The Texas Rangers want to win in 2014. They signed Shin-Shoo Choo, who should help them win in 2014. Therefore, the Texas Rangers made a good move.
See you after the holidays.
That's how every transaction analysis should go, right? Feels like it sometimes. People talking about "2020" or "payroll" after every deal are the same ninnies who can't swallow a piece of fudge without thinking about clogged arteries. Sure, your arteries might eventually clog, and you might eventually die from a coronary while on the toilet, but that's in the future. Until then, fudge, fudge, fudge. The future is just a theory. Fudge is right now.
The Rangers might be a perennial 90-loss team in five years. The prospect well might dry up, and the players who should be good might not be. But they're good now. Rise up against the tyranny of long-term thinking, people. Seize the day. The Rangers are better, and all it took was money. Bully for them.
That's what I want to write. That's what I want to write for all of these deals. The Mariners signing Robinson Cano is a great deal because it makes them better next year. The Yankees getting Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Jacoby Ellsbury is a great gambit because it makes them better next year. Everything is great! Up with people!
Except that's some genuinely lousy baseball analysis. Baseball is always a delicate balance between the short and long term. Trading Johan Santana cost the Twins dearly. The Mets paying to keep Santana around for seven years cost them dearly. The Twins gave up the long term to focus on the short term. The Mets did the opposite. The Santana move didn't work out as intended for either team. Baseball, you little imp.
The Rangers might be better with Choo, alright. They might be improved enough to get back to the playoffs. That's how the getting-better-players business usually works. But before signing off enthusiastically on the idea that the Rangers made a smart gamble to capitalize on a short-term return, I'd want to know one thing:
This isnt all the Rangers can do for the next few years, right?
Something's going to go wrong over the next few years. Many things are going to go wrong. Maybe it's a health thing, or maybe it's players badding when they should be gooding. Maybe Elvis Andrus follows the Garry Templeton career path, without the part where he's traded for a Hall of Famer. Without knowing exactly what it is, every franchise knows that it will happen.
With that in mind, the Rangers have spent an awful lot of money over the last two years, with the Andrus extension, the Yu Darvish deal, absorbing a huge chunk of Prince Fielder's salary, and now Choo. It makes sense for them to spend now, considering the roster and their short-term prognosis. But when the it happens, will they have the flexibility to work around it? Or is their plan based around the current cast staying good indefinitely, because it's not like any more free-agent help is coming after that kind of spending spree?
Another way to put it: Are the Rangers really in that Dodgers/Yankees tier? That's the f-it tier. When the Carl Pavano/Jaret Wright deals didn't work, the Yankees tried again. When the mega-deals to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira crumbled a little earlier than hoped, the Yankees tried again.
When Brandon League turned out to be a spectacularly awful choice for late-inning solidity, the Dodgers picked up a six-pack of pricey setup men at the convenience store. If Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford are all disappointing next year, the Dodgers will probably spend money on another outfielder, even if that seems absurd right now.
But when the A's made their choice between Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez, that was their choice for the next seven years. That was their big-ticket franchise player. When the Giants signed Barry Zito to be the face of the post-Bonds franchise, it effectively took them out of the free-agent market for years.
The A's and Giants reminded me of the scene in the Mr. Show mustmayostardayonnaise ad where Bob Odenkirk's daughter asks him to come to her graduation, and he raises his hands, helpless. I have no choice. This is the hand I've been dealt. That's what teams say when they have the budget for only one big-time acquisition, and the acquisition flops. The Yankees and Dodgers would have paid someone to make the sandwich for them in the first place.
So here it is: If the Rangers are going to make that same palms-up, what-do-you-want-me-to-do motion when something comes up, if the Rangers can't nimbly adjust and stretch the budget if they're two starters short of a rotation, they had no business signing Choo.
If the Rangers know what they're doing, and they figure that even with the huge commitments to Fielder, Choo, and Andrus, they'll have enough flexibility to ride out the pantsings that baseball will inevitably give them, then Choo makes a ton of sense.
I've erred on the side of the Rangers' judgment for years, so there's no sense stopping now. They know their limit, and Choo probably isn't it. He is in the sense of the 2014 budget, sure, but if everything goes wrong with him and/or the rest of the team, it's not like the Rangers are going to fold it up and sit out the free-agent market for the next few years. "Sorry. We tried. Got Fielder and Choo, but that's, like, all we had."
That doesn't seem likely. The Rangers are better in 2014, and they'll have a plan for 2020 when it comes. Or the other guys will. The guys who took over the front office when everyone was fired for stupid long-term commitments. Most likely, though, Choo will help much more than he hurts for the next three or four years. And he'll really, really help next year, which is exactly when the Rangers need him the most.