5/23/2014 4:30 P.M. ET
Despite health issues, Rangers need not panic
Organization built to succeed can afford to weigh pros, cons of signing Morales
By Richard Justice / MLB.com
To have a player as good as Kendrys Morales still on the free-agent market is about the best news the Texas Rangers could hope for at this point. As fits go, he's close to perfect in terms of talent. If it were that simple. Which it's not.
The Rangers are going to need a long list of things to go right, and considering almost nothing has, they're due for some good news. Signing Morales could have a significant positive impact.
First, he'd be a morale booster in a clubhouse decimated by injuries, a clubhouse probably awash in uncertainty. Rather than wondering what else could go wrong, the Rangers would steer the conversation in another direction. They would be sending a message that they are not about to give up on the season.
Second, Morales would make the Rangers better. Actually, he'd make them way better, because the Prince Fielder they had for 42 games was a shadow of a healthy Fielder.
Morales has a career .813 OPS, including .785 last year. When he's healthy, he's a player who'll probably hit .275 with 30 doubles and 20 home runs over an entire season.
In a lineup that still has Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Shin-Soo Choo, Morales would add quality and depth.
But timing is an issue. If the Rangers sign Morales now, they'll lose the 30th overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft. If they wait until after the Draft, which is from June 5-7, there'd be no compensation.
But that's risky, because competition for Morales -- and his asking price -- likely will go up, if it hasn't already. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels may not be interested in multiple years with Fielder expected to make a full recovery from neck surgery. And what will the standings look after the Draft?
Given how much emphasis Daniels has placed on his farm system and how the signing of Choo cost him his first-round pick (21st overall), it's difficult to see the GM going for Morales now.
With left-hander Derek Holland about to return from the disabled list, the Rangers, with Morales, might have enough to hang around and playing meaningful games in September.
Are they a lock?
With 14 players on the DL, with Fielder, left-hander Martin Perez, second baseman Jurickson Profar and possibly others all gone for the season, the Rangers are scrambling to find 25 healthy bodies.
They're probably not going to finish ahead of the A's in the American League West. They're probably not better than the Angels, either.
Big deal. At 23-24, the Rangers are a mere 1 1/2 games out in the AL Wild Card race. They have five teams to pass to grab one of the two berths. Again, big deal. They have 115 games to play. They have a winning culture and a strong farm system. They've lost nothing.
The Rangers are a case study in how an organization reacts to the toughest times. Here's betting we're reminded that they are a great franchise -- deep, resilient and talented.
Daniels has constructed a baseball operation built to last, an organization respected for its excellence. The Rangers have averaged 93 wins the last four seasons. All that success breeds organizational confidence.
Manager Ron Washington is a huge part of the equation. As the clubhouse has transitioned from Michael Young's team to Beltre's, as players have come and gone, Washington has been able to keep the group focused on a common goal.
The Rangers will continue to compete hard and be professional. This is the kind of thing that sounds hokey, but as new players arrive and as youngsters get their chance, a team can be dramatically transformed in a short period.
For core players like Beltre and Andrus, their relentless approach to preparation and professionalism is important. There's a dynamic in winning clubhouses. The collective ego of the group believes it can withstand any losses, because the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
That's crucial as the Rangers hand the ball to starting pitchers they never envisioned being in their 2014 plans, for instance, 23-year-old right-hander Nick Martinez. They figured he'd be one of the anchors of their rotation for a long time. They just never imagined they would be leaning on him in '14. And they've got a slew of other kids in their system -- Luke Jackson, Alec Asher and Alex Gonzalez -- who could end up being critical a year or two before they were scheduled to arrive.
Holland has to contribute in the second half of the season, and indications are that he will. Some of the kids must take advantage of their opportunity. From the beginning, Daniels built the Rangers to sustain success.
Seasons like this one can test an entire organization, and it'll be fascinating to see how the Rangers evolve. Don't be surprised if they end up in a better place than almost anyone thinks possible.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.