Texas Rangers Free Agent Possibility: Andy Dirks


The Texas Rangers currently carry four outfielders on their 40-man roster: Leonys Martin, Shin-Soo Choo, Michael Choice, and Jake Smolinkski, who combined for 2.6 fWar last year. An every-day starter is suppose to record around 2 fWAR per season, so this unit underperformed by at least 3.4 wins. In fairness, this group was weighed down by Michael Choice’s truly appalling -2.1 fWAR, but regardless, there is an obvious need. Martin will man center and Choo right, so that leaves only Smolinski as a viable left fielder on the 40-man roster. Considering the fact that Smolinski only recorded 86 at-bat’s last year, it would behoove the Rangers to at least find someone as a backup or competition.

Feb 23, 2014; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Andy Dirks (12) poses for a photo picture for at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Considering the price of an everyday player in free agency (~10-15 million dollars per year), and considering the lengthy contracts epidemic there (Melky Cabrera, an average left fielder, wants at a 5 year deal, for example), the Rangers should probably target a player looking for a rebound year. At worst, these players can be had for a league minimum contract and usually only cost a minor-league deal with a spring training invite.

Andy Dirks could be such a player.

First, though, is everything wrong with him:

1. He missed all of last season with injury.

2. His recovery from said injury has featured a number of setbacks.

3. He doesn’t have much power unless you count his 2012 season.

4. Honestly, he’s a less than average hitter, unless you count his 2012 season.

None of these factors can be overlooked. He has already been cast away from two clubs; the Tigers put him on waivers to get him off their 40-man roster and he was subsequently claimed by the Jays, who recently non-tendered him. While both of these instances were matters of convenience, neither of these teams must have had much confidence (understandably, considering he missed all of last season) in what he could provide this coming season.

Still, he’s a solid choice for a team looking for a cheap, decent-potential option in left field. Dirks, when healthy, played average defense in left field, which isn’t a huge accomplishment, since left-fielders tend to be slow power hitters, but is at least better than nothing.

2012 was a terrific season for Dirks, but it was an enormous outlier compared to his other two seasons. Dirks slugged .487 that year, which was a product mostly of his high batting average that year, a healthy .322. However, this Miguel Cabrera-like average was a mirage; the player affectionally known by Tigers fans as “the Neck” had a .365 batting average on balls put in play that year, well above his other two seasons, which have been below .300.

Dirks, in his non-2012 season, has posted an OPS+ in the high 80’s–87 in 2011 and 89

Sep 22, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Andy Dirks (12) hits a single in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

in 2013, which means that he is a below-average offensive player, all around. This may not be predictive He has never hit for much power other than in 2012, but he can at least draw a walk (8.7 BB%). His OPS+ was roughly the same in 2011 and 2013 because his drop in power offset his rise in walks, but this doesn’t necessarily mean anything for 2015.

His somewhat below average offense with his average left-field defense made him a 1.7 win player in 2013, which is probably his most representative season. 1.7 WAR is less than desirable for an everyday, long term player, but is perfectly acceptable upside for a minor league free agent contract.

With his relatively short and unfortunately brief career, it is difficult to assess exactly what Andy Dirks can be in 2015, since his career baselines are not fully developed. But, with the information available, Dirk’s upside is roughly what he posted in 2013, and his realistic production is probably less. Still, he is a better, and younger, bet than most left fielders on the market. Unless the Rangers splurge for Melky Cabrera or make a trade, they will likely have to mine from a field of flawed players to find the one decent. Dirks, though an injury risk, is the youngest, highest potential free agent left fielder the Rangers could gamble on.