Texas Rangers Coaching Staff Update

On Monday it was announced that Tim Bogar would not be returning to be Jeff Banister's bench coach. Just as some fans believe the situation is rather unfair to Bogie, who was under contract with the Rangers through 2015, his best interests were in mind with the ending of the marriage. As Evan Grant points out, "It [essentially] would have been asking a guy who went 14-8 as the interim manager to take a demotion," which I think is about as well as it could be put. 

Listen, like most people, I thought Tim Bogar was a lock to be the next Rangers manager. It was as close to a forgone conclusion as there is in sports, in my mind. That the front office decided to hold an open competition, as opposed to rewarding the guy who led the worst team in MLB to a 14-8 record as interim manager, should tell you about all you need to know about how they judged his tenure. No, it's not to say what he did wasn't at least mildly impressive given the circumstances of the 2014 Rangers. But before we all start standing up in defense of Tim Bogar, let's first understand that the games he won were of the least consequence of the entire season, and that he had expanded rosters at his disposal. Having the ability to piecemeal a bullpen for 4-5 innings per game -- where pitchers are generally throwing 1-2 innings at a time -- gives a manager a better chance of looking good. And Bogar did look good.

In the end, though, through hiring Banister it kind of gives the impression that Texas simply wanted to start anew after Ron Washington, that they obtained their real target instead of opting for the safe route. 

Anyway. 

On Tuesday Jeff Wilson tweeted that Steve Buechele met with Jeff Banister about the bench coach opening, and with Banister looking to finalize his staff sooner rather than later, Buechele would appear to be the frontrunner. (Which is really to say the beat guys haven't been dropping any other names, so he's the frontrunner by default.)

In the same vein, current Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan -- who was bypassed by the Yankees to be their hitting coach in 2015 -- says he is "sticking" with the Rangers, according to the fantastic A's beat writer Susan Slusser. This comes after interviewing with the A's to be their next hitting coach. 

As an aside, I've come to understand many Texas Rangers fans aren't particularly thrilled to have Magadan back, presumably based off how the Ranger offense has performed over the last two seasons. It's weird, I know. The truth is, if you want to see offense pick back up in Texas, YouTube is a good place to start, because the lineups of old -- filled with Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz and Michael Young -- are dead. This is a different team now and, minus the jet stream, a totally different look on the offensive end. The players who will deliver Texas back to the promised land no longer mash home runs and slug opponents to death; they've instead been replaced by guys like Leonys Martin (who kills with speed) and Shin-Soo Choo (who gets on base more than Casanova). 

It's not the hitting coach; it's the formula. 

Plus, if you were going to use 2014 as an example to why Dave Magadan should no longer be the hitting coach, it's a pretty terrible example being that most of the roster was gone by mid-season. 

Should Mike Maddux return as pitching coach, which at this point I have no reason to assume otherwise, then the Rangers coaching staff is tentatively set. That is, if Buechele is indeed destined to be the bench coach.

Either way, as I've said and as I will say, the coaching staff is far less important than how Jon Daniels manages the roster this offseason. I still suppose it's relevant though. 

The Texas Rangers Have a New Manager

As the Major League Baseball season begins to wind down with the Royals facing either the Giants or Cardinals (who else?) in the World Series, we finally have a concrete answer as to who will manage the Texas Rangers in 2015, and hopefully, beyond. And it's not the name you're expecting.

As recently as this morning, if you had asked me who would be named manager, I'd have told you that there wasn't a doubt in my mind that it would be Tim Bogar. As a matter of fact, I told a friend just that mere days ago. So when news broke that the Rangers had branched out and will hire Jeff Banister as manager, I was a bit surprised.

I'll be honest. Until today, I hadn't done any research on Banister. I'd seen his name as one of the finalists in the managerial search, but since I had assumed it would be Bogar, I never really gave it a second thought. Upon looking, however, it looks like maybe, just maybe, the Rangers have hired someone that will finally come a bit closer to bridging the gap between the front office philosophy and the game management.

Banister has served as Clint Hurdle's bench coach in Pittsburgh for the last four seasons. Hurdle, of course, was the hitting coach in Texas in 2010, and his time here left an impression, seemingly, on everyone in the organization. So yeah, his recommendation apparently holds some weight, and if Banister ends up being as successful as a manager as Hurdle has been, the Rangers will be just fine.

With all of that said, my only concern with the Banister hire relates back to Tim Bogar. It looks to be more likely than not at this point that Mike Maddux will be back in 2015. With the hiring of Banister, however, that leaves a question mark with Bogar. Where does this leave him? Furthermore, after the Rangers played their best stretch of baseball in the 2014 season under Bogar's guidance, with a plethora of replacement players, no less, I think there has to be at least a little bit of concern about the type of message this sends to the players in the clubhouse. No, I don't think the players are going to not play for Bannister, but I do wonder if there will be some who think, "Is winning not enough?"

It's a small concern, but it's one I do have. Whether it's justified or not is another matter, but there it is.

