3. The in-house options are too risky.
Certainly, there is going to be pressure upon the Rangers front office to resign the faces of their ’10 and ’11 AL Championship teams, especially Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. However, there was pressure on them to resign Cliff Lee and C. J. Wilson as well, and they refused to overpay.
With Hamilton and Cruz, what you see is not what you get. Both are proper “five-tool” talents who have provided very memorable performances when the greatest number of eyeballs were fixed upon them: in All-Star Games, Home Run Derbies, and Postseasons. Their ability to rise to the occasion on the “big stage” will probably earn them additional millions when they hit the free agent market, but, what the casual fan probably won’t remember, and several GMs will choose to overlook, is that in the last three seasons the duo has missed a combined 259 games. In his six full seasons, Prince Fielder has missed thirteen games, and he’s at least three years younger than either Ranger slugger.
One can certainly make the case that when Cruz and Hamilton take the field they are more valuable than Prince. They play good defense at tougher defensive positions. They have speed and baserunning acumen. I don’t disagree. But…
259 to 13.
4. The timing is right.
If they sign Prince now, they will get one shot with the current roster, including Hamilton, Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli, etc. A lot can happen between January and October, but they’d immediately become the odds-on favorite for the 2012 title. But, just as importantly, they’d have some payroll certainty at the core of the team, which would make future decisions a little easier. The Rangers will face decisions on Hamilton and Napoli at the end of the coming season, and on Kinsler and Michael Young the following year.
Thanks to the recent trend of signing the best arbitration-eligible hitters (Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, Justin Upton, Evan Longoria, Carlos Gonzalez, etc.) to lengthy deals, there’s not a hitter of Fielder’s talent, youth, and durability likely to hit the market for several seasons to come. If they pass on Fielder, the Rangers almost guarantee that they will be overpaying for an inferior older player at some point in the near future.