In attempt to catch up to the Texas Rangers, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim signed the best hitter in baseball. Then they signed away the Rangers' best pitcher. From the Rangers' perspective, that's like reaching for a can of Raid and seeing that the cockroach is holding it.
If I owned the Rangers, I would have walked away from Game 6 of the 2011 World Series thinking malicious thoughts. And after Game 7, I would have retreated to my luxurious suite, cracked open a bottle of 40-year-old Scotch, and started plotting how I was going to sign Albert Pujols away. At first, I would have done it just to put him on the bench just to piss off Cardinals fans, but at some point I would have figured out that playing him was a better idea.
The Rangers' ownership is not as petty as I am, apparently. They're fiscally prudent and pragmatic. And if they didn't think that Pujols was worth $254 million -- which is something that 28 other teams thought -- well, they might be right. But they were always the best fit for one of the two premium first basemen on the market, considering that they have a modest payroll, and that they shouldn't be especially attached to Mitch Moreland.
It's possible that the Rangers were going to be coy with Prince Fielder and hope that the market got a little soft for him, allowing them to swoop in. And if they didn't get him, well, they were still set up for 2012 with one fewer long-term contract to worry about. But the Angels just signed one of the best hitters of all-time, and they took the Rangers' #1 starter on the same day. They might as well have put on a powdered wig, walked up to the Rangers, and slapped them with a little white glove. It had to stun the Texas front office just a little bit.
It would be wrong to say that the Rangers should sign Fielder because it's an arms race now. A couple of moves from a rival shouldn't put the Rangers into reactionary mode, especially if the long-term consequences are so significant. But even when you strip the emotions away, the Rangers and Fielder are just about a perfect fit. Consider:
- They have that huge TV deal coming, and it sure would be swell if they had something fancy to put on TV
- The one current player in line for a superstar contract soon, Josh Hamilton, is a fragile, risky long-term investment that the Rangers might not even want to sign.
- Michael Young comes off the books after 2013, and a front-loaded deal to Fielder might make sense while the starting pitching is so cheap (Holland, Harrison, Feliz, Lewis, and Ogando will combine to make less than C.J. Wilson next year. Heck, they'll come close to making what Aaron Harang makes.)
That's without the emotional part. Now put those emotions in a paper bag, and breathe deep. Let the anger swirl in your lungs, Rangers. The Angels -- the Angels -- just fired that double salvo at you. The team that's annoyed you for decades, who used a magical Game 6 comeback to win their first championship, and who laughed at the magical Game 6 comeback that cost you yours. The Angels.
The Angels signed away the top pitcher on the Rangers' staff on the same day they added one of the best hitters in history. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're the A's. Hop to it, Texas.
It might feel like a knee-jerk reaction, but it makes so, so, so much sense for the Rangers. Like, an amazing amount of sense. It did before the Pujols/Wilson moves, and it certainly does now. The lineup next year would be amazing. Even John Lackey and a couple of blown saves against the Orioles couldn't screw it up.
And as a side benefit, Jon Daniels gets to call up John Mozeliak, ask him "Say, what would you give me for Mitch Moreland?", and hang up before there's a response. That's not as sweet as a World Series win, but that doesn't mean that it wouldn't be really, really satisfying.