The popular rationale for the Rangers not making any significant moves to upgrade their team this winter is that they made their huge moves in July rather than January. They got Cole Hamels and a new bullpen before the off-season.
They did their Christmas shopping early.
That’s one way to look at it.
But another way to look at it is this:
In 2014, this was a bad team. A last-place team. A ninety-five-loss team. Yes, a team that was riddled with injuries but a bad team nonetheless. Injuries were a convenient scapegoat.
Don’t believe that?
Look what happened when the injured players returned. The losing continued.
When the injured players came back, the team played its first month of 2015 actually playing worse than it had been the previous season.
Oh, they just needed time to gel.
Two-thirds into the season, the losing continued. All of those returning injured players simply carried a last-place team in 2014 to be a nearly last-place team in 2015. By the latter part of July—July 22 to be exact—the Rangers were just two wins better than the last-place team.
Third-place Texas had forty-five wins. Fourth-place Oakland had just one fewer win, at forty-four. Last-place Seattle was a click worse at forty-three wins.
The “real” Rangers had returned. And they were not very good.
Then the trades for Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman, and Sam Dyson went down, and the team turned around its season.
The reality is, though, that those trades merely closed the gaping talent gap from the Rangers begin a bad team to being a wild card-level team. Not an elite team, mind you.
Now, the Rangers are the Adam Rosales of playoff teams. Just happy to be there.
But make no mistake. While those deals will obviously impact the 2016 team, they just filled the lake high enough to swim in. Not nearly high enough to take the boat out.
Even after the July trades, a talent gap exits. It’s the distance between what the Rangers did last season in the playoffs to a team that goes much deeper into October.
If the Rangers aspire to be an eighty-eight win team in 2016, just good enough to make it to the last game of the season battling two teams with the desperate hope that they squeak by with a wild card, then I guess that’s fine.
But if the playoffs of 2015 showed anything it’s that the Rangers are not an elite team. July was merely a baby step to respectability.
That next step is a doozy though.
Hiding behind the excuse that the Rangers did their improving already is like reasoning that you don’t need to fill your tank because you put gas in your car last year. Your transmission and brakes need to be fixed, yet you fixed only the transmission. And you are going to attempt another cross-country road trip. Good luck with that.
Call me when you break down in Little Rock.
The Royals made it to the World Series in 2014. They didn’t rest. They didn’t say, We made our improvements in 2014, so we’re going to stand pat for 2015.
They added Kendrys Morales and Edinson Volquez, among others. Guess what? They got better.
Improving your roster improves your team. What a novel idea.
Improving your roster takes you from bridesmaid to bride. From losing the World Series to winning it. From being bounced in the first round to making it to the Championship Series or beyond.
If the Rangers aspire to get further than a first-round playoff exit, they might want to consider a radical strategy.
Oh, but Darvish is returning, remember?
Assuming he is what he was, he merely fills in the void of Gallardo leaving. Darvish doesn’t make them better, he puts them even.
I do think the Rangers will make another significant move. It might be during the season, it might be more toward the trade deadline. But they will make a move to get better and not just tread water.
They have to if they have a World Series in mind.
So the next time the front office tosses out the, “We made our changes for 2016 in 2015” line, respond with, “I bought my tickets in 2015, so they are good for 2016 as well, right?”
I am willing to bet they don’t think that way.