Ten days until Rangers’ pitchers and catchers report to spring training and the hot stove is, well, kind of tepid.
With the economy in a slump, more and more clubs are employing a reticent stance with respect to free agency. An emphasis on the development of young talent has resulted in droves of free agents, standing on the precipice of employment, waiting for an offer that may not be coming.
The signing of veteran reliever Eddie Guardado on Tuesday illustrates this phenomenon: The 38 year-old had no serious offers outside of the Rangers’. As of a few days ago, he was merely one of many veterans speaking with teams and getting nowhere in the morass that is the free agent market.
While Guardado comes at a bargain ($1 million base salary), equally important is his status as a non-roster invitee. As such, the club has a spot left on the current 40-man roster, an important caveat after the loss of starter Eric Hurley last week. General manager Jon Daniels has emphasized the need for depth of starting pitching since then, and this need will likely be addressed (somewhat) when the spot is filled.
Ben Sheets and Jason Jennings seem to be the most likely candidates to step into the picture, though there has been little in the way of visible progress in talks with either. In a story on the Brewers’ team Web site, general manager Doug Melvin is cited as saying that he will not close the door on Sheets, though, like the Rangers (and seemingly every other team in the league), the club is hesitant to sign the 30 year-old to a multi-year contract. The market is simply a different beast than it was a few years ago.
So who will fill the vacant roster spot? It’s really anyone’s guess at this point. Whoever it is, it will likely take some timely acquiescence on their part. Indeed, spring training is fast approaching, and a great deal of free agents, possibly more than any other time in history, will have to decide between acquiescence and unemployment.