I have billions of questions buzzing around in my baseball-obsessed mind, all of which will be resolved at some point during the off-season, but I feel the need to get them out. Then I can cross them off when they’ve been resolved and explain the answers. So here we go!
Ownership: Who will be the new owner of the Rangers? Will Nolan Ryan still be the team president? Will Nolan Ryan be a minority owner? Will Tom Hick stay on as a minority owner? Will new ownership affect (i.e. increase) our budget for the 2010 season?
Here’s what we know: There are 3 main groups, which are fronted by Chuck Greenberg, Dennis Gilbert, and Jim Crane. Greenberg’s group has included Nolan Ryan as a minority owner, so if he wins out, obviously Nolan will have a stake in the ownership and will stay on as president. But then again, it’s possible that if one of the other groups wins out, they’ll let him in as a partial owner. It is possible that the new ownership could fire Nolan as president, but I think that’s unlikely at this point. The fans love Nolan, and it wouldn’t make a good impression on the fans if their first move was to fire him. Tom Hicks has expressed interest in retaining a portion of his ownership as well, so we’ll have to wait and see how that pans out. At this point, the budget for 2010 will be approximately the same as it was for 2009, so the new owners will have to meet that budget or increase it. It would be nice if we could have a little more leeway to get some big names to Texas for our playoff push next year.
Marlon Byrd: Will the Rangers re-sign him for 2010 and beyond?
Here’s what we know: Marlon says that he wants to stay with the Rangers. The Rangers want him to stay. He made a little over $3 mil in 2009, so he’ll want at least that much per year in his next contract. How much more is anybody’s guess. This is probably his only chance to negotiate a multi-year contract, and he’s probably wanting at least 3 years. But Marlon is already 32, so I’m sure the Rangers are anxious that health issues may mar his future playing time. And the Rangers don’t have a whole lot of money to throw around, so I’m sure that will affect how much progress is made towards contract negotion. But Marlon is a strong influence in the clubhouse, and Michael Young (team leader) is strongly campaigning for the Rangers to keep him. I think the Rangers will offer him something in the neighborhood of 4, 5, or 6 million dollars for the next 3 years, plus lots of incentives (i.e. bonuses if he plays at least x number of games, if he hits at least y home runs, or if he steals at least z bases, etc.). But if he wants something like $10 mil a year for 5 years, I think the Rangers will let him walk.
Ivan Rodriguez: Will Pudge be back?
Here’s what we know: The fans adore Pudge, and he said that he wants to finish out his career here. And even though he’s pushing 40, he’s still pretty darn good. He’s played on 2 World Series teams, and he has a lost of post-season experience (which the Rangers are seriously lacking). He has 13 Gold Gloves. But because of his age, the Rangers might be hesitant to offer him a multi-year contract, or to pay him a particularly hefty sum for 2010. Jarrod Saltalamacchia recently had surgery for Thorasic Outlet Syndrome, and while his prognosis looks good, there’s no telling how he’ll progress. Taylor Teagarden was unimpressive in 2009. Max Ramirez spent a lot of time on the DL in AAA. And the Rangers just outrighted Kevin Richardson to the minors. So it might be good to have him around. We acquired him as “strictly a back-up catcher” in August of 2009, but he ended up being our everyday catcher to close out the season. He made 1.5 mil in 2009. Will he accept $1 mil and a one-year contract? $5 million and a 2-year contract? We’ll see.
Omar Vizquel: Will he be back for 2010?
Here’s what we know: Omar has said that he wants to play next year, even though he’s the oldest active position player at 42 years old. He was a great mentor for Elvis Andrus in his rookie year (2009), but does Elvis still need him in 2010? He has 11 Gold Gloves, and his defensive work is truly beautiful. I swear, he looks like a ballet dancer out there sometimes! He played 63 games for the Rangers this year: 16 games at 2B, 27 games at SS, and 20 games at 3B, and he made NO errors. None, zippo, nada. That’s pretty amazing. He’s said he would be interested in returning, but he wants to shop around first.
Starting rotation: Which 5 pitchers will we go with in our starting rotation for 2010?
