ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 24: Matt Harrison #54 of the Texas Rangers of the Texas Rangers and Mike Napoli #25 of the Texas Rangers walk from the bullpen before the Rangers take on the Boston Red Sox at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on August 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
LoneStarBall is the premier fan site for Texas Rangers fans and is a clearinghouse for everything you'd ever need or want to know (and some things you might not!) about the club. Adam Morris is the brains behind the operation and was kind enough to sit with me (via email) for a chat about the Rangers, free agency, and the Yu Darvish hysteria:
Justin Bopp: Considering the Rangers' pursuit of Yu Darvish, the loss of C.J. Wilson, and the numerous rumors around Fielder and Garza, what do you think of the Rangers' off-season so far? What still needs to get done? Was there really much needed change in the first place?
Adam Morris: The Rangers offseason thusfar has been about what I expected. I thought they'd stay out of the mix for the big first basemen, let C.J. walk, and focus on landing Yu Darvish. With Neftali Feliz moving into a starting role, the Rangers already had a full rotation before winning the bidding on Darvish, so it will be interesting to see how they let that play out.
The one surprise is the decision to go out and get Joe Nathan, since you'd figure Mike Adams or Alexi Ogando (if he's the odd man out in the rotation) would be able to be a top-notch closer, but Ron Washington clearly prefers the security blanket of having a "proven" closer. I think the Rangers need to sign Darvish and find a lefty for the bullpen, but other than that, they are in pretty good shape at this point.
JB: You have your finger on the pulse of RangersFan, right? What's the mood following the World Series loss? Time to blow it up or time to buckle down and take another swing at it?
AM: I don't think anyone is suggesting blowing it up. The Rangers came within one strike -- TWICE -- of winning the whole thing, and are basically bringing that team back intact.
The team may need to shift gears a little bit after 2012, depending on what happens in the coming season, since you have key contributors Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, Colby Lewis, and Mike Adams all eligible for free agency, but I think most Rangers fans see the window as still being open.
JB: What's the general reaction to winning the Darvish bid? Jays fans are taking it hard, but the more sober ones recognize the massive risk. What do Rangers fans think about the Darvish story? And, what's the general reaction to Houston's eventual move to the AL West? Excited for the cross-state rivalry?
AM: People are, naturally, excited about winning the Darvish bidding. Even if you overpay to land a big-name guy, there's an initial sense of excitement to see what your latest addition can do. The front office clearly thinks that Darvish can be a top of the rotation starter, and their success over the last few years has resulted in fans giving the front office a little more leeway in making these decisions.
I think there is a not insignificant number of fans who question why you'd pay $100-120 million for Darvish rather than $75 million in C.J. Wilson -- and you can include me in that category -- but still, there's a buzz, an excitement about Darvish joining the team that there wouldn't have been if you had just brought C.J. back.As for the Astros, I don't know that people care that much. D/FW has never been as worked up about Houston as Houston is about D/FW, and there's not much of a rivalry with the Astros at this point. That may change if both teams are good, but at this point, there's probably just a vague lament that the Rangers have to beat out four teams now to win the division, rather than three.
JB: Considering the Rangers' new TV deal, it looks to me like the Rangers' window should remain open for some time to come. Is it time to welcome Texas to the stage previously occupied by only the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs? How will the team continue the transition from its current salary obligations to what looks to be one of the big boys on the block? Is potentially signing Darvish their welcoming party?
AM: I wouldn't put the Rangers in the same category as Boston, the Yankees, the Cubs, or the Angels at this point. I do think that the market, and the new TV deal, put the Rangers to be in a good position to consistently be among the top 10 payrolls, but probably in the 6-10 range, rather than the top five. And there are going to be some tough decisions that will have to be made in the next few years, with Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Mike Napoli, and Nelson Cruz all potential free agents before too long.
That said, the Rangers have made it a point to invest heavily in their minor league system, with the idea being that they want to be able to keep a steady mix of more expensive, proven veterans and younger, cheaper talent that is under team control, with a target of sustainability for the team's success.
Many thanks to Adam Morris for his time, and if you haven't already, check out LSB: