I just can’t follow this anymore.
It feels like they Rangers are playing a game of chess and I can’t figure out the next move, much less how the match ends. That, or they are just randomly moving pieces around like a drunken Rotisserie owner. That seems unlikely, but I can’t rule it out.
My initial reaction to the Napoli deal was positive, but after thinking it through, it doesn’t make much sense. This is not really an analysis of that deal, however. This is about trying to make sense of what the Rangers are doing in general. And failing to make sense of it.
I don’t believe that they gave up a piece they knew they would need and use for a piece that they have no specific plans for. In the hastily arranged telephone conference to address the media following the trade, Jon Daniels essentially said that getting Napoli wasn’t about Michael Young or Mitch Moreland, it was just about making the club better. But he didn’t really say exactly how Napoli will make the club better other than to say something vague about versatility and liking the player.
In various attempts to make sense of the Rangers moves (and rumored moves) by the mainstream mediaites and even impassioned fans, I hear some common themes, none of which make much sense to me.
Michael Young: Anywhere and Everywhere
Most people seem to assume that the Rangers really mean it when they say that they are going to use Michael Young all over the field and get him scores of at-bats at second, third and short as well as first base and DH. (Then again, have Jon Daniels or Nolan Ryan ever actually said this, or is this a media creation? I really don't remember seeing either of the men that matter actually say anything about using Young all around the infield.)
I’ve never bought that theory and won’t until I see it. And when I do see it, I’ll say that it’s borderline idiotic. It would be one of the most asinine attempts to massage a bruised ego in the history of sports. It would be making the team worse in order to attempt to keep one man happy by giving him what he doesn’t really want in the first place.
You want me to believe that they are going to arbitrarily take at-bats and defensive innings away from Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler in order to shoehorn Michael Young into the lineup? Bullsh.
They don't trust Mitch Moreland
Another assumption I keep hearing is that Mitch Moreland will be used in a platoon or even sent down to Triple-A. I don’t believe that the Rangers traded away Frankie Francisco because they are concerned about hiding Mitch Moreland or avoiding him altogether.
Moreland’s splits at Triple-A? .272 / .344 / .457 / .801 vs. LHP and .294 / .378 / .493 / .871 vs. RHP.
Moreland’s splits at Double-A? .385 / .429 / .526 / .954 vs. LHP and .305 / .354 / .475 / .829 vs. RHP.
Moreland’s splits High-A? .289 / .431 / .622 / 1.053 vs LHP and .360 / .417 / .584 / 1.001 vs RHP.
Moreland’s splits in Low-A? .301 / .404 / .455 / .859 vs. LHP and .332 / .398 / .566 / .964 vs RHP.
That’s not a guy whose minor league slash lines suggest platoon (like Justin Smoak’s do).
I think the Rangers are quite high on Moreland and see him having a significant role on the club in 2011 and beyond. Evan Grant reported that the Garza deal didn’t happen, in large part, because the Rangers refused to include Moreland. In the telephone conference after the Napoli deal, one of the few things Daniels was very direct about was how highly they think of Mitch Moreland.
I don’t have real strong feelings about Moreland one way or another. I don't think he'll be a star or a bust. I think there’s a very, very good chance that he settles in as a very solid-average first baseman. A small chance he turns into something more and a slightly larger chance that he bombs. But most likely, a solid-average player at first base for league minimum.
Here's how Moreland stacked up among all MLB first basemen with at least 160 plate appearances last year.
|Paul Konerko||White Sox||0.65||0.312||0.393||0.584||0.977||0.326|
|Kevin Youkilis||Red Sox||0.87||0.307||0.411||0.564||0.975||0.327|
|Russell Branyan||- - -||0.35||0.237||0.323||0.487||0.81||0.288|
|Lance Berkman||- - -||0.91||0.248||0.368||0.413||0.781||0.282|
|Derrek Lee||- - -||0.54||0.26||0.347||0.428||0.774||0.309|
|Mike Sweeney||- - -||0.67||0.252||0.321||0.444||0.765||0.244|
|Lyle Overbay||Blue Jays||0.51||0.243||0.329||0.433||0.762||0.285|
|Jorge Cantu||- - -||0.31||0.256||0.304||0.392||0.695||0.295|
|Mark Kotsay||White Sox||0.89||0.239||0.306||0.376||0.683||0.247|
|Justin Smoak||- - -||0.51||0.218||0.307||0.371||0.678||0.255|
|Mike Lowell||Red Sox||0.68||0.239||0.307||0.367||0.674||0.258|
Are the A's trying to hide or avoid Daric Barton? Are the Mets trying to hide or avoid Ike Davis? Why would a club make hiding or avoiding a young, cheap player who made a debut like that a high priority?
I think that the Rangers intend to go forward with Mitch Moreland at first base, knowing that they aren't going to have a blue chip superstar, but a guy who will give them quality at-bats and solid-average production for a great, low price tag. I don't see why they would want to pigeonhole him as a platoon guy when there's no meaningful statistical evidence to suggest that he can't handle the load of being an everyday player. Moreover, they don't have much in the way of position prospects coming along who can reasonably be expected to come in and fill a significant role during his pre-arb and arby years. I can't fathom why they wouldn't take advantage of this opportunity with Moreland.
And who were the Rangers chasing as the "extra bat" before they traded for Napoli? Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez. Would either of those signings been about giving them insurance against Moreland struggling at first base?
Might Moreland struggle against lefties? Sure. Is the chance of that happening so great that you give up Frankie Francisco -- rather than go out and sign Mike Sweeney or Fernando Tatis -- for next to nothing? I don't think so, and I don't really think the Rangers think so either.
Because I don't actually believe that they Rangers intend to use Michael Young as a super-utility guy on a level that amounts to an everyday job, and I believe that they will commit more fully to Mitch Moreland than the mainstream media seems to think, the only way I can make any sense of this is to conclude that Michael Young is on his way out the door.
I too have a hard time wrapping my head around Michael Young being traded, but I'm coming to the conclusion that it's more likely than not. I think that Napoli is here to be part of a DH platoon with either David Murphy or Josh Hamilton, depending on whether or not they want to get Hamilton off his feet that day. He'll probably get some work at first base, maybe a little behind the plate, but I don't believe that the Rangers gave up Frankie Frank for a "bench bat" or insurance against Moreland struggling against lefties.
But then again, this just might be the work of a bunch of drunken Roto owners. Your guess is as good as mine.