Rangers big week: 1 superstar or 2 coming?
Posted on: January 17, 2012 10:11 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 10:48 am
The Texas Rangers, the two-time defending American League champions, are at the center of the action this week, with the Yu Darvish deadline looming Wednesday and the continuing Prince Fielder intrigue, which began to boil over when Fielder was discovered to be meeting with top Texas brass in Dallas last Friday -- not to mention a couple other smaller talks ongoing thrown in for good measure.
The great likelihood is that the Darvish deal gets done for slightly more than "Dice-K money,'' say people familiar with the talks who are referring to the $52-million, six-year contract Daisuke Matsuzaka signed with the Boston Red Sox. That's logical because while Darvish is considered the better pitcher (18-6 with a 1.44 ERA and a Pacific League-leading 276 strikeouts in 2011), the posting fee of $51,703,411 for him was just barely above the $51,111,111 fee the Red Sox paid for Matsuzaka, and Darvish's agent Arn Tellem has no other alternative but to take him back to Japan, in what is seen as a generally unpalatable alternative for star Japanese stars who go to the trouble of posting.
While there was still said to be a difference on the years, with Darvish wanting five so he could become a free agent at 30, and Texas wanting to repeat Matsuzaka's six-year contract, everyone surrounding the negotiation suggested the deal is likely to get done before the deadline Wednesday if the range of $55 million. (side note: Boston's first offer to Matsuzaka had been half that, $28 million.)
If the Darvish deal does somehow fall through (unlikely), the Rangers would suddenly become the overwhelming favorite to land Fielder. But the bigger question is whether the Rangers would be willing to pay the freight for Fielder if more than $100 million is committed to Darvish.
Rangers people have consistently characterized that possibility of a Texas superstar two-step as "unlikely,'' and a $300-million week would indeed be extraordinary for a team that isn't in New York, Boston, Philadelphia or Los Angeles (or even Los Angeles of Anaheim). However, Texas, a team that recently had been receiving luxury tax payouts, is committed to winning and on the rise financially with its rapdily increasing TV and attendance revenues and relatively new oil baron owners.
Rangers people also are full of surprises, like last winter when they stole Adrian Beltre late, after the rival Angels and A's had bid earlier. This time, Texas may have even more incentive to make a big play, what with the Angels earlier having their own $317.5-million week between their pricey new imports Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the former Ranger.
Rangers people like to keep things secret, and their clandestine meeting last week with Fielder at the Four Seasons in Dallas only leaked because the wedding of Pirates star reliever Joel Hanrahan (yet another star player the Rangers have tried for this winter) happened to be at the same hotel at the same time, so the players and agents at the wedding started telling people they had seen Fielder and/or agent Scott Boras with Rangers brass Nolan Ryan, Texas' icon and managing partner, and GM Jon Daniels. Rangers people also knows it doesn't do anything positive for the psyche of incumbent first baseman Mitch Moreland or even incumbent positional superstar Josh Hamilton if Fielder speculation keeps mushrooming.
It's possible Ryan and Daniels were just covering their bases on the off chance Darvish doesn't get done. But the Rangers do seem to love the idea of signing Fielder, which while prohibitive could make sense if they allow Hamilton to leave as a free agent after this season. Hamilton has been a tremendous asset since Daniels acquired him in a deal for Edinson Volquez and a minor-league pitcher after Reds medical people forced the deal, but Fielder is younger, less injury prone and generally a safer bet (Hamilton's father-in-law Michael Dean just bowed out as his accountability partner).
Beyond the simultaneous dances with the two huge stars, the Rangers are looking to add a lefty reliever and bench player, and have considered Mike Gonzalez and Ryan Spilborghs. But of course, the first thing to do is figure out whether they will add one superstar or two.