|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Dec. 8, 2005 - Trying not to get left out in the cold during his first winter baseball meeting, the Texas Rangers new GM, Jon Daniels, jumped into the fire.
It looks like the Rangers will be the ones getting burned.
Daniels, who unfortunately for Ranger fans was tutored by John Hart, on Wednesday gave up the Rangers' most attractive, tradable player, Alfonso Soriano. In return, he got two major league-ready starting pitchers.
No, that's not right.
He received one major league-ready starting pitcher and one reliever. Wrong again.
Two relievers? No. One hot-shot pitcher? No.
With the Rangers circling the drain of the American League West because of an ineffective pitching staff, Daniels gave up an All-Star second baseman for a pair of light-hitting, injury-prone outfielders and a minor league pitching prospect who is two seasons away from helping the major league team.
What Daniels did, though, was save greedy Tom Hicks another $5 million. That's why Hicks promoted Daniels to the GM position in the first place - it obviously wasn't to make the Rangers better. It was to do the same thing that Hart did: put more money in Hicks' pocket.
The difference in salary between those three players and Soriano will be about $5 million. Let's see if Daniels and Hicks will put that money back into the team. History says they won't.
In two seasons, Rangers' management has cut the payroll in half to save Hicks $50 million, sold the naming rights to the stadium to give him another $5 million, increased ticket prices and put a loser on the field.
Hicks cares much more about the bottom line that the line score.
If he wants to get rid of that perception, the next move has to be luring Houston resident Roger Clemens to Arlington. Clemens was not offered salary arbitration by the Astros and is now free to sign with any team. Knowing he will want to stay in Texas where his family is, Daniels and Hicks should give Clemens another burnt-orange Hummer, a private jet and whatever else he wants so long as he wears a Ranger uniform.
If that happens, the Ranger front office can walk away from the meetings having accomplished something other than trading away an All-Star for a few trinkets.
Soriano had his shortcomings - he was a bad-fielding second baseman and he swung at a lot of wayward pitches. But, he also drove in 104 runs with 171 hits. He led the Rangers with 87 extra-base hits and 30 stolen bases.
What's more, he was one of the few Rangers who could be depended on to get a hit in a clutch situation. Michael Young and Mark Teixiera were the others with that ability. Now, the Rangers will be less effective at the plate and the same on the mound.
For Soriano, the Rangers received Brad Wilkerson, who struck out 147 times last year and hit just 11 home runs. Wilkerson did walk 80 times, which is a plus, but he batted just .248. They also got injured outfielder Terrmel Sledge and minor league pitcher Armando Galarraga who will start the season at Double-A.
Remember how the Rangers got Soriano - they traded Alex Rodriguez for him. So, in effect, the Rangers have received Wilkerson, Sledge and Galarraga for a two-time American League MVP. Not such a good-looking exchange.
One of the advantages the Rangers are pushing about the trade is that by picking up two outfielders, now Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix are both more available to trade. But, if Daniels couldn't trade Soriano for pitching, how is he going to do it with two lesser offensive players?
Maybe Jon Daniels isn't through yet. Maybe he's got something up his sleeve that we don't know about.
Or maybe by dumping salary, he's doing exactly what Tom Hicks wants.