For fans of the Texas Rangers, the 2010 season has thankfully been one in which thoughts of what offseason decisions loom for the front office haven't even crept in. Handicapping who will be protected on the 40-man roster in November, and who will therefore be left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft in December, just doesn't matter as much as what could lay ahead for the Rangers in October.
But there is a reason to think about the Rule 5 Draft in July, given the depth of draft-eligible prospects about whom Texas has winter decisions to make. Chances are the Rangers aren't done trading this month, even after the acquisitions of Cliff Lee and Bengie Molina. Texas is still looking for a right-handed corner bat and possibly a lefty specialist reliever, and it's going to take prospects to get them -- and if the club needs dollars thrown in to make the trades work, the prospects going the other way are going to be more significant than they would be otherwise.
Since Jon Daniels has taken over as general manager, Texas has averaged three or four Minor League additions to the roster each November. The analysis on who to add involves more than just ranking your players internally and picking off the top few names. It's also assessing the chances that the players in question are the type that could be drafted (which requires that they be kept in the big leagues for all of the next season), and the odds that they'd make their new club out of spring training.
Texas has evaluated well during the Daniels regime. The club has yet to lose a player in the Rule 5 Draft since he became General Manager after the 2005 season.
But it gets more interesting this winter, because of a larger number of legitimate roster-eligibles than usual. And with at least one more trade likely in the next week and a half, it may very well be this class of players that the Rangers are going to be asked to part with - and that, because of the competition for 40-man roster spots, the team may be willing to deal.
If the decisions had to be made today, it seems there would be three locks for addition to the roster: Triple-A Oklahoma City first baseman-outfielder Mitch Moreland, Double-A Frisco center fielder Engel Beltre, and high Class A Bakersfield right-hander Wilmer Font.
But after that, there are first baseman/outfielder Chad Tracy (Oklahoma City); left-handers Beau Jones and Kasey Kiker and Ben Snyder and right-hander Evan Reed (Frisco); right-handers Wilfredo Boscan and Carlos Pimentel and outfielder David Paisano (Bakersfield); and right-handers Daniel Gutierrez and Jake Brigham (low Class A Hickory), among others.
Right-hander Josh Lueke was a solid candidate, too, before he went to Seattle in the Lee trade.
Take Boscan, for example. Let's say you view the 20-year-old strike-thrower, on a tremendous roll the last month and a half, as a middle-of-the-rotation candidate in two years. And you see Tracy as a capable corner bat off the bench sometime in 2011. Certainly not core players you'd refuse to trade, and maybe longshots to earn roster spots this winter, but not the type you'd feel good about losing for $50,000 in the Draft. Is a Boscan/Tracy package more than you'd want to give up for a two-month role player like Wes Helms? Probably. But if you thought one of them might be drafted away in December?
Is it worth adding a bullpen specialist like Will Ohman for a couple power arms like Brigham and Reed? Objectively, probably not. But if you're thinking about ways to get Robinson Cano or Carl Crawford out in October? And if you think you could lose Brigham or Reed in the Draft? Maybe you're willing to overpay a bit, given the circumstances.
Lueke was probably on that short list, along with Moreland, Beltre, and Font, of players Texas knew it would have to put on the roster this winter in order to keep them. Lueke's inclusion in the Lee trade with Seattle theoretically opens a spot for another prospect to protect, assuming Texas wants to devote four spots to players not quite ready to help.
But the list of credible candidates is longer than just a player or two, and for that reason it wouldn't be surprising to see the Rangers part with one or more of them before the end of the month, considering the real risk that they could be lost anyway four and a half months from now.
Jamey Newberg is a contributor to MLB.com. A Dallas lawyer, he has been an insane Texas Rangers fan since the days of scheduled doubleheaders, Bat Nights when they actually handed out a piece of lumber instead of a grocery store voucher, and Jim Umbarger. He has covered the Texas Rangers, from the big club down through the entire farm system, since 1998 on his website, www.NewbergReport.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.