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|Yu Darvish reportedly wants a five-year deal at about $15 million per year.|
Finally, the Rangers are a big-market club in every sense of the word.Hallelujah. Now, it's a little easier to see why the Rangers let C.J. Wilson leave and declined to make free-agent pitcher Mark Buehrle an offer, huh? This is a great opportunity for the Rangers, because all they're spending is money. Hey, you can't take it with you. Dropping that much cash on a 25-year-old pitcher who's supposed to be a front-of-the-rotation starter is the smart move for myriad reasons. First, it didn't cost them Mike Olt, Jurickson Profar or Martin Perez, each among the most-coveted prospects in the Rangers' highly regarded farm system. We all know a trade for Chicago's Matt Garza, Tampa Bay's James Shields or Oakland's Gio Gonzalez is going to probably cost two of those three guys. With those guys headed to the big leagues in the next couple of seasons, the Rangers will have cheap talent to offset some of their high-priced players. The Rangers had a $91.8 million payroll this season, though key contributors such as Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison each made less than $500,000 in a league in which the average salary is $3.1 million. As good as Prince Fielder would've looked in a 4XL Rangers' uniform, we all know you win with pitching. The Rangers scored 855 runs last season -- 188 more than the Los Angeles Angels -- with Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre missing a combined 118 games. As long as the jet stream exists, the Rangers will mash the ball. Wilson wasn't an ace. Neither was Buehrle. Darvish will eventually cost more than both of them combined, but that's OK.
You win championships with aces. The Rangers wound up one strike shy of a world championship, in part, because Wilson was 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA and the club was just 2-4 in his six postseason starts.Remember how Justin Verlander pitched in the American League Championship Series, and how Chris Carpenter pitched in the World Series? Then ask yourself whether you'd rather the Rangers spend their money on Wilson and Buehrle or a dude who has an opportunity to be among the game's best? The answer is easy. Jon Daniels scouted Darvish in person. The Rangers have seen a ton of his starts over the past three seasons and the bulk of them this season. Still, signing him remains a risk. But who wouldn't risk a few million bucks on a guy who is 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA in his career in Japan? The best news for Rangers fans is that the club clearly isn't satisfied with consecutive AL West titles and trips to the World Series. They yearn to be contenders. Every year. Their farm system, Daniels' knack for bold acquisitions at the trade deadline, excellent scouting and the deep pockets of Davis and Simpson will make it possible. We all know spending money doesn't guarantee the Rangers a championship, but it certainly increases the odds if the organization makes sound decisions. The New York Yankees had the highest Opening Day payroll in baseball ($201.6 million) and didn't make it out of the first round. Neither did the Philadelphia Phillies ($172.9 million), who had the second-highest payroll.
The Boston Red Sox ($161.4 million) and the Angels (138.9 million) -- third and fourth, respectively -- both missed the postseason.The St. Louis Cardinals (105.4 million) had the 11th-highest payroll, and the Rangers -- twice only one strike away from a title -- had the 13th-highest payroll. The Angels spent $327 million at the winter meetings to sign Albert Pujols and Wilson to take back the AL West. The Rangers still have the better offensive club, and if Darvish somehow lives up to expectations the Rangers' rotation will be more than good enough to win the West again. "We're doing whatever we can to put the best possible team on the field and get back to the World Series," Daniels said. "We look at everything through that prism." Whether Darvish succeeds or fails, in some ways, is irrelevant. Davis and Simpson have made it clear: They want a title, and the cost of doing business isn't going to stop them. That's why, sooner or later, they're going to get one. Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.