Texas Rangers: Jonathan Broxton
Today's position: Relievers
It seems like an annual rite of winter for the Rangers: Go out and reassemble a bullpen. But that's by design. This front office has shown the past few years that they can find bargains, promote young pitchers (see Robbie Ross) or make key acquisitions at the deadline.
They'll be on the lookout for how to put together that relief corps again this offseason, and some of that could come into focus in Nashville. The good news for the Rangers: They've got their closer. By pouncing on the closer market early last offseason (even before the winter meetings), the Rangers signed Joe Nathan to a two-year deal and he showed he's healthy and productive after his surgery.
But questions remain about who bridges the gap between the starters and Nathan. Mike Adams is a free agent and is hoping for a multi-year offer on the open market. So he could get too expensive to retain. Alexi Ogando has moved to the rotation and Mark Lowe, Scott Feldman and Koji Uehara are also free agents. Ross is poised to return and currently is the only lefty in the pen. UPDATE (10 a.m.): Feldman has signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs.
The Rangers have already started to look at that part of the club. They acquired Tommy Hottovy from the Kansas City Royals and put him on the 40-man roster with the thought of seeing what he's got at spring training. They'll have other candidates, too, that could work their way into that mix (like Neal Cotts).
Uehara is likely to be a priority. He really showed what he can do near the end of the season. He was great against left-handed batters with that splitter and performed well after missing part of the season with a lat muscle strain. He'll have some suitors, but expect the Rangers to attempt to bring him back. Perhaps Texas looks at the Japanese market again and Kyuji Fujikawa. The club has scouted the 32-year-old righty. What about Jason Grilli? I'm intrigued after his solid 2012, but he may be too expensive.
The club could choose to look at someone with closing experience to use in a setup role (names like Jonathan Broxton or even Jose Valverde are out there). But this could be a type of hole the club fills last, after figuring out some other pieces. In the past, they've found a way to take care of their bullpen needs without breaking the bank. Since they don't have to pay a closer, that's an option again this offseason. So they might stay away from some bigger names that might want a chance to close again or seek multi-year deals in the hopes of assembling a bullpen without paying big bucks or keeping players to short-term deals. But we'll see.
Anyone in particular you'd like to see the club grab for the bullpen?
|ESPN MLB insider Jim Bowden on potential trade partners for the Rangers, how Mike Olt can help the team this year and more.
* Cliff Lee is fun to talk about, but that remains a big-time longshot for a gaggle of reasons. ESPN.com's Jim Bowden told ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Ben & Skin that no deal with the Phillies for Lee will happen without Mike Olt. And we've seen how reluctant the Rangers are to move Olt. But beyond that, Lee is owed $25 million per season for the next three years and has a $27.5 million option for 2016 that includes a $12.5 million buyout (that option could vest depending on the innings pitched in the final years of the deal). The Rangers would want the Phillies to eat a large chunk of that. But if you're Philadelphia, part of the point of dealing Lee would be to shed some of that money. It just seems to make more sense for the Phillies to wait and reassess things at the offseason or beyond.
* Will things change as the clock ticks? You never know. Sometimes prices can drop and maybe that paves the way for something that wasn't a possibility the past few days, whether that's Garza or a deal that's been discussed or a deal that hasn't been talked about.
* The club still wants a reliever and is checking around on that. The names most commonly heard the past week: Jonathan Broxton and Rafael Betancourt. Broxton has rebounded from an injury and shown that he can get big outs late. Reports out of Kansas City indicate they like Justin Grimm. Is that too high a price to pay for what would be a setup man if that, in fact, is something that's being discussed? Betancourt is signed through next year, something we know the Rangers like. Last year, they traded for two relievers and a big reason they were willing to part with some prospects in those deals was because Koji Uehara and Mike Adams were under contract for 2012, not just rentals.
Stay tuned. The clock continues to tick.
The trade deadline is getting closer. Will the Rangers have a new player or two on the roster by Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m. CT? Let's take a look at a few things to watch as things wind down:
* Starting pitchers. The club would still like one, but the question is whether there's a viable option out there. The market has thinned in recent days. The price has been high on Miami Marlins' Josh Johnson, who didn't help his stock with his performance on Sunday (two runs allowed, but six walks in five innings vs. Padres). Tampa Bay is right in the hunt and may not want to move James Shields, who also has a club-friendly contract. Matt Garza is still out there, but with a triceps issue and the fact that he's not pitching before the trade deadline, do you want to take a chance on him?
