I was going to write something about Jurickson Profar, but then I didn't. The Rangers discussed bringing Jurickson Profar up as far back as 11 days ago, but then they didn't. And since that point in time, Michael Young has nabbed a few middle-infield spot starts without all the world being plunged into darkness and shadow and despair. Sometimes bad processes lead directly to bad results, but sometimes everything works out just fine. It happens.
It also happens that I've been thinking some more about the running 'Ron Washington balks at trusting young players' line of discussion that's swept through the Rangers blogosphere of late (particularly since Mike Olt got the call from Frisco), and the ramifications and fallout that might conceivably stem from his apparent position. If you don't want to read a somewhat meandering post about such matters that probably elicits more questions than it answers, then that's fine. That's why I write other posts here and there towards which you can focus your attention. Or you can do whatever you want, which is a course of action that I've always been a huge proponent of myself.
Eleven days ago, word began to proliferate that the Rangers -- who were (and still are) operating with a three-man bench -- were mulling over the idea of a Profar call-up, and the same afternoon that those rumors hit the wire, Ron Washington issued what seemed tantamount to a hasty dismissal, remarking that "Profar's name never came up ... we'll decide when the need comes up." A few hours later, Jon Daniels confirmed that Profar was one of the utility infielder candidates they were discussing.
Two days after that, Ron Washington went on the Ben & Skin Show on ESPN 103.3 FM, and aside from reaffirming his loyalty to Michael Young, Washington further clarified his respective positions on Mike Olt and Profar:
“You look at the personnel we have and the club I put out there, are the guys that are sitting on the bench, are they better than what I have out there?” Washington said. “It’s not only numbers on the field, it’s the presence, it’s how you make your teammates feel, the way the clubhouse is being run. We’re still in first place. We’re 18, 19 games above .500 and we’re talking of changes? He’s a young kid with potential and I’m going to get him as much playing time as I possibly can, but we’re in a pennant race.”
Washington said he lets a player’s career help him judge how long to stick by him.
“He has a track record,” Washington said. “That’s what I rely on. I rely on what a guy has done, how he handles failure and in failure, you teach other people how to handle failure. He’s helping other guys on this team understand how you go about your business when failing.”
... Ben Rogers: “Am I out of my mind?”
Ron Washington: “Yeah [responding to Ben's suggestion that Profar come up and play three times a week as a means of buying some additional rest for Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler]. This kid played low A ball last year. He’s a talent. There’s no doubt about that. He’s experiencing right now what it’s like to have a full season at Double-A. Until we as the Texas Rangers make a decision that the kid is coming here, I think the speculation is way out of line. This kid should concentrate on playing baseball at Double-A and not reading that he’s coming to the major leagues.”
On Wednesday, Matt Mosley published a story on FOXSportsSouthwest.com that went into even more exhaustive detail on Washington's various positions, with Washington citing his "baseball loyalty" to Young, and with Mosley suggesting that Washington feels a greater sense of loyalty to his veterans because of the perceived injustices that Washington experienced as a veteran ballplayer himself.
Mosley also mentioned that, at this point in the season, Washington was going to stick with the players who had carried the ballclub to this point and "only integrate young players such as Olt if an injury occurs," and indicated that while Jon Daniels and the rest of the front office might bristle at Washington's playing time arrangements, Daniels has "too much respect" for Washington to pressure him on that front:
"You have to look at what type of team we have. We're trying to win a championship. If we were 10 games out of first place, some of those guys would be getting to play more. But their time will come down the road. [Profar] needs to be in Double-A leading that group of players. He's definitely a talent, but the only way he would be playing for us is if we were 10-15 games out."
Evan Grant, for what it's worth, seems to confirm that there are people within the front office who want to see Olt get more playing time, but since everyone considers that matter to fall within Washington's purview, it's a moot issue. The front office gives the players to Washington, and Washington deploys the players in the manner he sees fit, and that's just how the dynamic works.
