Organic Growth

by Charles Parker on October 23, 2017

All of the excitement is with the Houston Astros as they are playing for a World Series, and I certainly wish them well. At least one team from Texas is on the right path!

I love how Houston has put this team together using a few trades, a few free agents to add veteran leadership, and a strong healthy dose of homegrown talent. I remember when the Rangers had that, and they did make a couple of appearances in the fall classic. However, that was a long time ago in baseball standards and it will probably be a long time before this team even has a glimpse of the post season.

Much is being written about the fact that the Rangers only have two starting pitchers under contract for next season. More will be written this entire off-season about their condition and how far they have fallen. Certainly, it does not take a scouting genius to see the difference in pitching from any team that made the playoffs this season to what the Rangers tried to pass as a bona-fide rotation.

However, over the past half-dozen years the Rangers had the win now mentality and made trades in hopes of finding those one or two pieces that would push them over the top. Now the entire franchise has to pay the price for some of the over-reach. I thought it would interesting to see who some of the guys were, and how they are doing, that should have been at AAA ready to be that next line of homegrown talent.

Luis Ortiz–Is still at AAA for the Brewers but is doing well, and is projected to break into the league in 2018.
Jerad Eickhoff, age 27, a career 18-25 record with a 3.87 ERA and a 6.1 WAR (Philadelphia)
Alec Asher, age 26, 4-12 with a 5.55 ERA and a WAR of 0. (Baltimore)
Jake Thompson, age 23, 6-8 with a 4.68 ERA and a WAR of 0.4 (Philadelphia)
Neil Ramirez, age 28, 4-4 with a 4.22 ERA and a WAR of -1.0 (San Francisco/Washington Nationals)
Carl Edwards Jr, age 26 with a 5-5 with a 3.28 ERA, and a WAR of 1.7 (Cubs)
Justin Grimm, age 29, 19-20 with a 4.70 ERA, and a WAR of -0.5. (Cubs)
Kyle Hendriks, age 27, 38-22 with a 2.94 ERA, and a WAR of 3.3 (Cubs)
Martin Perez, age 26, 41-42 with a 4.43 ERA, and a WAR of 2.0

Some of you may ask what the Rangers received for these players. Ortiz was traded for Lucroy who suddenly found a way to hit the ball in Colorado. Asher, Eickhoff, and Thompson all went to Philadelphia for Cole Hamels. Ramirez, Edwards, and Grimm went to the Cubs for Matt Garza. Of course, Kyle Hendricks with some others went to the Cubs for Ryan “I cannot pitch” Dempster. Basically, they traded away a bunch of great talent to the Cubs for “I love the Goat” T-Shirts. Only Martin Perez remains on the team from that list.

Then the Rangers traded away Yu Darvish, age 31, 56-42 with an ERA of 3.42, and a WAR of 3.8. (Dodgers)

As fans we can debate the win now mode that have consumed the Rangers for the past half a decade, but the reality is the cupboard is completely bare. Yes, the Rangers do have a ton of talent on the farm, but it is at a minimum of 3-4 years away from emerging.

If John Daniels past history has any bearing on the future of this team, I can probably predict what is going to happen this off-season.

He will go after at least one guy who was disabled all last season and try to resurrect him, just as he tried to do with Tyson Ross this season. He will sign one average starter, and overpay him. He will go to Japan and try to find someone like a Colby Lewis, and that will probably be Tony Barnett. He will attempt to go all in on the Japanese phenom of Shohei Otani, and present him as the answer to all of the Rangers pitching woes. Meanwhile, he will continue to go with Cole Hamels, age 33 with a 147-102 and an ERA of 3.37, and a WAR of 2.8 as the staff ace.

The reality is that Hamels has slippage, that I credit more to the Rangers coaching than I do to Hamels. The pitching coach is ruled by pitch counts and his way or the highway style of pitching. He might be the worst pitching coach in all of baseball but the Rangers resigned him anyway. He is certainly not Mike Maddox.