No formal announcement has been made as of yet, but with your normal beat writers reporting it, that would seem to be a mere formality at this point. Now the front office can refocus its efforts on patching the starting rotation. That, I think, may prove to be a bigger challenge than replacing the winningest manager in franchise history.

Five Rangers Crack BA's Top-20 Prospects List

Unless you are Randy Galloway, or some mindless facsimile drone thereof, it's likely you have at least some confidence in the direction of the Texas Rangers moving forward. When I'm being overly critical of myself (which is often), it's easy to notice my level of optimism for the Rangers is abnormally high, but even I have a hard time rationalizing that 2014 was a lost season through any cause other than an abundance of injuries. Jon Daniels detractors like to cite not bringing back Nelson Cruz, or for trading Ian Kinsler to Detroit for Prince Fielder, as the reason(s) Texas didn't compete. And they are missing the point. 

Back in May, Keith Law wrote (Insider required) that the Rangers should shop Adrian Beltre, citing: "It's reasonable to expect to have to at least retool at some point in any 10-year span, and the injuries may force the Rangers to look at 2014 in that way -- the same way the Red Sox, a team with the financial wherewithal to compete every year, had to concede 2012..."

That, I believe, is what the Rangers front office had to reconcile with itself before going ahead with their course of action this year. Which is really to say they didn't do much of anything. Comparing Texas of 2014 to the Red Sox of 2012 could prove prescient, as Boston went on to win the World Series in '13, exactly where Daniels and the Rangers front office are trying to steer their own organization in '15.

The panicked, reactionary faction of the fan base would have preferred a complete stripping of the foundation of the franchise. To do this, Texas would have had to commit to the idea that they wouldn't win a title while Yu Darvish was under contract (through 2016 or '17), and thus would have looked to move him, Beltre, Elvis Andrus, and made attempts at dumping Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder. 

In reality, they didn't even trade Alex Rios or Neal Cotts -- two veritable locks to get moved by the deadline -- and wound up shipping only Joakim Soria (to the Tigers) and Jason Frasor (to the Royals). Of everything that transpired during 2014, by not executing a fire sale the Rangers declared they have no plans of going anywhere over the next few years. 

A day after Baseball America placed nine Rangers prospects on their Carolina League top-20 list, they put five Rangers prospects on the top-20 in the Texas League. (More specifically the top-12.) 

Joey Gallo checks in at #1 on both lists, and by the time 2015 gets underway we're very likely to see him as a unanimous top-25 prospect in MLB, if not higher. Jorge Alfaro, the odds-on favorite to be the starting catcher on Opening Day 2016 (if only for the fact there are no other obvious candidates), was #2 on the Carolina League top-20, and it's probably he's a top-40 guy on most boards heading into next year. Those are the two gems on the farm. 

Outfielder Nomar Mazara, 19, ended the season at Double-A Frisco, and he figures to be the #3 prospect in 2015. Other notable names to keep an eye on are RHPs Chi Chi Gonzalez, Luke Jackson and Jake Thompson, OFs Lewis Brinson and Nick Williams, and there are a bevy of others. The list goes on. There's an excellent chance the Rangers enter next year with a top-5 farm system, wedged somewhere behind the Cubs and Twins. 

Like I mentioned, I'm an optimist. But when you follow a team like the Rangers, like I do, it's a lot easier to be optimistic than anything else. Sure, there have been more crippling blows to this franchise than most (if not all) others over the last five years, like two World Series losses in '10 and '11, two rough collapses in '12 and '13, and a terrible injury-plagued year in 2014. But the roster is still seriously loaded, given a little health fortune, and, unlike this year, the reinforcements are on the way. The depth isn't here yet, but it's coming. 

J.P. Arencibia and Kevin Kouzmanoff Elect For Free Agency

- The J.P. Arencibia experiment is over. On Wednesday he refused his outright assignment to Triple-A Round Rock and opted instead for free agency. Heading into 2014 Texas signed Arencibia for $3 million as a reclamation project of sorts, and he basically proved to be exactly what most people thought he would be. In 222 plate appearances he hit 10 HRs and drove in 35 runs, but his strikeout (27.9%) and walk rates (4.5%) didn't come close to being able to support his .177/.239/.360 (64 wRC+) triple slash line, and he finished the season sub-replacement-level (-1.2 fWAR). 

Kevin Kouzmanoff, like J.P., also elected to take free agency. In his first big league action since 2011, Kouz's season ended before it really got started. But while he was here, he did damage. He only got in the box 51 times, but in that time he produced a robust .362/.412/.617 (185 wRC+) line, and was actually a huge reason why the Rangers jumped out of the gates 15-9. After Texas gets its 40-man roster situation made up, it would be pretty cool to see them sign Kouzmanoff to a minor league deal. We shall see. 

- Calvin Watkins wrote an article, um, that incorporated WAR? Yikes. 

With such gems as Is this the start of a decline? for Prince Fielder, His .340 OBP needed to be higher for a leadoff hitter for Shin-Soo Choo, 54 RBIs was pretty low for him and his 93 strikeouts were too high for a hitter with gap power for Alex Rios and He might play better with a different leadoff hitter for Elvis Andrus, this article, as you can imagine, was a wreck from the start. 

