Heading into the new stadium, 2020 is a critical year for Jon Daniels and the front office.
Most understand that Texas is still not at a level to compete for a World Series. However, the Rangers should be in this wildcard hunt heading into September. Another year of being eliminated by August and ownership will have to take a long hard look at upper management. Only a significant number of injuries could be the excuse that gives the front office cover in another bad year.
There are a lot of ways the Rangers could go. The primary needs are simple. Texas needs to bolster the rotation by either adding one or two starters through free agency or trade. They need an everyday third baseman who is preferably a right-handed hitter. They also need a lineup with fewer strikeouts. That means better play or upgrades at second base, first base, and catcher.
I think everyone is on the Gerrit Cole bandwagon. (So am I) Cole is the prize of free agency. His playoff performances against Tampa Bay make him even more attractive to a contender. There are pros and cons to signing Cole. Pro: Gerrit Cole along with Lance Lynn and Mike Minor is a rotation that would match any other in baseball. When your starting rotation is yielding less than 3.5 runs a game, you should be winning a lot of games. The Rangers averaged scoring 5 runs a game in 2019. I am not good at math, but those numbers seem to favor Texas. Con: The amount of money it would take to sign Cole would be huge. He is a Los Angeles guy who grew up an Angels fan. He also pitched at UCLA. Art Moreno is never afraid to open up his checkbook and getting Cole is probably a top priority. Don’t be surprised if the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Astros get in on the bidding.
DSN Gerrit Cole contract prediction: 6 years $210-230 million
Aside from Gerrit Cole, this is actually a pretty good free-agent class. No other free agents compare to Cole. If Strasburg or Darvish opt-out of their current deals, there are a number of good arms available that would complement Minor and Lynn. Obvious names are Cole Hamels, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dallas Keuchel or Jake Odorizzi. One has to wonder if the price of Gerrit Cole couldn’t possibly net you two of those names. What if the Rangers could add Zack Wheeler and Cole Hamels to Mike Minor and Lance Lynn? What about Yu Darvish and Madison Bumgarner? Jake Odorizzi and Dallas Keuchel? Any of those scenarios leave you Joe Palumbo, Kolby Allard and Brock Burke competing for that fifth spot. (The spot that can be skipped on occasion for a guy not ready for 180 to 200 innings)
There were a lot of names bantered about during the trade deadline for 2019. Could there be an opportunity for some of those names to pop back up this offseason? With Texas to sign at least one of the better free-agent starting pitchers, maybe trade for another could be the answer. Matthew Boyd of Detroit was dangled before the trade deadline. His price was too high for anyone contending. You have to think that his stock has gone down after a poor second half of the season. How about Robby Ray? What if Strasburg or Darvish don’t opt out but are put on the block? Maybe there is a starting pitcher who we aren’t even aware of is on the market that the Rangers go get.
My gut tells me no matter what, this rotation will get a much-needed boost this winter. If the Rangers were to get Gerrit Cole, I would expect some reclamation projects for depth. They need two starting pitchers to go along with the three young left-handers in the stable. But the price of Cole would make that second veteran a cheap alternative.
Like Cole, Anthony Rendon seems to be on everyone’s wish list. While Rendon is the best position player out there, he would come at a huge price. The Rangers have a couple of the third baseman coming up that seem poised to take over the hot corner. Josh Jung and Sheraton Apostel made huge improvements, but haven’t played above High A. So maybe a stop-gap player is the answer. That has lead to a lot of speculation about Josh Donaldson. Donaldson will be 34 heading into 2020. But a two-year deal could be all that Texas needs. Donaldson could also DH to keep his legs fresh.
More importantly, he is right-handed. There is also some talk about Nick Solak being given a chance to play over there every day. That is the cheapest solution if Solak can take a huge step forward defensively. The only thing preventing Texas from giving him the job is that he hasn’t played there a lot. Trade could be another way to go. The only big name is Kris Bryant. I imagine that trading for Bryant would be too steep for the Rangers to pull off. I doubt Chicago would take anything less than Gallo as the starting point. Maybe a deal with Jung involved could get it done. I imagine the Cubs would also want a lot of their young talented pitching. The Rangers aren’t likely to do that right now.
Second base, first base, catcher
You have to combine all of these positions since there are already players on the roster for each one. Most agree that if these players don’t improve then upgrades this offseason could be something considered.
The most polarizing player is Rougned Odor at second base. Although he leads the Rangers in RBI’s and HR’s, he only hit .205. For the money, he is making this is not acceptable. The problem is figuring out who to replace him with. Solak has been mentioned. However, he may be better suited for third base. Let’s be honest. If Odor were to raise his average and OBP about 40 points, he would be a gold glove second baseman.
Danny Santana is another option, though he seems destined to enter 2020 as the starting centerfielder. Who is available in free agency? Eric Sogard and Brian Dozier are interesting names. Plus they are right handed. The Rangers would not look for an upgrade through a free agency unless Odor was no longer on the roster. I wouldn’t bet money on a new second baseman next year.
Ronald Guzman has also heard some jeers from the Rangers faithful. He was thought to be the long term answer at first base. Guzman found himself playing in Nashville this year after a late-season demotion. He returned a better player. But some think an upgrade is needed. Joey Gallo has been mentioned as moving back, but the Rangers see him as an all-star outfielder. There are some interesting names via free agency. Would Texas consider bringing back Mitch Moreland? What about Jose Abreu? Abreu would add another right-handed bat to the lineup. This would all depend on what pitching is signed. There is only so much money to go around.
Jose Trevino is the most interesting name to me. He may have solidified his place as the new starting catcher after a late-season promotion. With Isaiah Kiner-Falefa being moved back to the infield, catching was thin at the big league level. Jeff Mathis was signed to be a backup catcher and teacher to Kiner-Falefa. He ended up catching the most games he has caught since 2011 with 86 appearances. If Trevino becomes the starter then Mathis will see that number decrease tremendously.
The question remains; Is there is a better choice than Trevino?
The best name out there is Yasmani Grandal. That’s if he elects free agency. Robinson Chirinos will be a free agent. But he is as old as Jeff Mathis. Sam Huff is the best minor league option. Huff hasn’t played above High A yet. The only other way to upgrade is through trade. The question is who is available. Would the Dodgers consider moving Will Smith or Keibert Ruiz? Both are young and one is expendable. Ruiz is a top prospect and would require a lot in return.
All of these ideas lead to what should be an interesting offseason. I for one will keep my ears open and report what I hear.
One thing is for sure: The Texas Rangers will be much improved, (on paper) heading into the new stadium and 2020 season.
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