Signed RHP Michael Kohn to a one-year deal. [10/16]
The first player Andrew Friedman signed to a big-league contract was Chad Harville. The first player Matthew Silverman signed to a big-league contract is Kohn, who became a free agent after refusing an outright assignment in September. There are similarities between the two: Both are hard-throwing right-handed relievers with career 1.4something strikeout-to-walk rates over a comparable workload. But let's not make this more than it is—plenty of general managers' first moves involved a raffle ticket arm.
And boy does Kohn have the potential to be a waste of money: His control problems just resulted in the highest walk rate (min. 20 innings) the league has seen since 2007. Expectantly, Kohn has good stuff—good enough that he was able to avoid bats and barrels and post a shiny ERA despite the walks. Odds are Jim Hickey will ask Kohn to minimize his leg kick in an effort to improve his balance, much like he did with Fernando Rodney and Josh Lueke in the past. Whether that tweak takes or not could be the difference between Kohn becoming ... well, the new Rodney or Lueke, which is to say a useful live-armed reliever or little more than waiver-wire bait (albeit, thankfully, without the criminal history).
Either way, Kohn doesn't have to do much to best Harville.
Introduced Jeff Banister as manager. [10/16]
Convention holds that when hiring a new manager, teams tend to hire the inverse of their previous skipper. The Rangers, although not in the same boat as those teams that canned their old captain, nonetheless stayed true to the theory.
Whereas Ron Washington drew ire for an antiquated approach to the game, Banister—formerly the Pirates bench coach—is open-minded about new-age strategies and metrics, much like Clint Hurdle. He's also smart enough to understand what players can and cannot use. As he explained to Evan Grant:
“Once we gathered numbers, it came back to ‘How do you translate it to players’?” Banister said. “The answer is you keep it simple. Take pitching inside. There is a cause and effect that takes place during the context of an at-bat. If you can show a guy what happens if you pitch inside to go to another spot, then you are showing them context.
“What you hoped to do was change performance based on that cause and effect and the information we had,” Banister added. “My job as a coach was to help the player become a better performer. The numbers were a tool that helped evaluate the performance.”
Given a disastrous 2014, the Rangers are unlikely to enter next season as divisional favorites. Don't expect Banister to worry too much about that—he has a knack for overcoming long odds. He defeated bone cancer and osteomyelitis, and recovered from a home-plate collision that left him temporarily paralyzed. His doctor told him that would be the end of his playing days, but Banister didn't listen. Instead he went on to be drafted by the Pirates, with whom he singled in his only big-league at-bat.
There's no questioning Banister's toughness or perseverance. Add in his intelligence and ability to relate to players, and the Rangers could have a solid manager on their hands.