Do not think for a minute that the Rangers are going to go sign Jake Arrieta, Masahiro Tanaka, or Yu Darvish. John Daniels will never give up the kind of cash it would take to sign them. He won’t do it for Andrew Cashner either, and he was the best pitcher for the team this season. Consider the cost, Arietta, Tanaka, and Darvish would each cost about $20-25 million a year for a minimum of 3-5 years. Even Cashner is going to get $15-$18 million for 3-5 years minimum. To add 3 of those guys would be committing the team to at least $250 million in guaranteed dollars that would continue past the year 2022, and the real number might be higher.

I wish that they would sign those guys because that is about the time that the farm system would finally ready to show some results. Yes, it is going to take that long, there is no quick fix to long-term success.

Oh and Rangers fans I hear you saying they can trade Jurickson Profar for pitching. If that option was out there they would have already done it.

The reality is that the philosophy of this team has not been for organic growth of pitching, and unless the organization changes course it will continue to be that way. I think it is safe to say that John Daniels does not like to pay pitchers. There are reasons for that, and I understand them, but if you want to actually go to the World Series it is all about pitching.

Consider this, by the numbers above Yu Darvish was the teams best overall pitcher. Yet is #3 for the Dodgers. Why did he suddenly improve in LA? It is simple, he has better coaching, and no pressure because he is not the staff ace, that belongs to Kershaw. I guarantee you that Hamels is a solid #3 on either the Dodgers or Astros rotation too, but certainly not a staff ace. Martin Perez is a solid #4/5 starter for any team, and a good candidate to eat some innings.

A team can win without a true ace, but they are not likely to win the World Series without at least two. The Rangers have zero, and will not have any without a huge outlay of cash. Daniels has something in the neighborhood of $55 million in payroll less than last year available. They will probably spend most of that with just getting Ohtani.  Yet getting him is no guarantee because 31 other teams want him too.

The bottom line is that this team is not going to be very good for a very long time unless the organization changes their philosophy about pitching and defense. I am not even sure that they have enough talent to consider blowing up the team to rebuild. Besides that if the Cubs knock on their door, then you can bet the Rangers are about to lose the farm. Kudos to the Brewers too for those horrible trades.

Prediction:  As we go into the off-season and winter meetings, expect the Rangers to sign a disability project, a Japanese retread player, go all in on Ohtani as the savior, and perhaps one more very weak candidate and they will call that their rotation. Nobody they sign is going to make a difference and certainly nothing is going to help 2019 and beyond. Until the organization becomes committed to teaching A and AA ball players how to pitch instead of throw, this organization is stalled.

A new GM would bring change, and that might be the best direction they could go. However, immediately Doug Brocail has to go, he lacks credibility with the current staff and we have seen him break a closer a year since he has been here. Other sports writers and former players are saying they do not want to play for Brocail.  I doubt ownership will see that until the team goes a few years with 75 wins or less every year. Right now their attention is on the new stadium. It sure will be sad to have this new toy and no fans because the team stinks.

Since, I am writing the article let me be GM for a moment. Besides this is fun and it is not my money.

I would sign Arrietta, Darvish, Cashner and Tanaka, along with a true closer to compliment Hamels. I would trade Martin Perez and Sin Soo Choo, even if I had to eat part of Choo’s salary for whatever I could get for them. I would go with an all youth movement in the field with the players that are under contract today. My contract structures would be to get me to 2022-2023 because by then I think my farm system will develop enough talent to get me out of this mess. The only true veterans on my team would be Elvis and Beltre and he would move to DH. I would then fire the entire coaching staff and bring in guys who can develop pitchers, and a manager who can truly grasp all facets of the game. Yes I would be committed to the luxury tax for 3-5 years, and I would have the most expensive pitching staff in all of baseball. I think with better coaching and development I can have a competitive team for half a century. I might even make a trip to the World Series!

Anything less than that is a team languishing in the 70-79 wins every year and begging to have a couple of real pitchers. Does anyone remember the 1990’s? Go back and look at those teams because that is where this organization is heading. Oh and one other thought, by the time the farm club pitching develops, the young guys in the field will be veterans and go off to other teams to make bigger money.

It is a sad state, and that is why organic growth must be #1 for any successful organization.

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