Rangers and the Hall of Fame

We're still a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training, and other than Mitch Moreland and the Rangers coming to an agreement to avoid arbitration -- a streak that runs since 2000 -- there's not a whole lot out there.

In light of that, I've been thinking about current and former Rangers players and the Hall of Fame. Regardless of how long the player played in a Texas uniform, I wanted to look at potential Hall of Famers and see what kind of case they might have for induction (or exclusion). So, with that said, here goes.

  • Ivan Rodriguez

    As you may remember, we talked about Pudge back in January. ESPN had published a preliminary vote which, if official, would have left Pudge on the outside looking in. Of course, according to JAWS over at Baseball-Reference, it would appear to be a pretty open-and-shut case, especially considering Mike Piazza was just inducted. It would be an insult to the game to leave one of the game's greatest catchers out, but it may happen if only because of some suspicion of PED use.
     
  • Rafael Palmeiro

    Palmeiro spent half of his career in a Texas uniform, and throughout his playing days, proved to be a protoypical power-hitting 1st baseman. He hit 569 career home runs and put up a career WAR of 71.6, well above the "cutoff" of 60 that usually gets players into the Hall of Fame conversation. Unfortunately, Palmeiro tested positive for PED use after wagging his finger at the government. Based on stats alone, he should be in, but it can't happen because he's already fallen off the ballot in 2014.
     
  • Adrian Beltre

    83.8 career WAR. 5th in JAWS for 3B, which could likely be higher by the time he's done playing. One of the best defensive 3B to ever play the game. This is about as open-and-shut as it gets. 1st ballot, and anything else would be a shame. Adrian Beltre should be in, or there's no such thing as a Hall of Fame player.
     
  • Vladimir Guerrero

    Vlad only spent one year in a Texas uniform -- on the 2010 World Series team -- but his impact was certainly felt. By that point in his career, he was mostly a DH-only player, but he made much more of an impact prior to arriving in Texas.

    As Tommy Dutch notes regarding Vlad's first time on the ballot in 2017:

    "Next year’s vote will be interesting because of the players who will be eligible for the first time. Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, and Ivan (Pudge) Rodriguez will make their initial appearance on the ballot. Each of the former sluggers has career numbers which are clearly Hall of Fame worthy."

    Vlad's 59.3 career WAR sits him right on the precipice of that unofficial cutoff line for consideration. He was a likable player who was fun to watch because he could hit almost any pitch, and there's at least a decent chance that he'll get some serious consideration, even if he doesn't end up getting in.
     

  • Omar Vizquel

    Another player who only spent a year in a Texas uniform, Vizquel split time with Elvis Andrus during Andrus's rookie season. He was long regarded as a great defensive SS, but he was such a light hitter that he only put together a career WAR of 45.3. Although some will claim that he had a Hall of Fame career, I find it highly unlikely that his defensive skills alone will be enough to get him in.
     

  • Sammy Sosa

    On numbers alone, Sammy is close. A 58.4 career WAR -- a figure that would have been higher if not for playing perhaps two years too long -- has him close. However, PED allegations have Sosa likely on the outside looking in. He just wasn't valuable enough without home runs -- and potential PED use -- to merit serious consideration.
     

  • Mark Teixeira

    Now, hear me out on this one. He's only put up a career 52.4 WAR to this point, but he's 35. When healthy, he still provides value for the Yankees, and could find himself in consideration by the time he's done. How serious that conversation is remains to be seen, but he seems to think he can play five more seasons and be productive.
     

  • Alex Rodriguez

    This is a big one. A 118.9 career WAR would seemingly be enough on the surface to get Rodriguez in, and that's even with missing a full season due to a PED suspension. That PED suspension -- and the admissions/suspicions of prior use through the entirety of his career -- will likely keep him out, barring a change of heart among the BBWAA voters.

So, there you have it. The comments section is open for your thoughts.

Brinson, Mazara Ranked #2 and #3 OF Prospects

Yesterday evening, I posted up a poll in which I asked which of the Rangers prospects would see playing time at the Major League level in 2016. This afternoon, both Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara surfaced again, this time over at MLB Pipeline.

Jonathan Mayo lists his top 10 outfield prospects. Brinson and Mazara show up on the list at numbers 2 and 3, respectively. Topping the list is Byron Buxton of the Twins, who figures to get a significant look in 2016 for Minnesota's big club.

