Immediately after Game 7 of last year's World Series, I set my own baseball healing process into motion by punching up an online stream of a live Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters game and watching Yu Darvish murder some poor NPB lineup from 6,000 miles away. I can't recall who he faced that night, but I do recall having the distinct impression that his opponents knew Darvish was coming for them, knew what he was capable of doing to them with a baseball, and still couldn't do a damn thing to stop him.
That was a therapuetic, beautiful experience that brought me back to a good place in terms of wanting to talk about the Rangers, because we knew at the time that Darvish might very well be a Ranger several months later on, and when you've sunk to such depths of despair and self-pity as this fan base (and I) did after Game 7, you need great things to dream on.
And maybe that's the case again in the here and now, because, as you all well know by now, I've had a very difficult time conjuring up the motivation to write about this team over the last month (beyond needlessly introspective tripe like this). I also don't like hitting the keyboard unless I feel I can add something of real value to the larger discussion, and, for the last month, there have been precious few moments where both of those necessary ingredients have been in place. But it takes only one juicy rumor -- one enticing thing to dream on -- to shock you back to reality, and I feel like Ken Rosenthal may have done that to me this morning.
Because Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Rangers have expressed "serious interest" in free agent David Ortiz, and "envision him as a left-handed hitting replacement for ... Josh Hamilton." That doesn't particularly surprise me, and I also don't think it would be wise to bet on Ortiz-to-Texas actually happening (Ortiz wants to go back to Boston, and Boston wants him back), but weirder stuff has happened in free agency than egos being bruised by perceived below-market offers and negotiations crumbling to dust.
The fact that Ortiz lost the final two and a half months of his season to a strained right Achilles burned at least a sliver of his market value (that and the fact that he's about to turn 37), but he's still a premium offensive force who has churned out a .312/.405/.576 (159 wRC+) triple-slash line with 52 home runs over the last two seasons (spanning 988 plate appearances). We can argue back and forth all day about how much an age-37 slugger is going to have left in the tank and fret about the very real risk of overpaying for past performance, but the reality is that Ortiz has still been right there among the 5-10 best hitters in baseball over the last couple of years, and that's exciting. It's exciting to think about a player of his handedness and talent and on-base capabilities and raw power hitting in the Ballpark, regardless of whether he's about to hit the downside of his career or not.
This also merits a reminder that revenues are growing within baseball (especially with the proliferation of lucrative new TV deals for specific teams and the across-the-board rise in national TV money) at the same time that it's harder to spend lots of money on amateur talent, and that we should expect to see a rise in the value of a win on the open market. Ortiz reportedly wants a two-year deal worth between $25-30 million from the Red Sox; I would count on him netting a bit more if he ultimately did land in Texas (perhaps closer to $34-35 million on a two-year pact), but I can think of much worse things than throwing $17-18 million annually over a short-term commitment at one of baseball's reigning offensive monsters.
The problem? Beyond the money factor (and I don't think any of us have an especially firm grasp of the Rangers' target 2013 budget, or how much they'd actually be willing to spend on Ortiz), there's the elephant in the room that is Michael Young. Ortiz is about as DH-exclusive as a player gets (he hasn't played more than 10 games in the field in any given season since 2004), and with Young still being under contract for the 2013 season, you would be forced to roll with one of the following options in order to accommodate Ortiz taking over at DH on a full-time basis:
(a) Giving Young a full-time gig at first base (or giving him some playing-time distribution that, say, gives him 85 percent of the at-bats at first base and still allows him to sub at second and third base), and kicking everyone else, including Mitch Moreland, to the curb;
(b) Moving Young into a part-time role where he nets full playing time against lefties and only a little playing time against righties, while still moving him around the 1B/2B/3B horn;
(c) Moving Young into a full-fledged bench role;
(d) Trading Young (nobody's going to make that deal unless Texas eats 80-plus percent of his remaining salary and gives up little to nothing, and even that sounds like an overly optimistic scenario);
(e) Releasing Young, which I suppose is what would happen if the Rangers decided unequivocally that he was no longer in their plans but Young refused to waive his no-trade clause under any circumstances.
(A) is not an appealing idea for plainly evident reasons. (C) is never going to happen with Ron Washington at the helm, so let's not even waste our time contemplating it. (D) could happen in theory, but it would require Young becoming irredeemably hissed off at the Rangers for pushing him aside (which I assume is the only thing that would compel him to waive his no-trade clause), and a trade partner that is ready to believe in his bounceback potential. If (E) comes to pass, I assume we're going to be on Code Red status. And, yeah, (B) actually does make sense, because Young does still have some utility against southpaws ... but that would require Washington bailing from a sinking ship, and I can't say I'm brimming with confidence that he would actually do that.
There are your obvious "what would they do with Michael Young?!" scenarios. It's entirely within the realm of possibility that I'm forgetting something else obvious. It has, after all, been a while since I've seriously engaged the baseball-crazed lobe of my brain. I'm also kind of dubious as to whether this is something we should even spend an excess of time and energy thinking about, because Ortiz could end up re-signing with Boston as soon as today, and that would instantly render the majority of this post obsolete.
But, you know, even if this only lingers out there for a few hours, it's kind of fun to dream. It's kind of fun to be doing this again.