I’m going to miss Ian Desmond.
I’m going to miss Mitch Moreland.
One, a one-year Ranger who just landed five years and possibly six elsewhere.
The other, a seven-year Ranger who took one year to play somewhere else.
Born two weeks apart, the two 31-year-olds are well into the middle innings of their careers, and regardless of what happens for Desmond in Colorado or Moreland in Boston, their time here won’t be forgotten.
But that’s sports.
I’m now thinking about Adrian Beltre’s one season in Boston — not because he was also 31, but because he turned that pillow contract with the Red Sox into something much bigger (the idea for Moreland, for sure) and because that one Beltre season with the Red Sox gets lost in a career everyone will remember as a Dodgers/Mariners/Rangers baseball life, something that I think won’t happen in Desmond’s case, because in between his seven years with Washington and the five or six he’s now contracted to play with Colorado was much more than a pillow deal bridging two long-term stints.
It was the year Desmond redefined his career and reestablished his value, when the Rangers proposed a position change and he bought in, leading to what, at the moment, is the second-largest free agent contract (next to Yoenis Cespedes) handed out so far this winter.
Desmond’s year in Texas will be less anecdotal than Beltre’s in Boston, and not just locally.
Happy for him. Sad for us.
Maybe the shortstop-turned-outfielder (and possibly first baseman, at least as far as the Rockies claim to have temporarily blueprinted it) will be back here one day, though it would be years from now.
Maybe Moreland, the 17th-round-first-baseman-turned-outfielder-and-nearly-turned-reliever-turned-big-league-first-baseman, returns sooner, though probably not as soon as a year from now, even though he’ll be back on the market. Not that Texas wouldn’t take him back, but chances are there will be a multi-year resolution at first base before then, whether it’s Mike Napoli or Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Abreu or Joey Gallo or Ryan Rua or Jurickson Profar or someone else.
But eventually, it’s easy to imagine Moreland back in Arlington, in some role, by time the new ballpark opens up.
Happy for him, too. He’s going to fit into Dustin Pedroia’s and David Price’s clubhouse perfectly, and gets to play alongside Mookie Betts and behind Chris Sale while helping to mentor Andrew Benintendi.
Great guys, Desmond and Moreland.
But most great guys, even the ones who only last a few years in the big leagues, suit up for more than one team.
Michael Young played for three teams.
Mike Napoli and Cliff Lee, same.
Pudge Rodriguez played for six.
Colorado’s move to sign Desmond for five years with a club option for a sixth was a little surprising, given that its first-round pick, 11th overall, was the highest any club could forfeit (as picks 1 through 10 are protected). If the Rockies (who won one more game than the Angels in 2016) hadn’t won 12 of their final 15 games, they would have been able to hold onto their first-rounder and lose their second-round pick instead. Signing Desmond — especially if they really do plan to play him at first base, where his elite athleticism is marginalized — was a curious move for a club whose window might suggest that the number 11 pick was a truly precious commodity.
The move also adds a supplemental first-round pick (and the associated slot money) to the Rangers’ draft inventory. That pick will be a dozen or so slots lower than the number 19 pick the club expended to sign Desmond for $8 million in February, but in the meantime Texas got .285/.335/.446 and a 20/20 season, a surprise solution in center field when Delino DeShields struggled out of the gate, and a tremendous human being in the room that was a huge credit to the franchise on many levels.
The 2017 solution in center field appears to be Carlos Gomez, who reportedly rejected multi-year contract offers elsewhere and took one year this week to stay in Texas after his late-season resurgence here. There have been suggestions that Texas could still target a center fielder like Billy Hamilton or Travis Jankowski (and play Gomez in left), but the insane return the White Sox got from Washington yesterday for Adam Eaton (man, what if the Nationals had tried the Desmond move to center field two years ago themselves?) probably makes a trade for one of those two even more difficult than it might have been 24 hours ago.
Texas added Astros minor league righthander Mike Hauschild in the Major League phase of this morning’s Rule 5 Draft, taking the 40-man roster to 40, which means a player will have to come off when Gomez is officially added to the roster following a club physical. Scott is sending a report out on Hauschild, a groundball guy who will go to camp with Texas to compete for a spot at the back of the rotation. If he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, by rule, he’ll have to be run out on waivers and, if unclaimed, offered back to Houston for half of the $100,000 draft fee.
Texas lost nobody in the draft. The players perhaps most at risk might have been outfielder Jairo Beras and righthanders Pedro Payano, Nick Gardewine, and Sam Wolff (see the discussion in the “40-Man Conundrum” chapter in the Bound Edition, which is now shipping), but none were considered likely losses, for various reasons, and now they’re safe for 2017.
In the minor league phase, Texas lost nobody and added three players (none of whom must be rostered at a particular level like the big league phase requires), among whom was Toronto lefthander Matt Smoral, a 6’8” lefthander the Jays took with a supplemental first-round pick in 2012 (11 slots after Gallo)) and paid $2 million to sign. Smoral has put up big strikeout numbers (11.5 per nine innings) but far too many walks (8.0 per nine) in his four years as a pro, and has yet to log more than 53.2 innings in a season, including just 27.1 frames the last two years after getting hit in the head by a line drive in August 2015.
Rule 5 picks in the minor league phase rarely lead to big league jobs, but once upon a time Texas turned a minor league outfielder who was legally quarantined in the Dominican Republic into a big league reliever (Alexi Ogando) and, in that same draft, another minor league outfielder into a minor league manager/minor league coordinator/big league coach/Assistant General Manager (Jayce Tingler), so there’s hope that the names of Smoral and righthanders Zack Bird and Fernando Miranda get repeated in this space a lot more after today, and that in the meantime Scott gets lots of chances to highlight their good work in their new organization.
Whether the Rangers sacrifice their own first-round pick in June (having added the supplemental first with Desmond’s loss) by signing Encarnacion remains to be seen, though Jon Daniels has told reporters, daily, that the Rangers are unlikely to sign a marquee free agent commanding huge dollars. (“I don’t know how else to say it,” Daniels said Wednesday evening.)
A reunion with Encarnacion, the Rangers’ ninth-round pick in 2000, seems unlikely, even if national reports indicate the club has touched base with his representatives and even though his market continues to shrink as other big corner bats find homes and reportedly interested clubs suggest they’re not in on Encarnacion at the money it would take.
A reunion, someday, with Moreland or even Desmond seems like a better bet.