I can't decide what's wider: The gap between Watkins's knowledge of the NFL compared to MLB, or the space between his knowledge of MLB and his conception of Wins Above Replacement. If you've read anything he has written about the Rangers, you have pretty good mind to just choose a different site as your source. On the one hand, I'd like to give him credit for at least trying, but he gives no real insight into anything WAR-related. Bland statements like this was a solid season for the cleanup hitter don't come close to explaining how Adrian Beltre was one of the best players in MLB in 2014, and it was like that with every Ranger. His disdain for baseball is dripping in every article he writes, which makes me wonder why ESPN doesn't just find a young, eager replacement so Calvin can get back to writing about the Cowboys full-time. 

Offseason Speculation: What If Texas Brought Back C.J. Wilson?

Hey everyone. Welcome to the offseason. 

- In an effort to exercise due diligence, the Rangers are currently in the process of interviewing a bunch of manager candidates before arriving where they left off, by hiring Tim Bogar. Texas granted the Arizona Diamondbacks permission to interview Bogar for their own managing vacancy, but I assume we're only a matter of days from the inevitable "Tim Bogar has taken his name out of the running" tweets and headlines from various D-FW news publications. 

Bogar is a solid manager prospect with pedigree working under some of baseball's best in that department, but his September results with the Rangers are what will speak loudest in this scenario. He inherited the worst team in baseball and got them to buy in with no motivation of making the postseason. Further, when he was hired as bench coach there was a thought he would be Washington's eventual successor anyway -- though not under these circumstances -- and the fact he's had prior relations with both Mike Maddux and Dave Magadan helps with continuity. 

- On Monday, the Rangers announced they have outrighted Pedro Figueroa, Wilmer Font, J.P. Arencibia, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Engel Beltre and Guilder Rodriguez to Triple-A Round Rock. They also tried to sneak LHP Joseph Ortiz though waivers, but he was deftly claimed by the Cubs and has been placed on their 40-man roster. 

The Rangers are down to 37 players on their 40-man, but that number will continue to be trimmed in coming weeks, as Texas needs to protect guys like Luke Jackson and Jorge Alfaro from being selected in the Rule-5 draft. 

- Can we please sit back and applaud the Royals for single-handedly exterminating the Oakland A's and Anaheim Angels from the postseason? The Athletics mortgaged their future by trading their top two prospects -- Addison Russell and Billy McKinney -- to acquire Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs, and shipped Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Jon Lester. Sans Lester and a deep playoff run, they are back to the drawing board this winter. 

The Angels, meanwhile, signed all of Albert Pujols (10 years, $242 million), C.J. Wilson (5 years, $75 million) and Josh Hamilton (5 years, $125 million); as those players continue to age, and as their subsequent backloaded contracts continue to escalate, all it would take to validate those moves is one World Series ring. Based on the mostly nonexistent state of their farm system, there's a reasonable case to be made that the Angels won't have a better shot at winning the whole thing than they had this year, what with the best record in the American League and home-field advantage on their side. 

- Just for argument's sake, although I'm not necessarily in support of the idea, I offer this question:

How much of the $38 million C.J. Wilson is owed over the next two seasons would the Angels need to eat for you to be interested in bringing him back to Texas?

For disclaimer purposes, I acknowledge that bridge has probably been burned; the Rangers are very likely as over C.J. Wilson as C.J. Wilson is over the Rangers. But that's why this is for argument's sake. Texas is in the market for a #3 starting pitcher this offseason -- odds are, via trade -- and given Wilson's impressive 2010 and '11 campaigns under the tutelage of Mike Maddux (+4.3 and +5.4 fWAR, respectively), he would certainly fit that bill. 

On Sunday night, Mike Scioscia yanked Wilson after he allowed a first inning three-run double to Alex Gordon, a decision that felt, at least at the time, more symbolic than anything else. It could have just been a hiccup in the Win Or Go Home mentality that drives postseason elimination games. It could have been a defense mechanism to protect the Angels from Wilson's poor pitching down the stretch of the season. 

But as baseball gets played between the lines, sometimes it forces us to read between them. This is one of those times. 

Listen, I understand the fan base still holds a grudge against Wilson, because let's face it: Dude is incredibly arrogant, and he says a lot of shit people don't like. Like Ian Kinsler, C.J. was overly dissatisfied that Texas didn't want him anymore, a natural response from a talented, ego-driven athlete. 

If we take emotion out of this, though, and pretend Wilson is just John Doe #3 starting pitcher, how much money would it take for you to want him back? Keep in mind the Rangers are dealing with a limited budget this winter -- reportedly in the $20 million range -- and wouldn't even consider the idea if the Angels didn't wet their appetite (if at all). I mentioned on Twitter that I'd take him back if LAA paid half of his remaining salary -- $19 million -- meaning Texas would be responsible for $19 million over 2015 and '16. That equates to $9.5 million AAV, below market for what most #3 starter go for in free agency. 

It's a stupid thought, I know. But when you think about it, it's not that stupid.