Lofton fills center void for Rangers 

December, 11, 2006
Consider two players, both of whom play the same position.

Player A is 39 years old and just hit .322/.388/.445 in 65 road games. Player B is 32 years old and just hit .303/.347/.480 in 76 road games. Player B is a slightly better defensive player, but had never been much of a hitter before 2006.

Now, I'm cherry-picking stats to some degree, and we're working with small samples since I've taken out the players' home parks, but is there really that much of a difference between Player A (Kenny Lofton) and Player B (Gary Matthews Jr.)? Four extra years and $44 million of difference? I don't see it. It's not unreasonable to think that Lofton, with his superior ability to get on base, will outperform Matthews, who has more power but whose ability to hit for average is in question, over the next 150-odd games. Unless Lofton suddenly shows his age, he's going to perform at a level close enough to Matthews that he'll be a substantially better value, and unlike Matthews, he won't tie his team's payroll in knots for the next five years. Throw in the extra draft picks received for Matthews, and this is a good exchange for the Rangers.

Acquiring Lofton also gives the Rangers the potential to have five quality left-handed bats in their lineup against right-handed pitchers -- no small matter when both Oakland and the Angels of Wherever currently have five right-handers in their respective rotations. And while I'm not big on conspiracy theories, it would certainly appear that the Rangers are also gearing up to make a run next winter at one of the two marquee free agents on the market, Andruw Jones or (more likely) Texas native Vernon Wells.