, performance and role ramifications all stemming from the departure of Frank Francisco -- the first two of which likely aren't good for Texas no matter how sunny your outlook may be on things, and the last of which will no doubt infuriate some to no end. A few scarring ninth-inning meltdowns and injuries notwithstanding, Francisco was an above-average strikeout reliever for the better part of his time in Texas and a consistent 50- to 60-inning pitcher that could be deployed in late-inning situations with relative confidence. Aside from the clear and apparent hit to the established bullpen depth, there's also the matter of one of a number of relatively unproven pitchers stepping up in his absence. This could very well happen, but the high variability of relievers and the depth situation is such that you can at least envision this becoming an on-going problem. I'm hopeful that it'll work out, but not anything approaching arrogantly confident.
What is more likely to ruffle feathers is the notion that losing Francisco all but locks Neftali Feliz into the ninth-inning role for the 2011 season -- a proposition that has never appealed to those who want to see him get his shot in the rotation sooner rather than later, or those who inherently believe he can furnish greater value pitching every fifth day. I persist in leaning towards the side that doubts whether this is the right time to pull the trigger on that move, but my position feels a little stronger today, unless you're so mindblowingly confident that you think two ancient southpaws will keep killing it, Darren O'Day will continue to bamboozle the league, Alexi Ogando will handily overcome whatever adjustments the league has ordered against him, and so forth.
The Outfield: The ostensibly poor quality of Mike Napoli's defensive chops behind the plate is such that he probably won't be doubling as Yorvit Torrealba's primary backup, and with that in mind the Rangers -- barring any more wild transactional escapades -- appear to have their 13 position players all but locked in, albeit with no backup plan in center field beyond Josh Hamilton. This would have been the same case had Texas inked Jim Thome or Manny Ramirez, but it's no less unnerving now than it was in either of those cases, and I have to wonder what ends up happening if Julio Borbon falls flat on his face again, and if the Rangers are prepared to incur the risk associated with rolling him out there on an everyday basis in the event that things go awry with Borbon ... again.
The Face: At first glance, this article penned by FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal -- in which he states his belief that the Rangers still want to trade their putative face of the franchise, Michael Young -- prompted me to wonder if he wrote it with the aid of his jump-to-conclusions mat, but hey, it's Rosenthal. He says the Rockies still want Young more than a month after the winter meetings, and I can only presume that's based on actual conversations with Rockies personnel rather than unfounded speculation. The sequence of players pursued by Texas in these preceding weeks absolutely supports the theory that Texas wanted more offensive punch than what their in-house options at 1B/DH could provide, and Young apparently still thinks of himself as a temporary DH ... which is fine and all, because he can think whatever helps him sleep better at night, but where does he think an expanded positional role (e.g. more than 80 games) is going to come from in the next few years? Where does anyone think it's going to come from?
The more I've thought about it, the more I've wondered if this notion I proposed back on December 8th actually does make sense -- is Texas willing to eat a decent-sized chunk of his remaining $40-plus million salary commitment in exchange for expanded roster flexibility over the next three seasons, and not having to be forced into committing no fewer than 550-600 plate appearances in each of those seasons to a player whose bat really doesn't play all that well at first base or designated hitter? Is Colorado willing and able to assume the remaining salary commitment? And if any or all of the above is in fact true, is Texas working under the assumption that they can overcome the P.R. hit and contain fan backlash so long as they keep on winning? Because that final assumption may not be such a terribly misguided assumption, after all.
I haven't yet worked out all the details in my head, but if there will ever be a time for the Rangers to trade Michael Young (and understand that I'm not outright advocating it, nor begrudging your emotional reasons for not wanting to see it happen), this window is the time for it to happen. It almost certainly won't happen, but then we were all thinking virtually the exact same thing before the Rangers signed Adrian Beltre on that happiest of days three weeks ago, and I don't believe it's wise to ever completely rule out any possibility with this team.