Are Bad Contracts Weighing the Rangers Down?

Every Major League Baseball team takes on contracts over the course of the season to try to maximize their team’s return not just for the current season, but for the years to come. Sometimes those moves are successful, and sometimes they aren’t. Unfortunately for North Texas baseball fans, the Rangers have been on the unsuccessful end of their past trade moves and have since been forced into some bad contracts.

What makes a contract a poor one? You decide that based on rate of return. To do that, you look at your success and try to figure out how much money it took to get there. So in sports, you take how much money you are spending each season, and factor in your success on your field of play. In short, how much money are you spending per win on the players in the organization.

Currently, the Rangers have the eighth highest payroll in Major League Basesball at $132 million. The only team in their division with a higher payroll, the Los Angeles Angels, has a payroll at just above $146 million. Seattle’s payroll is tenth in the league at $123 million, Oakland’s is 23rd in the league at $88 million, and the AL West leaders from Houston have a payroll of $69 million.

Looking strictly at players that are healthy but have not lived up to their billing as a Ranger, Shin-Soo Choo is the first player that comes to mind.  As a Ranger, he’s played in 144 games and has a batting average of .229 with 153 strikeouts and only 49 RBI’s. The 32 year-old outfielder currently has the fourth highest contract of the active players for Texas at $14 million and is due $130 million over his seven years with the Rangers (signed through 2020). His defense hasn’t been much better. In 2014, his defensive runs saved was -13 and was -32 in total fielding runs per 1,200 innings (approx. 135 games). He currently costs too much to cut or trade, and he currently isn’t hitting or fielding well enough to be a profile trade player. To trade him, the Rangers would have to include him in a trade with another high profile player.

Before I discuss the next player on my list, I want to iterate that his contract as a whole is bad. His contract for the Rangers is at $7 million, but his former team is eating almost all of his contract per the trade agreement. Josh Hamilton‘s current contract (earned largely on his first stint in a Rangers uniform) is one of the worst contracts in the recent past in sports. In five years with the Texas Rangers from 2008-2012, Hamilton hit .305 with over 300 extra base hits (142 home runs). After his contract expired in 2012, he signed a new contract with the Los Angeles Angels for 5 years/$114 million. As an Angel, his batting average dropped 50 points, his home runs per year was cut from 28.4 average to 16 per year, and his strikeouts went from 111 average per year to 133. He made $34 million in his two full years in LA, and is due to make $25 million in 2015, and $28 million in the final two years of his current contract. AGAIN, the Rangers are only taking on a minimal amount of the contract from LA, but that doesn’t make the contract any better.

Prince Fielder is the highest paid player in the Texas Rangers organization this season at $24 million. His contract, originally agreed to by the Detroit Tigers when he left Milwaukee, goes through 2020 and he is due $214 million over the contract (plus incentives). Since making the jump from the National League, his home runs per year has plummeted (even while being protected by Miguel Cabrera). In two years as a Tiger, his strikeouts have gone up (from 111 avg/per year to 118 avg/per year). The Rangers took on his contract expecting him to hit for a ton of power into the “jetstream” in Arlington, but in 68 games with the Rangers, he has hit a total of 5 home runs and 29 RBI. His hitting is up in 2015 at .350, and his RBIs are also up to 13, but the power numbers are still not where the fans will want them to be.

You also have to factor in players that are being paid, but are not contributing due to injury. The biggest injuries that the Rangers are facing belong to three of the most important players in their franchise, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, and Jurickson Profar. Darvish, who missed  the last month of the 2014 season and will miss all of the 2015 season after TJ surgery, is making $20 million between the 2014 and 15 seasons. Holland (a player Texas hopes will soon return) missed all but the last month of the season in 2014, and has missed all but one start of the 2015 season thus far (1 inning vs. Houston), has made over $13 million from the Rangers despite minimal playing time due to injury.

Profar, a young player that was once heralded as the best MLB prospect (2012), has played 72 games for the Rangers since his call up in 2012. He is very young and has barely exceeded rookie standards, so he is still restricted, and also comes very cheap, but in the last two season’s for the Rangers, he will have made just over $1 million even though he has played a very minimal role on the field. From these three contracts, the Rangers have tied up about $34 million dollars into players that are not currently contributing to the product on the field.

The Opening Day payroll of the Texas Rangers was $136 million in 2014, but the team only reached 67 wins. With these two numbers in mind (to the best that we can see), the Rangers will have paid about $2.02 million per win last year. To put in perspective, the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants (88-74) had an Opening Day Payroll of $154 million, and paid $1.75 million per win. The Angels paid $1.58 million per win, Seattle spent $1.05 million per win, Oakland spent $947,000, and the Houston Astros spent the least with $636,000 invested per win. Yet all of these teams finished ahead of the Rangers.

*Figures based on Opening Day Rosters. Not to be taken as official spending by team throughout the season.

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