Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cliff Lee trade: Rangers’ history of first round draft choices highly unsuccessful

For the baseball team with the most financial problems and uncertainty going into the future, the Texas Rangers were able to bag the summer’s top trading deadline deal by obtaining left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee, a former Cy Young winner, from Seattle for four prospects (including one MLB starter).
However, the question to be asked is: at what price? Lee is a rental; he will NOT sign in the winter to pitch for Texas because the club won’t have the money (it’s involved deeply in bankruptcy proceedings between prospective owners, disgruntled debt holders and idiot ownership).
And the trade continues a trend by the Rangers of sacrificing first-round draft choices for little in return. Lee could be what Philadelphia hoped last season, leading the Phillies to the World Series…or be like Randy Johnson when the Astros got him in 1998 for the second half run (won the division) but did not make it to the World Series … and mortgaged its future in the process (losing Carlos Guillen, Freddy Garcia and John Halama).
The Rangers have yet to write the story of this season but an examination of its past is noteworthy.
Since 1998, when Texas chose Carlos Pena, who stars NOW for Tampa Bay, out of Northeastern University in Boston with the 10th overall selection, most of Texas’ first-round selections are either with other teams or out of baseball completely.
Here’s the list:
1999 – Colby Lewis, RHP, Bakersfield College, 38th selection, College, rejoined Rangers this season after spending a few years refining his game in Japan; Mike Head, RHP, Soddy Daisy (Tenn.) HS, 47th selection, out of baseball
2000 – Scott Heard, C, Rancho Bernardo (San Diego, Calif.) HS, 25th selection; Tyrell Godwin, OF, North Carolina, 35th selection; Chad Hawkins, RHP, Baylor, 39th selection – all three out of baseball
2001 – Mark Teixeira, 3B, Georgia Tech, 5th overall selection, played for Rangers at 1B until 2007 when he was traded to Atlanta in multi-player deal; now with New York Yankees and only draft choice since Kevin Brown in 1986 to win a World Series title (one of three Rangers’ draftees – the other being Ron Darling, drafted in 1980)
2002 – Drew Meyer, SS, South Carolina, 10th selection, now playing with Triple-A Salt Lake City (LA Angels); has never played in MLB
2003 – John Danks, LHP, Round Rock (Tex.) HS, traded to Chicago White Sox for Brandon McCarthy, who is on injured list (Danks is 39-40 in three seasons with White Sox and considered a solid number 3 starter)
2004 – Thomas Diamond, RHP, University of New Orleans, 10th selection, out of baseball; Eric Hurley, RHP, Wolfson (Jacksonville, Fla.) HS, 30th selection, with Double-A Frisco (Texas farm team)
2005 – John Mayberry Jr., OF, Stanford, 19th selection, now playing with Triple-A Lehigh Valley (New York Yankees)
2006 – Kasey Kiker, LHP, Russell County (Ala.) HS, 12th selection, with Double-A Frisco (Texas farm team)
2007 – Blake Beaven, RHP, 17th selection, traded to Seattle in the Cliff Lee transaction; Michael Main, RHP, DeLand (Fla.) HS, 24th selection, traded to San Francisco in Bengie Molina deal, now with Double-A Richmond
2008 – Justin Smoak, 1B, 11th selection, traded to Seattle in the Cliff Lee transaction
2009 – Matt Purke, LHP, 14th selection, unsigned, attending Texas Christian University
In fact, those actually ON the Rangers’ active roster were supplemental picks, compensation for losing free agents the season prior. They include centerfielder Julio Borbon (35th selection in 2007 out of University of Tennessee) and pitcher Tommy Hunter (54h selection in 2007 out of University of Alabama) … and that’s IT!
The top choice for Texas in 1996, R.A. Dickey another Tennessee product), is in the rotation for the New York Mets after reworking his entire career by going to a knuckleball.
Last year’s supplemental first-round pick, Tanner Scheppers, is being nursed along at such a slow pace (only 60 innings in 19 appearances and he is a STARTER?!?), it isn’t known when he will be in the Rangers’ plan despite sitting at AAA Oklahoma City.
The third supplemental pick from 2007, pitcher Neil Ramirez, has not advanced above Single A Hickory while Borbon and Hunter are in their second seasons in The Show.
Such is the history of the Texas baseball Rangers. The Teixeira trade with Atlanta was one of the best in franchise history, bringing current All-Stars Elvis Andrus (SS) and Neftali Feliz (closer) plus starter Matt Harrison (spotty career at best) and catcher-1B Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a major disappointment who probably is not in the Rangers’ future plans –at least not at the present with a major throwing issue.
But Teixiera did help the Braves make the playoffs, as he did the following year as a free agent signing with the Angels and then with the Yankees. Pena, the “future” first baseman back in 1996, spent a journeyman career with Texas, Detroit and Oakland before catching fire in Tampa and leading the Rays to the 2008 World Series.
The Lee acquisition should prove positive for Texas, but as was demonstrated in his debut Saturday night, the Ballpark is a jet stream to the alleys in the summer heat. Even lousy hitting teams like Baltimore can get lucky and Arlington has been Lee’s un-friendliest confines to pitch. Unless he can consistently throw ground ball outs, he CAN be somewhat hittable.
But it was a hoot to see The Anointed One (by the Dallas media) outdueled completely by a 22-year-old rookie for the O’s – Chris Tillman. Losing three in a row to Baltimore should take some starch out of the Rangers’ collars going into the All-Star break.
Only time, and the vicious summer weather in North Texas (the worst in the major leagues in terms of heat and wear-and-tear), will decide if this trade pays off. With the ownership question as muddied as the Gulf of Mexico from the BP spill, it appears that the Rangers management is very much mortgaging the future to win this season … because no one knows exactly what will happen NEXT season. Hell, there’s no guarantee the franchise even stays in North Texas. You just never know and predicting the future in Arlington is not a wise thing.
P.S. – Lee wearing a Rangers uniform to that game doesn’t seem proper; his selection was based on his Mariner outings – not Texas. It’s just wrong.

No comments: