We won't know for sure until closer to Spring Training exactly what it means for the outfield alignment of the 2014 Texas Rangers, but to be sure, Jon Daniels has been making waves thus far in the offseason. Two weeks removed from trading Ian Kinsler to Detroit for Prince Fielder, Daniels traded away another fan favorite -- especially among the female population -- in Craig Gentry.
The trade -- which sent Gentry and Josh Lindblom to Oakland for outfielder Michael Choice and Chris Bostick -- sends the fastest player on the Rangers to the closest AL West rival, but also leaves open the possibility for an outfield that doesn't require an exorbitant outlay of cash for one of the top free-agent targets. Put simply, at worst, the move gives the Rangers some younger depth. At best, the franchise just acquired an All-Star caliber outfield bat.
I get that the move isn't popular among many fans, especially given that Gentry has been among one of the more valuable part-time players in baseball over the past two seasons. With that said, anytime you can trade a part-time player at 30 years of age for, according to Jason Parks, two of the A's top ten prospects, you have to make the move. It's not popular, but it's the reason guys like Jon Daniels get to be the GM and we're fans.
I've found myself increasingly able to remain mostly unattached to players as the years have moved forward, but I still understand the nostalgia associated with seeing almost an entire lineup of a World Series roster playing in other uniforms. In Gentry's case, much like the Kinsler trade two weeks ago, it wasn't a case of dealing a player the team no longer believed in as much as making moves in order to more evenly distribute the available talent and put it to actual use. For Kinsler, it meant clearing the way for Jurickson Profar to have a role, as well as improving the 1B position.
With Gentry, it turns out that he ended up being the odd man out. The Rangers had 3 center fielders capable of playing at the Major League level in Craig Gentry, Leonys Martin, and Engel Beltre. Gentry just turned 30, Martin is 25, and Beltre is 24. Beltre has long been regarded by scouts as the top outfield defender in the organization, and after the season Martin put up defensively in CF, it became more difficult for the Rangers to justify putting a speedy center fielder in left field.
Furthermore, as valuable as Gentry was in 2013 as a platoon player against lefties (.801 OPS), he was rather ineffective against righties (.709 OPS). Even considering his speed and defense, Gentry posted an fWAR of 3.4. Leonys Martin, five years younger than Gentry and expected to improve with a Major League season under his belt, posted an fWAR of 2.7.
For the speed the Rangers will lose in Gentry, Engel Beltre provides a similar type of production -- albeit from the left side of the plate -- for a lower cost and at a younger age. With Beltre out of minor league options, the franchise had to make a decision, and it appears the decision may be to roll with Beltre as the new fourth outfielder, which brings us full circle to what the Rangers got in return.
Chris Bostick is a 2B prospect, the kind of guy you stash and forget about for awhile. The hope is always that a player of that type ends up contributing at the Major League level, but at worst, can be used in a future trade. The real prize in this trade for the Rangers was outfielder Michael Choice.
Choice, the 10th overall selection in the 2010 draft, ranked as the 2nd prospect in the A's system, and is widely regarded as being Major League ready. According to scouts, he's a player suited for a corner outfield spot with an average arm, average accuracy, and a 70 grade on his power, something that generally translates well in the Rangers ballpark and was sorely missed in 2013.
While he strikes out more than you'd like at times, Choice is expected to be a good hitter for average, power, and an ability to get on base by drawing walks. By all counts, this seems to be a great example of Jon Daniels getting both present and future talent as well as getting younger at the Major League level. It's nice to be able to keep players around for their entire career, but the problem with that line of thinking is that you end up like the Yankees. You look up one day and realize you're paying players that are aged and past their prime, injured, or not even on the roster anymore. This isn't to say Gentry would be one of those players in the next couple of years, but looking at a five-year window, this deal makes much more sense.
In the end, Daniels knows that, given the small sample size of the baseball playoffs, putting a competitive team on the field over a five-year span is more important than putting together a team on a year-by-year basis in an attempt to make one big push. Getting into the postseason is the toughest task, as fans have seen the past two seasons. Beyond that, it's all about getting hot at the right time, which any team in the postseason can do.
In the end, while I understand the emotion that comes along with watching fan-favorites dealt to other teams, I also understand that tough decisions have to be made from time to time in order to keep a franchise relevant in the long-term. Some may, as I've seen on social media quite a bit today, accuse Jon Daniels of intentionally alienating a fan base, but in my mind, he simply knows that to survive, you've got to buy low, sell high.