BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The calendar has moved into February and there is still little movement with the big name free agents available this winter. It was generally thought that once the signings began, it would be a flood gate opening. Lorenzo Cain became the first big name star to sign a deal – five years with Milwaukee. That didn’t set off signings of big name players, but this weekend, Yu Darvish, perhaps the top free agent pitcher signed with the Cubs. Hopefully that will set in motion more pitching signings.

Darvish endeed up getting $126 million guaranteed for six years. There are incentives that are not likely to be accomplished that could bring the total over the $150 million mark. He also has the right to opt out after two years. Apparently, the Rangers kept in touch with the Darvish camp, but were never serious contenders to re-sign him.

There has been some saber rattling in the last two weeks by players and agents in response to the slow moving free agent market. Boycots have been threatened. Colusion has been charged. Free agents are angry over not getting the contract offers they feel they deserve. The bottom line is that the market place has likely changed. The statistics that have been so beneficial in putting forth the players’ accomplishments may now be working against them There are stats now that indicate long term deals with free agents older than 31 have not been beneficial to teams.

So for now, the impasse stays, but there is hope that signings start moving. There are so many unsigned free agents that the players association has set up a spring training camp in Florida so that the free agents can get in shape for the season. It’s even thought that some may not be signed by the time the season begins.

Many teams have chosen to make trades instead of chase free agents. The Astros for one made such a trade for starting pitcher Gerrit Cole. It’s still somewhat surprising that the Rangers have not made an impactful trade. They have a surplus of left-handed hitters with power. Coming back from last year’s team are Nomar Mazara, Joey Gallo, Rougned Odor and Shin-Soo Choo. Willie Calhoun was the best prospect the team received when they traded Darvish to the Dodgers. One of their top minor league prospects is Ronald Guzman. All are left-handed batters with power. Undoubtredly, Texas tried to move Choo, but his contract with $63 million left for three years proved to be an impediment.

Spring training camps open this week. The Rangers are ready. The equipment truck loaded with equipment for spring training has arrived in Arizona. The Rangers’ Surprise, Arizona faciltiy is ready for players to report.

Ranger Notes:

Texas has apparently signed reliever Seung Hwan Oh to a one year contract with a club option for a second year. Oh is from South Korea and is 35. He has pitched 13 seasons of professional baseall in three countries. His MLB experience has been with St. Louis over the past two seasons. He has a 7-9 record with 39 saves in the Major Leagues. He likely is the leading candidate to be the Rangers’ closer this season.

His signing has not officially been announced by the club. It is expected to be announced shortly after the date that teams are first allowed to place players on the 60-day disabled list and create openings on the 40-man roster.

Jeff Banister indicated to reporters this week that Joey Gallo would be the team’s first baseman. Gallo saw action at first, third and the outfield last year. He has indicated he prefers first base, and it is believed that he will play better both offensively and defensively if he sticks to one position.

Baseball America published their list of the top 100 minor league prospects. The Rangers landed two – Of Willie Calhoun at 36 and OF Leody Taveras at 51.

There is some thought being given to artificial grass at the new ball park. Nothing’s been decided, but it is a consideration. HMMMMM!

The Rangers signed Bartolo Colon to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Colon has pitched for 11 Major League teams with a career record of 244-176. He will turn 45 next May.

The Rangers also signed Trevor Plouffe this week. The 31 year-old infielder is signed to a minor league contract and will make $1.7 million if he makes the team. He was the MInnesota Twins first round draft pick in 2004. He has played eight seasons in the Majors with a career .242 batting average, 105 home runs and 376 RBIs.

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