So, that's where we stand right now. Before last night's game, Olt had started just three times since August 7th, but the Twins will deploy two lefties during this weekend set (Scott Diamond last night, and Brian Duensing) that should buy Olt at least a couple of starts, and he has also been the recipient of some late-game defensive sub work in the field. Yeah, sure, I'd still prefer to see Olt get the start closer to 50 percent of the time than 25-30 percent of the time, but it's been made abundantly clear that that won't happen, and winning (more specifically, winning six out of eight games) has a funny way of drowning out some of the near-term discontent.
And given the insight that the front office has into Ron Washington's thought processes and M.O. (insight that we're not privy to), and its foreknowledge as far as how it believed Washington would utilize Olt, I find it hard to imagine that they were blindsided or caught totally off guard by the limited role into which Olt has been cast, or that it even has much basis for being disappointed. Can you still truly be disappointed if you get exactly what you were expecting to get all along?
The one question that does cross my mind to that end, though, is what Olt's role looks like next year (provided that he's still here), given that there's a good chance of Michael Young still being on the roster as the everyday DH by that point. He can have utility here as a four-corners guy, but he's still a young player who needs repetition and structure in order to maximize his offensive skill set, and that playing time is likely to come in sparing amounts at the corner outfield spots in 2013, leaving backup work at third base, platoon work at first base, and ... well, not much else, one wouldn't think.
That could still amount to a decent chunk of playing time, but if you envision Olt as much more than a 250-300 PA guy next season (and even that isn't necessarily a lock, looking at the roster right now and thinking about what it could look like going forward), in what would be his age-24 season, you're looking every single which way to try and offload Michael Young in the off-season and free up plate appearances.
And that, in turn, could ultimately boil down to selling Young on the ultra-cheap and eating 90-100 percent of the remaining money on his deal (one would presume this would only take place after the Rangers forced his hand on his expected 2013 playing time and told him he would be relegated to part-time status), which may or may not end up being accompanied by another nasty squabble relayed to us through the press. But that's one of the reasons why, if you think Young needs to go, and you harbor any hope of a team approaching Texas with an offer on Young that they might seriously contemplate, why you want him to have a strong, impactful finish to the season.
Of course, a strong finish to the season -- if that should actually transpire -- probably also rallies Young's supporters within the organization and encourages the thought that the Rangers should go ahead and ride it out with Young in 2013 and not disrupt the status quo before it's absolutely necessary. This, at the end of the day, may be the likelier eventuality, and I think that's why I don't look at Olt as a lead-pipe lock to open up next season on the active roster. That's probably still the likeliest outcome as far as Olt is concerned, given that he should be one of the 25 best players in the organization by that juncture, but the Rangers could, in theory, decide that service time considerations and the need to get Olt consistent, everyday work at the plate (particularly against right-handers) are more important than the additional benefit they would gain from Olt being on the active roster.
Or a trade could still happen. It probably won't, but it wouldn't be the first time that something like that hit us out of left field. That would all come down to whether a team seeking a young, controllable talent at the hot corner had finally become willing enough to pay whatever hefty price the Rangers have assigned to him. Probably not, but it's always on the table.
The other extended thought that arises from Washington's comments is that he doesn't at all seem to be on board with the notion of Profar being summoned to the majors this season, much less receiving legitimate playing time in a backup capacity during the lead-up to October, or even being someone that Washington trusts with back-up/pinch-running/pinch-hitting responsibilities in the actual post-season environment.
I speculated some days ago that this felt like a spot where Washington -- and perhaps the rest of the coaching staff as a whole -- would greatly prefer a veteran, proven entity, and that it didn't make a whole lot of sense to believe that Washington would suddenly (a) allocate even 1-2 starts a week to a 19-year-old shortstop at this late juncture in the season, or (b) entrust that utility infielder spot to someone who had never before played above AA-ball, who's an exceptionally talented individual but is still young and prone to young-ballplayer mistakes that just won't fly in October. I think that still holds true at this point, and I wonder if Washington's overt resistance to the idea is basically his way of saying to management, "Yeah, get me a veteran utility guy, but don't give me Profar."
