Only Negative Signal is No Signal At All

Nolan Ryan said last week that he didn't anticipate the Rangers signing either Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder as a free agent this offseason.

That's been the only real signal from the Rangers about their plans for the offseason at this point as we've otherwise been in waiting mode since the end of the World Series. We got another flare from the front office late last week when assistant general manager Thad Levine did a radio interview, helpfully transcribed by the Dallas Morning News, about the team's offseason outlook.

One of the questions, naturally, was about whether or not the team was going to be in the market for a big-ticket free agent. Levine did not deviate from Ryan's assessment of the outlook. He said that because they won't have a roster "that is drastically different from last year, so we don’t feel as if we need to give it a major face lift."

It's hard to argue with that line of thinking. The Rangers certainly don't need to overhaul their roster this offseason in order to remain at the top of the heap in the American League. Something else that Levine said about why they wouldn't go after players like Pujols or Fielder makes a little less sense, however. 

"Honest to God, I think to us, that would probably be negative signaling. Because we view that we were right there, ready to win this."

It's all well and good to say that you don't feel the team has to make a big signing in order to win next year. To say that making such a signing would send a negative message is ridiculous. Presumably you'd be making a deal because you thought it gave your team a better chance to become World Series champions, which is the same reason you would make any move in any offseason.

How is that a negative signal? And to whom would it be negative?

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It can't be the fans. There's not much chance that adding a player like Pujols would have Rangers fans jumping off the bandwagon in droves. So it would have to be a message to the team and that's pretty worrisome.

If the message is negative because they want to give the team another chance to get past Game Six, that just encourages constant thinking about what happened in that game. If the message is negative because it might let players know that they can be replaced at any moment, well, that's life in the big leagues.

There weren't any such worries when the Rangers went out and signed Adrian Beltre last offseason and you can make a pretty strong argument that the team's upgrade from Michael Young was less than it would be if they swapped Mitch Moreland for one of the two big free agents. Teams have to keep working to get better or they will almost certainly get worse, something that's been proven time and time again over the course of baseball history.

Whatever way the Rangers choose to do that is up to them, but closing off any path because of "negative signaling" is inane. The only negative signal you can send is to doing nothing because you've become complacent about your place after two good seasons that ended just short of the World Series.

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