Re-posted from December 14, 2014. Enjoy.
This is the toughest off-season in Rangers’ history. There are way too many ifs.
First are the injury ifs.
If Fielder can once again be Fielder, and if he hits thirty or more home runs and if he is an RBI machine.
If Choo can come close to the .400 on base percentage force he was brought to Texas to be.
If Profar can become the phenom he was pegged to be when he was the number one prospect in all of baseball.
If Darvish’s elbow will survive.
If Feliz is back as a dominant closer.
If Moreland’s repaired ankle can somehow transform him from the hitter he has shown for two weeks a season into that hitter for twenty-four weeks a season.
If Holland gets a leash for his dog.
But there is an entirely different set of ifs that make this offseason trickier. It is the “If what we saw in 2014 was real or if it was a fluke” dilemma.
If Elvis can rebound to be revolutionary pioneer rockers late-50s/early-60s Elvis, or if he continues being 70s fat, bloated Vegas Elvis.
If Odor can improve on his surprising 2014 season, or more reasonably, if 2014 Odor was for real.
If Rua is the real deal, after an impressive 2014 in which he was so far down the depth chart, the Rangers tried eleven other players at first base before him. Pretty much if you owned a first baseman’s mitt or knew which hand it went on, the Rangers gave you a shot before they gave Rua a shot.
If Jake Smolinski is a bona fide .349 hitter.
Ah, then there is Leonys Martin. If that guy is the lead-off machine that Tim Bogar discovered, or if he is the Leonys Martin that made you secretly wish on more than a million occasions he would be deported back to Cuba. If he is the .294 hitter he was in the last six weeks, or if he is the .232 hitter he was before that.
And, lastly, if the awaking that happened once this team was de-Washingtoned was because Wash was gone, or if it was simply a whole bunch of overdue good fortune finally happening at the same time.
If all of these ifs happen, the Rangers are in the playoffs. Knock off about five wins for each if that doesn’t pan out.
If all these ifs sound like a lot to take in, imagine being the Rangers’ front office. They could have two holes to fill. They could have seventeen. How do you respond to that with only fifteen-million dollars? What do you plan for?
Just look at Smolinski and Rua. Every single baseball instinct dictates that you question what they did. But why not see if either is for real? What does this team have to lose? Well, it could be a lot, it could be nothing.
Smolinski’s numbers, if extrapolated over a 162-game season, would give him 20 HRs and 81 RBIs to go with that .349 AVG. He did this against major league pitching. He did this against major league pitching on teams that were in the playoff hunt. This was not against AAAA September call-ups. Don’t you have to give him the chance to prove his detractors right? Especially if you are so tapped out at the cash register?
Rua was also on pace for an 81 RBI season, to go with his .295 AVG. Doesn’t he, too, deserve the chance to build on that?
If you don’t have money for the steak, try the beef jerky. Might turn out it’s better.
Didn’t the same skepticism greet Odor? The Rangers did just about everything they could do not to run Odor out there. They brought in Adam Rosales. They brought in Josh Wilson. They brought in Donnie Murphy. They even brought in Daniel Robertson, who played some second base. Odor eventually beat them all out of their jobs. He wasn’t brilliant. But he wasn’t Donny Murphy.
Why is Odor’s 2014 any less of a fluke than Rua’s 2014 or Smolinski’s 2014?
If the Rangers are going to paper clip and duct tape together a lineup with bargain barrel free agents, shouldn’t they first give their guys a shot? Really, how much better would Jonny Gomes be than Jake Smolinski or Ryan Rua? And how many times has Mitch Moreland, with his 69 RBI average, been given a chance to prove his ifs? If he stays healthy. If he figures out lefties. If he can be more consistent. If he finds his swing.
Why develop a guy, then turn around and show that you have absolutely no faith in him, when he did the one thing that was asked of him—produce while in the major league lineup? What message does that send the rest of the guys in the system?
Give them a chance. If they come through, surprise, your farm system did what it was supposed to do, even though, when push came to shove, you really didn’t believe in it (and then you wonder why other teams don’t view your prospects that highly either).
And if Rua and Smolinski don’t work out, do the Rangers finish any worse than they finished in 2014?