Rangers Off Season and Winter Meetings
Writer: Aaron Hendon
With arguably the most important time of any MLB offseason upon us, I’d like to move the focus over to the Texas Rangers, specially on what I would do this offseason if I was Jon Daniels. It’s been exactly 39 days since our hated rival, the Houston Astros, took home their first commissioner's trophy, and that doesn’t sit well with many Ranges fans. Yes, having 5 playoff appearances, including 4 AL West division titles and two trips to the World Series, looks nice, but having all of that success and not being able to bring home the ultimate prize is very discouraging. Not to mention when you look around at the upcoming opponents they’ll face in attempt to go back for another crack at the Fall Classic, these teams aren’t getting old anytime soon. If the Rangers want to compete in a league that is younger and filled with more star-power than ever, some minor tweaking to their roster and philosophies will need to happen, but it seems they’re headed in the right direction.
The Starting Rotation:
Early into the 2017 offseason, the Rangers have been one of the more active teams after inking Doug Fister to a 1 year deal and Mike Minor a week later to a 2 year deal. Not to mention their relentless push to sign Japanese star Shohei Otani. The Rangers were 1 of 7 teams that made the final cut and were able to meet with him this past week. However, like five other teams, fell just short after he signed with the Angels Friday afternoon. Where do they look to next? Missing out on my favorite free agent, former Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood, there are still some viable starters on the free agent market like Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Texas native, Jake Arrieta, and former Ranger, Yu Darvish. Unsure of who exactly the Rangers will sign, myself being the general manager that I am, I like Cobb the most. Playing in one of the more hitter-heavy divisions in the American league, Cobb came off his Tommy John injury by posting a 3.66 ERA in 179.1 innings in 2017. Over his career when he’s started at least 22 games, his ERA is 3.33 while averaging 129 strikeouts per year. Over their careers, Darvish and Lynn have been more consistent, but Cobb has had his fair share of success, plus he’ll be the be bargain out of the 4 other free agent pitchers. From my understanding, the Rangers are still going to put together a 6-man rotation. However, a rotation of Cole Hamels, Alex Cobb, Martin Perez, Mike Minor, and Doug Fister is a solid 5 to roll with if they are unable to find another viable arm.
Regardless of how underwhelming 2017 was, the bullpen is a solid group with a good core. Last year, they brought back the majority of the bullpen from the 2016 team whose bullpen ranked 6th in ERA. Cemented with a quality back end reliever of Sam Dyson, who closed 38 games and appeared in 73 games while holding opponents to a .244 batting average, and surprising setup man Matt Bush, the 30 year old rookie who pitched surprisingly well in 58 games with a 2.49 ERA. Flash forward to 2017 and nobody would have guessed Dyson would blow 3 saves in the first month of the season and eventually be traded to the Giants. Sliding Matt Bush into the closing roll, he was decent, only blowing 5 saves in 15 opportunities. Getting straight to the point, the strong point of the bullpen of 2016 was no longer existent in 2017, which led to inconsistency from day 1. Not to mention your best lefty reliever missed the majority of the season with a colon issue. Just like that, 3 of the top relievers from just half a year ago are already up in the air. This off-season, there is quite a few legit arms available. The top ones being: former Cub, Wade Davis, who blew just 1 save in all of 2017, and Brandon Kintzler, from the Nats. Unsure of how the market will end up, and being that none of these back end relievers have signed yet, you can bet they’ll be a bit pricy just because of how valuable they can or will be. Needless to say, The Rangers will get someone to fill the role Dyson was able to lock in 2016.
The Starting Nine:
The more interesting of the other 2 needs, will be who hits and plays where for Jeff Bannister in 2018. With many coming and going, on top of other players in free agency and in the minor leagues, I’m curious to see how Jon Daniels will get creative to fill a lineup that while hit a ton of home runs, struggles to score if they didn’t hit the ball out of the yard. The Rangers in 2017 ranked 26th in team batting average (.244), 18th in OBP (.320), and struck out the 4th most in all of baseball. Yikes. They have several holes, but they can fill these holes properly to set them up for the future by getting young talented players and giving them immediate experience. The Rangers play the defending World Series Champs, The Houston Astros on March 29th in Arlington, and could very well run out 5 of 9 starting players that are under the age of 25. Just like that they are one of the younger teams in the league, while maintaining a few veteran players to provide that salty presence every team needs. If this is the case, expect growing pains, it's inevitable with young guys. We saw how frustrating it was to watch Rougned Odor last year, remember, HE’S ONLY 23. Same with Gallo, all you can hope is they develop, at one time they were prospects and that’s all you can ever hope from them is that they develop and adjust to the game as it adjusts back, it's baseball folks. What I have chalked up as of now, barring any free agent signings looks like this:
1. Delino DeShields CF, L
2. Elvis Andrus SS, R
3. Nomar Mazara RF, L
4. Adrian Beltre 3B, R
5. Joey Gallo DH, L
6. Rougned Odor 2B, L
7. Robinson Chirinos, C, R
8. Ronald Guzman 1B, L
9. Willie Calhoun LF, L
Some notes about the lineup: No Choo. Jeff Banister is one of the better coaches in getting creative with his roster, he uses his bench players well and is able to get his guys the rest they need throughout a full season. 2018 will be no different as he will rotate Choo and Beltre in order keep their legs fresh. Mazara and Gallo are more than capable of filling those spots when needed. Also the lineup is left hand dominant which isn’t great. You would like a little more balance, but it's not going to make or break the offense, especially when you have bench guys like Ryan Rua, Jurickson Profar, Will Middlebrooks, or Drew Robinson, to pinch hit, or spell somebody when they need a rest day or just if Bannister likes the matchup that night.
This team won’t win a World Series, they won’t win the division; however, they could surprise a few and compete for a wild card spot. There is talent, but this team is a year or so away from the young guys taking off and really flourishing at the big league level. The team would be relatively cheap and would be fun to see how the young core would do together with a full season. Will this be the opening day lineup? No, but if I was Jon Daniels, that’s how I would do it.