After the Texas Rangers invested roughly $110 million in Yu Darvish, are they better equipped for the 2012 season than they were in 2011?
By Jon Paul Morosi FoxSports
Let’s forget, for a moment, the frenzy associated with Yu Darvish’s arrival to the major leagues. After the Texas Rangers invested roughly $110 million in one right arm, we must ask the essential question hovering about their offseason:
Are they better equipped to get the last out of the 2012 season than they were in 2011?
The answer is yes.
Of the pitchers who appeared in the Rangers’ crushing seven-game World Series loss to the Cardinals in October, only starter C.J. Wilson and relievers Mike Gonzalez and Darren Oliver are no longer with the team.
Meanwhile, the Rangers have added Darvish and closer Joe Nathan — while moving Neftali Feliz into the rotation.
Give credit to Rangers ownership and general manager Jon Daniels: They could have rationalized a quiet offseason by saying they would be World Series champions right now if any number of events had transpired differently in the ninth inning of Game 6. They have done the opposite, refusing the convenient course of declaring they were already “good enough.”
Wilson signed a five-year, $77.5 million contract with the rival Angels. Is Darvish $30 million better than Wilson? That is debatable, considering Darvish has pitched in as many big-league games as I have. But Darvish, if the scouting reports hold true, has the better potential to be great. Frankly, the same may be true of Feliz.
Re-signing Wilson would have been safe and familiar. The Rangers, twice the runners-up, chose to be ambitious instead. Isn’t that what we admire in sports teams?
And they probably aren’t done yet. That doesn’t mean they will sign Prince Fielder. (In fact, I believe that is unlikely.) But they may add another arm for the bullpen — although Darvish’s arrival could mean Alexi Ogando moves back into the relief role where he excelled throughout the American League playoffs.
Fielder, of course, is now the sole focal point of the remaining time on Baseball’s ’11-’12 Hot Stove. The Rangers’ signing of Darvish was not a positive development for him. No matter the spin, the Rangers have less money to spend on players than they did this morning. Team sources continue to say they are unlikely to sign Fielder unless his price drops considerably.
There could be a Mystery Team involved — Fielder is, after all, a Scott Boras client — but the Nationals are in a favorable position to sign him as long as they don’t become foolish and attempt to outsmart Boras. That rarely ends well.
Now, onto the biggest remaining question in Texas: When will Darvish make his debut?
For what it’s worth, if the Rangers’ salesmanship is as bold as their offseason plans, Darvish should throw his first major-league pitch on Monday, April 9. That’s the fourth game of the year — presumably, a night when Rangers Ballpark might not otherwise sell out.
The Rangers can host the home opener, raise the American League pennant and distribute rings over the weekend, before giving the stage to Darvish on Monday. The opponent that night is the Seattle Mariners, whose leadoff man is a player Darvish’s fans back home might recognize: Ichiro Suzuki.
If the Rangers’ goal is to make us forget about how their season ended, they’re doing a pretty good job.