By Todd Kaufmann
No matter how many Texas Rangers fans you talk to, it seems almost every one of them is intrigued with the idea of signing free agent first basemen Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols.
On Thurday night, Rangers’ CEO Nolan Ryan disappointed them all.
When he was asked about the team’s interest in either Fielder or Pujols, Nolan Ryan made sure there was no room for any kind of rumor concerning his team and either of the costly free agents. He put his, and the Rangers, full support behind their own young first baseman, Mitch Moreland.
“We truly believe Mitch’s career is ahead of him,” Ryan said
while at an event at Ridglea Country Club. “Making a seven-or-eight year deal for Fielder or Pujols is not something our organization is prepared to do. I very much expect Mitch Moreland to be our first baseman next year.”
On Friday morning, the reaction to Ryan’s quote came quickly from fans who were hoping to see their team make a big time splash in free agency.
“Sorry to hear him say that,” said Lee Porter
a Rangers fan from Fort Worth, Texas. ”Pujols would really fill the hole at first.” Mark Moore agreed
saying, “He can’t hit lefties and got worse as the season wore on. He will always be platooned. Mitch is not the answer for this team.”
On the flip side of the argument, Cameron Ginger
, another Rangers’ fan and baseball coach in Fort Worth said, “ there isn’t a hole at first base. If anything the pitching needs to be solidified more than anything.”
Then there was a media side of the argument. RJ Choppy, one half of New School on 105.3 FM The Fan in Dallas, Texas said the Rangers should do everything possible to make sure they signed the soon-to-be Milwaukee Brewers’ first baseman. He said the Rangers had the money to bring him in and needed to make sure they did so.
There are going to be people on both sides of the argument. There isn’t one who’s wrong nor is there one who’s right.
But the Texas Rangers are not going to invest seven years and more than $100 million on one player. It’s not the right move for a team that was only one strike away, twice, from being the ones who celebrated a World Series championship. What was built by this front office is a group who got to the World Series in back-to-back seasons.
There’s no question Fielder is a talented player. He swings a big bat on offense but brings a below average glove on defense, much like Michael Young does when he plays the position.
The problem isn’t signing Fielder as a player nor do I believe the problem to be the amount of money he is going to command as a free agent. The problem, as Nolan Ryan pointed out, is the amount of years he is wanting to sign for.
Does he make the Texas Rangers arguably the best team in the American League, again? Absolutely. But if you were Nolan Ryan and you had this decision to make, would you really be okay investing eight years in a player who sustain an injury that would leave you paying a high dollar player for absolutely no return.
General manager Jon Daniels, during a press conference a few weeks ago, told the media the Rangers first priority was going to be pitching. That is what let this team down during the World Series. That is the reason they aren’t the ones hoisting a championship trophy and celebrating with a parade.
Adding Fielder would essentially end any possibility of CJ Wilson returning and it would also end any pursuit the Rangers could have made towards 26-year old Japanese right hander, Yu Darvish.
This team doesn’t need a $100 million upgrade. It needs a piece here or there from the rotation to the bullpen to finally get themselves over the hump that has been to great a challenge over the last two seasons.
While there are changes that need to be made going into the 2012 season, Prince Fielder and the first base position aren’t one of them. Nolan Ryan has spoken. It’s time to move on.