Reports have surfaced, including this one from our buddy Gordon Edes from ESPNBoston.com, that that Red Sox are shopping Josh Beckett. They are calling teams they feel would be interested, including Texas. Beckett is 5-9 with a 4.57 ERA in 17 starts this season and is scheduled to pitch again Tuesday. He has 10-5 rights, but several reports said it's believed he would waive those rights to come to Texas. The biggest issue may be money. With Beckett not pitching particularly well this season, it's likely that any team that consider Beckett would only do so at a big discount. That means Boston taking a good portion of the remaining dollars left on his contract. He's making $15.75 million this season, $15.75 million next year and $15.75 million in 2014.
It certainly seems like a longshot, but you never know.
* Relievers. The club has turned its attention more toward bullpen help in the past day or two as the starting market has dwindled a bit. They've shown interest in Jonathan Broxton and Rafael Betancourt with the idea that they could strengthen the bullpen and possibly move Alexi Ogando to the rotation.
* Bats. We saw last year how critical a bench can be down the stretch and in the postseason. That's especially true if the Rangers get back to the World Series. They could use a right-handed bat. Of course, with the Rangers' offense scuffling a bit, maybe a bat of any kind could provide a spark.
So stay tuned.
But the Rangers have more than a few baseballs in the air at this time of year. And now that it seems the market for starters is thinning, they've turned their attention more toward relievers. Why bullpen pieces? One reason is they still want to get Alexi Ogando further stretched out so that they've got the option to slide him into the rotation if they choose (Scott Feldman may make that tough to do right now as he pitches well). To do that, they'd like to fortify the pen, especially with Neftali Feliz's setback Sunday. Let's take a look at a few possibilities:
* Jonathan Broxton. The Kansas City Royals closer has 23 saves and a 2.27 ERA and could join Mike Adams as a setup man for closer Joe Nathan. Broxton has pitched in 35 games for the Royals this season. He signed a one-year, $4 million deal for 2012.
* Brandon League. ESPN.com's Jerry Cransnick tweeted Sunday that the Rangers weren't in on League. But we've seen in the past how things can change, especially with a few days until the deadline. League has a 3.63 ERA, six holds and nine saves in 44 2/3 innings this season.
* Rafael Betancourt. The Rangers' have been listed as a club interested for a while now. One big reason: He's signed through 2013 and has a mutual option for 2014. We saw at the trade deadline last year that the club was willing to give up some prospects for Mike Adams and Koji Uehara because they were under control for another season. Betancourt is 1-3 with a 2.92 ERA and 17 saves in 37 innings. His contract: $4 million in 2012, $4.25 million in 2013, $4.25 million mutual option with $250,000 buyout.
Others could be considered too, but have some draw backs (one scout mentioned Carlos Marmol to me, but with $9.8 million due to him in 2013, I can't see that one). The club is also exploring the hitting market. They'd like to have a right-handed bat for the bench to give manager Ron Washington some more options.
The AL and NL each have one roster spot left, with fans voting online through Thursday. The five candidates for the final AL roster spot are all right-handed pitchers: Starters Jake Peavy of the White Sox, Jason Hammel of Baltimore and Darvish along with relievers Jonathan Broxton of the Royals and Ernesto Frieri of the Angels.
"Just being selected among those other guys, they're all good pitchers," Darvish said through an interpreter. "Just being among them is an honor."
Darvish has downplayed a possible appearance in the All-Star game, and on Friday said he wasn't deserving of the honor. Yet, he won't get another chance to show fans he should go.
His next start is scheduled for Saturday, but it could move up to Friday should the Rangers decide left-hander Derek Holland is ready to return to the rotation from the disabled list.
Darvish didn't do any campaigning for votes after Sunday's game.
"The fans get to vote for the last spot," he said. "There's nothing much I can say on that. I'll just stay quiet and see what happens."
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
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Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.