Here’s what we know: Ron Washington has already said that Kevin Millwood and Scott Feldman have guaranteed slots next year. But the other 3 are up for grabs. The possible candidates are: Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Brandon McCarthy, Dustin Nippert, Matt Harrison, Eric Hurley, and Guillermo Moscoso. I discussed the pros and cons about all these pitchers in a previous blog. But Wash has also said he would like to obtain another veteran starter this winter. So if he does that, then there will only be two spots up for grabs, making the competition even tougher. But can we get anybody good for relatively little money? And of course, as we all know, our starting rotation can change a lot during the year due to injuries, etc. I mean, look at our poor rotation in 2009! On Opening Day, it was Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Kris Benson, Matt Harrison, and Brandon McCarthy. Matt Harrison and Brandon McCarthy both went on the 60-day DL, Kris Benson was a disaster, and we released Padilla because of all his foolishness. So you never know what can change throughout the season!
Acquisitions: Right-handed bat to play 1B and DH, left-handed relief pitcher
Here’s what we know: In addition to a veteran starter, Wash also said he’d like to pick up a right-handed bat who can play 1B or DH, as well as another lefty reliever. I’ve heard Jermaine Dye’s name brought up to fill that first role, and while he is right-handed, he has played mainly in the outfield. In 2005, he played 1B once and SS once for the Chicago White Sox. That’s it. But if we keep Marlon Byrd, we may not need another right-handed bat. CJ and Eddie are our only lefty relievers at this point, and Eddie’s probably not coming back (I’ll address that later), so it would be nice to have another one.
Batting coach: Who will replace Rudy Jaramillo?
Here’s what we know: Jon Daniels and Ron Washington are supposedly “constructing a list” of candidates to replace Rudy, and they plan on interviewing about 4 or 5 guys for the position. Some names that have been thrown around are Scott Coolbaugh (Rangers AAA batting coach), Rusty Greer (former Ranger), Will Clark (former Ranger), Julio Franco (managing in Mets farm league), Gary Pettis (currently our 1st base coach), Carney Lansford (fired by San Francisco last week), Clint Hurdle (former Colorado manager), Tim Wallach (Dodgers hitting coach in 2004), Thad Bosley (hitting coach in Oakland with Wash), Gerald Perry (hitting coach for Cubs, fired in June), Greg Colbrunn (minor league hitting coach for Yank
ees), Dave Hudgens (former A’s hitting coach), Mike Boulanger (Minor League hitting coach), and Toby Harrah (former Ranger, current hitting coach for Tigers). I’m sure there are a bunch of other names too that I haven’t heard yet. So obviously, there are a lot of choices. It’s just about finding a good fit.
Eddie Guardado: Is he really retiring?
Here’s what we know: He’s definitely thinking about it. But that’s about all we know. He didn’t pitch too well towards the end of the season, so as terrible as it sounds, I’m kind of hoping he retires. He’s a free agent, and I just don’t think it’s useful to pay him a significant amount of money for just one more year when he’s at the end of his career and losing his stamina.
Outfield: What will our outfield look like next year?
Here’s what we know: Marlon Byrd (righty) is a question mark. We have Josh Hamilton (lefty), Julio Borbon (lefty), David Murphy (lefty), and Nelson Cruz (righty). We also have Chris Davis (another lefty in the lineup) as our starting 1st baseman, and Salty is a switch hitter. So we could possibly have 5 left-handed bats in a 9-man line-up. That’s not so good. Borbon is rumored to be “the center fielder of the future,” but he has a weak arm. He’s supposed to be working on that this winter, but who knows? Josh Hamilton had a spectacular 2008, but he had trouble staying healthy this year. I don’t want to lose anybody, but I have this sneaking suspicion that we’re going to trade David Murphy. That hurts me, because he’s a good Texas boy, but I just can’t shake that feeling. And I have a feeling that Nelson Cruz could be great. I’m mean he could be Josh-Hamilton-in-2008-great. But what about Craig Gentry? He was the surprise September call-up from AA. It makes the most sense that he would at least begin next year in AAA, but it’s certainly an intriguing idea. He’s a righty, with an incredibly strong and accurate arm, and he’s supposedly speedy on the bases, but he needs to learn how to bat against big league pitching.