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November 1, 2010
How the Rangers Were Acquired, Part I
Now it’s time to focus on GM Jon Daniels and former (arguably current) flamethrower Nolan Ryan’s creation, the Texas Rangers. We’ll start here with the one of the most potent and powerful offenses in baseball:
Team Salary: $55 million
2B Ian Kinsler: drafted in the 17th (496th overall) round in 2003
Kinsler was chosen in the 17th round just like teammate Mitch Moreland was four years later. Kinsler was originally a shortstop before being moved to second base in 2005. He’s dominated at the big-league level ever since, (first in MLB among active players with a 5.20 RF/Game as a second baseman), when healthy. He missed three weeks of spring training in 2010 and began the season on the DL. Kinsler returned to the DL on July 29 due to a strained left groin. He finished the year playing in 103 games in which he ranked fourth in the American League in Total Zone Runs as a second baseman (five).
1B Mitch Moreland: drafted in the 17th round (530th overall) round in 2007
Moreland had both good power (10 HR in 272 PA in his last season at Mississippi State) and a strong arm in college, which the Rangers actually tried in the ‘pen for a short period. He broke through the scouting reports they said he had a “limited ceiling,” advancing through five professional levels in three seasons. Moreland outplayed Chris Davis in 2010 and is now the starting first baseman for an AL championship club.
OF Julio Borbon: drafted in the supplemental round (35th overall) in 2007
Borbon has, in fact, been to a World Series before. With San Diego third baseman Chase Headley and Kansas City right-hander Luke Hochevar, the 2005 University of Tennessee team made its way to the College World Series. Borbon waited two years before entering the draft, where Texas took him in the supplemental first round. Borbon has a bit of power, but his speed (15-for-22 in SB in 2010) is the key tool for him being a major-leaguer.
International Free Agents
Minor-league Free Agents
Major-league Free Agents
DH Vladimir Guerrero: signed a one-year contract in 2010 with 2011 mutual option
The Rangers needed both a veteran presence in the clubhouse and a middle-of-the-order power threat, and for the salary Guerrero was asking, Texas able to work out a deal. Vlad exceeded expectations this season considering what his numbers were in 2009 (.269 TAv, 0.4 WARP, .288 TAv and 2.7 WARP in 2010). Not only did he give value as a player (fourth on the team with 37.9 VORP), but he also gave value as an “elder statesmen” for the club.
C Bengie Molina: acquired from the Giants for minor league RHP Michael Main and RHP Chris Ray
The Rangers desperately needed a veteran catcher who could handle their young pitching staff, and the team’s now World Series rival in the Giants were willing to let him go to make room in the lineup for Buster Posey. Go ahead and argue what “clutch” means in baseball, but Molina smacked a number of big hits for Texas, most of which came in the ALCS.
Treanor was more of a “depth chart” move (you’ll hear me say that a lot) than anything else when acquired in March. He has an average glove and a pretty poor bat, but has value to Texas as both the club’s backup catcher and C.J. Wilson’s personal backstop.
1B Jorge Cantu: acquired from the Marlins for minor-league RHPs Evan Reed and Omar Poveda
The Rangers obtained Cantu from the Marlins to provide some stability at first base. Cantu was undermined by the superb play of Moreland, and had his role shifted to bench player. Cantu didn’t do much in the field or at the place once he came to Texas, ending the season with a -3.3 VORP.
2B Andrés Blanco: acquired from the Cubs for a player to be named later or cash
Blanco is a journeyman infielder with very little value (though he did have a 1.8 VORP during the regular season). He’s the standard example of a team’s backup infielder, the definition of a depth-chart move. He reminds me a bit of what Jerry Hairston Jr. was to the 2009 World Series-winning Yankees.
3B Michael Young: acquired from the Blue Jays for RHP Esteban Loaiza
What’s so impressive about Young is his ability to play so consistently after being moved all around the Rangers infield in his career. Through both the bad and the good, Young has provided stability for the Texas franchise, and could be one of those rare cases in which a player spends his entire major-league career with one team. His numbers were down a bit in 2010 (.284 AVG compared to career .300 AVG), and those numbers are expected to continue to drop as he gets older. His value to the Rangers will depend on where he ends up playing next (possibly DH).
SS Elvis Andrus: acquired from Braves along with RHP Neftali Feliz, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, LHP Matt Harrison, and minor-league LHP Beau Jones in exchange for 1B Mark Texeira and LHP Ron Mahay
Andrus was close to signing with the Rangers as an amateur free agent in 2005, but received a better deal from the Braves as a 16-year-old in Venezuela. When Andrus was acquired in 2007, Texas’ hope was to get younger at shortstop with an aging starter in Michael Young. Three years later, at age 20, Andrus made the jump from Double-A to the major leagues. There was nothing premature about the move, as Andrus was ninth in the AL with 32 stolen bases.
OF Nelson Cruz: acquired from the Brewers along with OF Carlos Lee for LHP Julian Cordero, RHP Francisco Cordero, OF Laynce Nix
Cruz was part of the package that sent Carlos Lee to Milwaukee near the trading deadline in 2006. He struggled with swing mechanics early on in his career and never expected to be more than a Quadruple-A player. Luckily, while working with Rangers farm director Scott Servais, Cruz opened his stance, which unlocked his power potential (set a career high with .950 OPS this season). His arm is also one of the best in the game today (with comparisons to a Roberto Clemente) and he ranked first in the AL with a 2.46 Range Factor/Game as a right fielder.
OF Josh Hamilton: acquired from the Reds for LHP Danny Herrera and RHP Edison Volquez
Hamilton’s “Beyond Belief” bio tells of a Hollywood-esque rise-fall-rise story of a player who was once considered one of the best prospects ever then ran into substance abuse problems and was suspended by Major League Baseball for three years. After a year with Reds, Hamilton was dealt to Texas, where he won over both the fan base and media (think All-Star Home Run Derby at the old Yankee Stadium). In 2010, Hamilton put up MVP-type numbers, leading the AL in VORP (80.5) and AVG (.359, led majors), even with a DL stint (sprained wrist). Hamilton has become the face of the Rangers.
OF Jeff Francoeur: acquired from the Mets for 2B Joaquin Arias
It’s amazing to think Francoeur was once on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and is now a backup outfielder. Talk about rise and fall. Texas didn’t have to give up much (specifically, a lackluster infielder) to get Francoeur, but got enough production (3.1 VORP) out of the 26-year old to call the trade a success. Regardless of what he’s done at the plate, Francoeur’s arm is one of the best in baseball and he is ranked fifth among active right fielders with a 2.02 Range Factor/Game.
OF David Murphy: acquired from the Red Sox with minor league LHP Engel Beltre and RHP Kason Gabbard for RHP Eric Gagne
Murphy, a Texas native, gives the Rangers versatility off the bench and a good lefty bat against right-handed pitching. He didn’t quite live up to the hype of being a first-round pick with the Red Sox but he gives Ron Washington a faster option in the outfield. Murphy had a strong 2010 campaign, hitting .291 (.288 TAv) with 12 HR and a 22.9 VORP (sixth-best among Ranger hitters).
Click here to see part two of "How the Rangers Were Acquired," focusing on Texas' pitching staff