When Doing Nothing Means Something

As Brandon wrote, surprisingly the non-waiver trade deadline came and went yesterday without any tangible action from Texas's front office. Alex Rios and Neal Cotts -- the Rangers' two most likely assets to be moved -- are still with the club. For now. 

It may even come with a small wrinkle of disappointment that nothing happened. After all, we've basically been spoon-fed for the last month-plus of the near-certainty that the aforementioned duo would play out the remainder of 2014 elsewhere. Given how far the Rangers are out of the race -- they still have the worst record in MLB -- it's bordering on an objective fact that Rios and Cotts are more valuable to the rest of the league than they are on Texas's roster. 

But let's not confuse that idea with one that Jon Daniels had to make a trade, or trades, yesterday. He didn't. Yes, there was incentive to hammer out a deal, but the reality that nothing happened should say something, too. 

This morning in Jamey Newberg's newsletter, he echoes the same sentiment, saying, "There’s value in restraint, and while I was with all of you who were hoping for that adrenaline rush of some breaking news on Thursday involving the Rangers, I can point to trades the last couple July’s with the Chicago Cubs that prove the point that saying no is often the best move a club can make."

It's a fools game to make trades simply for the sake of making them. That's bad business. If Daniels couldn't parlay Rios -- the best right-handed bat on the trade block this side of Yoenis Cespedes, who wasn't even on the market until Jon Lester became an option for Oakland -- into a worthwhile chip, what was his motivation? 

Again, the Rangers have plans to compete in 2015, and Rios has a $13.5 million option next year that's worth consideration. Without a meaningful replacement on the farm, having Alex under control in a contract year looks more attractive today than before yesterday's deadline. Food for thought.

Of course, this is without even mentioning just how good of a position the Rangers are in right now. As I've alluded to countless times, there are extreme benefits for Texas to be as bad as they possibly can be for the remainder of 2014. Newberg used Jon Daniels today to help illuminate these factors (emphasis mine):

“On some level the rules are in place to create parity. Finishing at the bottom of the standings, we have a chance to do it this year. We certainly don’t want to. We weren’t designed that way. The system is set up that it’s an enormous advantage to finish last.  It’s something we need to look at as an industry."

Noting that there’s a lottery system in the NBA that at least purports to create a mild disincentive to lose games, Daniels pointed out that finishing last in baseball results in the following:

  • Picking first in the June amateur draft
  • Being awarded a bigger draft budget for the first 10 rounds (which not only gives you a shot at the top player, but also the ability to shift more money around to impact the following rounds)
  • Being awarded a bigger international free agent budget 
  • Picking first in the Rule 5 Draft
  • Having the top waiver claim position for the entire winter (when waivers are not league-dependent) and through the first month of the following season

Obviously, anything draft-related is paramount to the Rangers at this point, as they've been 87 wins or better for the last half-decade, meaning they've been picking in the 20-somethings over that stretch. A higher pick creates a bigger budget for the draft pool, which gives Texas a wider net of resources to play with not only for their top pick, but for all their selections in the first eleven rounds. It's not like the organization is struggling for money, but this system under the current CBA -- unfair as it may be -- is theoretically designed to help small market clubs, and Texas are in prime position to take advantage of it. 

Perhaps more importantly -- and this is why we shouldn't fret the Rangers keeping Rios and Cotts in their pocket yesterday -- the longer Texas remain with the worst record in the AL, the longer they'll have first dibs during the August waiver deadline. As teams place their players on the waiver wire this next month, the Rangers will have first crack at putting in a claim and working out a deal to ascertain said player. 

Remember, the Rangers aren't restricted to selling just because the team is so god-awful in 2014; if an opportunity arises where they can add a significant contributor to next year's squad, there's nothing to hold Jon Daniels back. It's a subtly powerful position for a large-market team to be in. 

With all this said, there is still a strong chance that both Alex Rios and Neal Cotts are moved this month. The waiver wire period of the baseball season is constructed for relief pitchers to move about the league, so Cotts is as good as gone. But with Rios, Texas have found a way to pry a bit of leverage back in their favor, as he's gone from a bat whom everyone expected to be traded in July, to someone the Rangers can shop as a potential piece who can start for them in 2015 if they don't receive what they seek. 

If you've only been around since the Rangers started hanging American League Champion banners in 2010, it's understandable how yesterday can be construed as a failure. However, losing baseball has been a staple of this franchise essentially since its inception, and most of us remember what that was like. The negative cycle had a painful way of repeating itself year after year. 

But we're now arrived at the crossroads of what a winning organization is capable of during a re-tooling season. Losing gets the Rangers a helluva lot further than mediocrity does at this point, and now it's our pleasure to witness how Jon Daniels and a shrewd front office decide to play this.