And while I'm projecting forward a bit here from Washington's comments, if he's emphatically against the idea of getting Profar a few starts a week as a means of buying a little extra rest for Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler, then he's probably not too terribly keen on Profar getting even 1-2 starts a week at the big league level over the final six weeks of the season -- and if that's the case, and if Profar wouldn't receive the sliver of playing time necessary for Washington and company to form even a preliminary evaluation of what he is right now and what he could provide in October, then I don't know how they could possibly feel comfortable relying upon Profar to occupy even a marginal post-season role.
That is not to say that Alberto Gonzalez is a superior option in a vacuum, mind you. To tell you the truth, I don't think Washington is terribly keen on Gonzalez being a component of his post-season roster, either. If we go down to the wire without an external option being summoned into the mix, though, I would bet on Gonzalez getting that utility infielder call ahead of Profar -- and for all the kvetching that might result from such a decision being made, Jason Parks has raised the issue of Profar not being a polished defensive product at this point in time, and rightly mentions that "the post-season isn’t a good time to experience the pains of the developmental process." I'd like to see Profar cast into that mix from the standpoint of him being one of the 25 best players in the organization, but I don't view it as a make-or-break, life-or-death matter.
The greatest benefit to getting Profar up on the roster, of course, would be the opportunity to buy him a month-long taste of the major league environment and hopefully accelerate the acclimation process to at least a minor degree. You wouldn't expect that taste of the majors to have such a profound effect upon his development that you absolutely have to hammer such a roster move through ("voyeurism can only teach you so much"), but it wouldn't hurt, and Double-A Frisco's season is now close enough to being over that you're not going to meaningfully hinder his longer-term development by pulling him away from his everyday shortstop assignment in the minors to ride pine in the majors.
One final thought does spring to mind here: we, for the most part, think highly enough of Profar and his position in the developmental process that we can envision him as the Rangers' starting shortstop as early as next spring. We believe that his chances of swimming rather than sinking upon receiving a full-time big league role are pretty sturdy. Almost all of the conjured hypotheticals that we've seen up to this point, though, have Profar playing shortstop or, less commonly, second base at the big league level in 2013 ... and, yeah, there's a decent chance that one of those scenarios actualizes, but Profar hasn't completely ripped the door from its hinges at Frisco, and despite his very advanced skill set and makeup, he'll still be just a few weeks past his 20th birthday at the outset of the 2013 season.
From a timing and a value-maximizing standpoint, it would help if the Rangers could decipher what their chances of locking up Elvis Andrus are and whether they're going to be willing to meet that price point, and then move forward with their plans based on that evaluation ... but the Rangers don't have to do that. They could hold steady with the Elvis/Kinsler status quo up the middle, keep Profar down on the farm for another year (or perhaps less), and just decide that whatever happens with Elvis/Profar happens. I don't think that is what will happen, but it's on the table. A lot of things are on the table. And if there's any thought in the front office that runs along such lines, then perhaps we don't see Profar up here in the next month after all, or even next spring.
Anyway, that's just some stuff floating around out there right now and my general sort of take on where things are on the Washington/Olt/Profar situation. Incidentally, the Star-Telegram was kind enough to pour just a little more lighter fluid onto that speculatory flame by querying Elvis Andrus on his future in Texas in this morning's paper:
Andrus loves being with the Rangers and would like to stay with the team, but knows that might not be realistic.
"It's still a business and if you can bring somebody younger and cheaper, every team will do it," Andrus said. "We'll see what they want and what they're thinking in the future."
Asked if the Rangers have discussed a long-term deal with him, Andrus said: "Yeah, always trying to sign long-term, but I'll be really in my prime whenever I'm a free agent. I think it's got to be fair both ways."
Yeah, we're going to be hearing about this for months to come. And it's going to drive us crazy.