Of Brinson, Mayo says:

Brinson has always had a tremendous power-speed combination, but what has allowed him to take a huge step forward has been a vast improvement in his approach at the plate. As he has cut down on his strikeouts and upped his walk rate, he's tapped into his hitting and power potential consistently, giving him true 30-30 potential.

The 30-30 comment is what will likely intrigue most Rangers fans, as Nelson Cruz was probably the last semi-comparable player that Texas had in that mold. Cruz was nowhere near the outfielder that Brinson figures to be -- Brinson profiles more as a center fielder rather than a corner outfielder -- so it's no wonder that he has begun to show up at the top of many of these lists.

Of Mazara, Mayo says:

Like Brinson, Mazara's improved approach at the plate has helped him take the next step as a prospect. He has the tools teams look for from the prototypical right fielder: a power arm and a power bat. Rangers fans should be excited about having Brinson and Mazara ready to make up two-thirds of the big league outfield in the near future.

Since I've mentioned Nelson Cruz, Mazara would figure to fit even more nicely into that mold. It remains to be seen how often Josh Hamilton will be able to play in 2016, so I'm of the mindset that it wouldn't be too terribly surprising if Mazara gets a look in left field at some point, especially if he continues to shine at Triple-A Round Rock, where he logged a wRC+ of 132 with a .358/.409/.444 line in 88 plate appearances after a late-season promotion.

Either way, it's always exciting when your team has players show up on any kind of top 10 list, and these two players have been generating a lot of conversation recently, so it should be fun to see exactly how well they pan out for Texas.

 

Rangers Re-Sign Nick Tepesch

Today, the Rangers have re-signed right-handed pitcher Nick Tepesch to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training.

Tepesch, who missed all of 2015 with nerve irritation related to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, is attempting to get his career back on track. He started 39 games for Texas in 2013 and 2014, and has, at times, been a somewhat reliable innings-eater.

His main drawback has always been that he struggled to throw a consistent changeup, and it has led to him struggling the third time through the batting order in many of his starts. His fastball sits in the low-90s range, so having a reliable off-speed pitch has always been important for Tepesch.

As it stands now, Tepesch looks to be more of an organizational depth player than anything, with perhaps an opportunity to earn a long-relief role with the club. Of course, it could be that the Rangers will want to stash him at Triple-A Round Rock and see how he responds to facing live hitters again before doing anything.

Either way, the Rangers have managed to re-sign a pitcher that at one time was a central part of the starting rotation, and should the need arise, Tepesch could fill in if need be.


Why Jonathan Lucroy Doesn't Make Sense for Texas

We're just over three weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training in Surprise, Arizona. While there is still potential for teams to make moves via trade or free agency -- Yovani Gallardo is still unsigned -- it would appear that Texas is mostly set.

Nonetheless, that hasn't stopped the wheels of fantasy from churning. On Sunday, Phil Rogers of MLB.com posited -- like many others have in recent months -- that Texas appears to be a good fit for Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

Lucroy, of course, is the highest-profile catcher to be openly available via trade. Texas hasn't had a "stable" player man the backstop since the heyday of Pudge, so it makes sense that the Rangers would be thought to be a fit, at least intrinsically.

Rogers goes on to mention the one sticking point: the return that the Brewers want for Lucroy. More specifically, that it would take someone like Joey Gallo or Lewis Brinson plus a piece or two in order to make a deal happen. This, I think, is where the two sides will (and should) differ.

Lucroy, 29, is coming off of a 2015 season that was plagued with injury and a dip in performance from his 6.1 fWAR campaign in 2014, posting only a 1.1 fWAR. The hope is, of course, that the dip in performance was solely due to injury. However, that 6.1 fWAR in 2014 was easily the highest of Lucroy's career. He had posted figures of 3.5 and 3.4 in 2012 and 2013, respectively, but when looking at the big picture, I'd be more inclined to think that 2014 is the outlier rather than 2015. The truth probably lies somewhere in between, but then you've got to ask exactly what Texas would be gaining.

In 2015, Texas used five different starting catchers through the course of the season: Robinson Chirinos (1.5 fWAR), Carlos Corporan (-0.2 fWAR), Chris Gimenez (0.8 fWAR), Bobby Wilson (0.1 fWAR), and Tomas Telis (-0.1 fWAR) for a combined fWAR of 2.1.

