If one were taking nominations for Major League Baseball’s model, you could do worse than touting the Texas Rangers as your selection. While their recent bankruptcy might leave a bad taste in some mouths, the baseball operations department serves as a gleaming example of sustainable growth built from within.
The Rangers core represents in-house talent and players brought in via trades in exchange for that very same homegrown talent. The Rangers are the two-time defending American League champions. Life is good. Life is about to get much more expensive.
When a team positions its core to peak around the same time, it means that core is going to enter its arbitration and/or free agency period at the same time. The Rangers are in just such a situation, with key players Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton ready to hit the free agent market after the 2012 season.
Meanwhile, Ian Kinsler’s has one more season left on the body of his five-year deal signed in 2008. With a club option looming for 2013, the Rangers are talking about another extension with Kinsler, looking to keep their best player (shhh!) in Rangers colors for a long time to come.
Not content with all these potentially expensive balls in the air, the Rangers are talking with pitcher Derek Holland about buying up his forthcoming arbitration years. Would Holland earn a Ricky Romero-type deal with plenty of club options on the end? Likely, though the relative track records suggests Holland is more in line with a Wade Davis style payday, rather than Romero or Jon Lester.
The Rangers seem keen on singing Napoli to a multi-year extension but the sides are “too far apart in talks” to consider anything but a one-year deal at this point, reports Evan Grant. Jon Daniels is smart guy and might not rush to ink a catcher to a big money deal immediately following his career year. That said, the Rangers know all-too-well about the Catcher of the Future phenomenon and shouldn’t let Napoli hit the open market without giving him their best offer.
Josh Hamilton, on the other hand, represents an entire other situation. Josh Hamilton is indeed an all-world talent but one that comes with all manner of baggage. The Rangers recently hired Hamilton’s father-in-law to serve as his
babysitter accountability partner. Battles with addiction aside (if it that is somehow possible), Josh Hamilton is a very old thirty. He has one 600 plate appearance season in his past and remains a constant injury threat.
Would the Rangers consider trading Josh Hamilton? Of course they would! Which isn’t to say they will – it simply seems like the prudent move to make for a team facing such escalating costs. Hamilton is set to earn $15 million in 2012 and surely commands a long term deal with a similar annual rate on the open market. Trading him now represents a chance to reload now without forsaking the perennial contenders title status. Probably.