The baseball Winter Meetings were in Memphis this year, home of Graceland. For general managers the winter meetings can be like Christmas shopping. But the only Christmas Carol the Rangers heard in the hometown of Elvis Presley was his classic, “Have a, have a, have a blue Christmas without you…” The” you” in question is just about everyone the Rangers tried to acquire. This was like going to the mall hitting every store and walking away with nothing to show for it.
Thankfully, the Rangers’ list was short. After winning the AL West last season, they did not have many needs. There were basically three things on the list – a catcher, a right-handed bat that can play outfield and first base, and pitching. Pitching is always on the list; it is on every team’s list. That is why pitching is so hard to acquire. Still the Rangers tried; they talked to Atlanta about Shelby Miller (who was dealt to Arizona). The problem there was that they wanted Joey Gallo, Lewis Brinson, Nomar Mazzara and Jurickson Profar in return. In other words they wanted all of the best prospects in the organization. The Rangers also made runs at Drew Smyly of Tampa Bay and Jose Fernandez of the Marlins. In the end Texas could not put a check mark next to pitching on the list.
As hard as pitching is to come by, catching may be even more difficult. Consider that the Rangers had been grooming Jorge Alfaro since 2011 when they traded him to Philly last year in the Cole Hamels deal. He had been training to be a big league catcher full time for four years and he was not even that close. They figured 2017 at the earliest. Since it takes so long to grow one, the Rangers spent some time trying to trade for one in Memphis. They did not have any luck on that front either so there is no check mark next to catcher on that shopping list.
Their last chance was to acquire that right-handed bat that could play outfield and first base. You might think they already have that in Mike Napoli. One problem – Nap can’t play the outfield. He made a valiant attempt to do so during the stretch last year. In fact, there are some in the organization who believe his willingness to potentially embarrass himself out there inspired the team and galvanized it. Still, as good as Nap is in the clubhouse and as loved as he is by the fans, he is not ready to be an outfielder in the big leagues. Steve Pearce is though. Pearce is a free agent and he is a right handed outfielder/first baseman. He also spent seven years in the…wait for it…Pirates organization. Jeff Banister knows and likes him. Still they have not done a deal with him so there is no check mark near the right-handed outfielder/first baseman on the Rangers’ shopping list.
Maybe they are shopping the way I used to do it. Back in the day when people would ask, “do you have your shopping done?” I would casually say, “Why? It’s not Christmas Eve yet.” There were several years when I did not start shopping until December 24th. Now, like most of you, I have gotten wise. I do all my shopping online. That way there is no traffic, no malls, no clerks, no jerks. In fact, I wonder if that is what the Rangers have decided to do with the shopping this year. Does Amazon sell pitchers?