For our purposes, we can assume, for now, that Texas will head into the season with Chirinos and Gimenez splitting time behind the plate. Ideally, Texas would like Chirinos to be able to start 100 games behind the plate, with Gimenez taking the remaining 62. We'll assume that works out to about 400 plate appearances for Chirinos and 250 for Gimenez.

Chirinos, of course, battled injuries in 2015 that limited him to only 78 games and 273 plate appearances. Gimenez, at age 33, has never even reached 150 plate appearances in a season at the Major League level. Steamer projects Chirinos and Gimenez to log 311 and 130 plate appearances in 2016, respectively, with a combined fWAR of 1.6. Steamer, of course, is going to be a bit conservative in that it factors in age, injuries, etc. Regardless, if we extrapolate that over 650 plate appearances, we're looking at about 2.36 fWAR from the catcher position as it currently stands. I'd say it's probably realistic to think you could see something in the realm of 3-3.5, but that's just me.

So if you're bringing in Jonathan Lucroy, you're not only bringing in a player who was actually less productive than Robinson Chirinos in 2015 with more plate appearances, but you're replacing, most likely, Chris Gimenez. You would almost assuredly be looking at an improvement from a wins perspective, but at what cost?

Josh Hamilton, who logged 182 plate appearances in 2015 for 0.2 fWAR, is already having issues with his surgically-repaired knee. While the Rangers appear to be on the hook for exactly zero dollars of Hamilton's salary in 2016, I'm not exactly optimistic that he'll be able to put up too many more plate appearances than he did in 2015. That means you're going to need to get meaningful innings and plate appearances from someone else within the organization.

Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara are two players that come to mind. At some point in 2016, either player could get a look for Texas. Mazara projects to be a corner outfielder, so he would seem to be the more immediate fit. However, Brinson has risen a lot in the eyes of those within baseball, and he profiles more as a CF, which would end up likely shifting Delino DeShields over to LF to accommodate a player who projects to be better defensively in CF.

There's a better-than-decent chance that Texas has a superb outfield in the making, and I'm just not sure trading for Jonathan Lucroy is worth sacrificing that potential future asset. Not for the incremental gain he would provide.

Furthermore, a major problem in negotiations is going to be that Milwaukee is going to want to see Lucroy restore some of his value by coming out of the gates in 2016 strong. He's more likely to be a trade-deadline deal than anything. By that point, you're only getting a 1 1/2 seasons of team control versus 2 full seasons, at which point handing over premium prospects for such an incremental gain doesn't make nearly as much sense.

In the end, I think that at the current asking price, the Brewers will find themselves in a holding pattern. Should the asking price come down over the next few weeks, it would certainly be worth it for Jon Daniels to make a few phone calls. If/until then, however, Jonathan Lucroy just doesn't make much sense for Texas.

Yu Darvish Being Investigated by MLB

Just in case you were bored and tired of there being no news on the Rangers as of late, a report out of Japan has swept in to save the day.

According to Jack Gallagher of The Japan Times, Yu Darvish is currently being investigated by Major League Baseball in regards to his younger brother being arrested in October of 2015 for running an illegal gambling ring.

It's unclear whether or not MLB actually has reason to believe that Yu had anything to do with it, but it does indeed prove troublesome that star athlete would have someone so close be involved in gambling.

Of course, Rob Manfred recently announced that he would not lift a lifetime ban on Pete Rose, who famously was banned from the game for betting on the sport, so there's a history of the league not looking too kindly on any sort of activity.

For now, it's likely that the league office is merely doing their due diligence on the matter to be sure that no foul play was involved with one of the game's premier pitchers. Perhaps most troubling, however, is a quote in the aforementioned article from Robert Whiting:

Gambling on baseball in Japan exists, it always has existed, and always will. As for (Yu) Darvish, you would have to say it was likely that he provided information, unwittingly I would have to assume (unless of course he is looking to supplement his income, which the last time I looked was about half of Masahiro Tanaka’s).

Given Major League Baseball's tough stance on gambling in the sport, one has to wonder if, should Yu Darvish be implicated even in some small way, it could affect the Rangers in 2016 or beyond.