The offseason is not yet over, pitchers and catchers are slowly getting ready to report to camp, and every baseball fan is waiting for one of the biggest unofficial national holiday, opening day.
With the Rangers having made so many moves, it’s hard to keep track of them all.
The Ranger’s biggest acquisition of the offseason has been Corey Kluber, and if he can stay healthy, he’ll lead a rotation that has added Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson to the back end of the rotation. Kluber was acquired in a trade for OF Delino Deshields and pitcher Emmanuel Clase, making the former 2-time Cy Young winner the likely ace of this revamped pitching rotation.
Lyles was signed to a 2 year $16 million deal in December, and Kyle Gibson signed a 3 year $28 million contract in December as well, making them the presumptive fourth and fifth starters for the Rangers. At the end of the day, general manager Jon Daniels addressed one of the weakest positions on the team by improving 60% of the rotation. Health will be the biggest issue for Kluber but is expected to be ready for spring training. The rest of the rotation with Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, Jordan Lyles, and Kyle Gibson have been in good health the past few seasons. This rotation will have the most potential since the teams of 2010 and 2011 when the team reached the World Series in back to back seasons.
Could they have a top 5 rotation in all of the MLB? You better believe it.
One of the bigger issues the Rangers came across this past season was the lack of available and consistent right-handed hitters. Elvis Andrus, Hunter Pence, and even Nick Solak in his short time in the major leagues were the strongest hitters from the right side of the plate.
Jon Daniels has already started to help the weakness by adding these notable players to the roster via free agency signings.
- 3B Todd Frazier
- UT Matt Duffy
- C Robinson Chirinos
All of these players are, you guessed it, right-handed hitters, that will balance this lineup out throughout the season. Todd Frazier and Robinson Chirinos are the most notable names that will make the biggest impact in the lineup. The Rangers had a tough time finding a consistent third baseman after Asdrubal Cabrera was designated for assignment, but even Cabrera wasn’t the long term answer for the team. The rumors spread and excitement commenced when Anthony Rendon and the Texas Rangers flirted with a long term contract to get the star corner infielder to Texas.
Obviously, the deal never came to fruition and Todd Frazier was the consolation prize. Frazier’s ability to play either first or third base can’t be discounted since we saw Ronald Guzman struggle last season.
Chirinos is a guy that made too much sense for the Rangers to reach out to. This season saw Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Jose Trevino, and Jeff Mathis man the catcher position, but did nothing but disappoint. Kiner-Falefa and Mathis struggled tremendously at the plate, hitting a combined .198 at the plate with a paltry .254 on-base percentage. Trevino showed the most promise after being called up to the majors in August. In his 31 games he started in 2019, the Rangers went 17-15 in that span while he hit .258 in 120 at-bats.
He still has a long way to go in his development, but with the addition of Chirinos, he can continue to learn from the long time veteran. Chirinos caught in Houston with multi-time CY Young winner Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, combining for 41 wins in the regular season. He may not be as spry as he once was, but Chirinos played in 112 as a catcher and finished in top 7 in the American League in defensive WAR (7th), putouts (2nd), and assists as a catcher (3rd), all per baseball-reference.
Matt Duffy has the potential to be one of the Ranger’s most valuable players coming into the 2020 season. Duffy mainly plays third base but is a utility infielder that plays second and shortstop as well. This sets up nicely if he indeed makes the major league roster, as he adds depth behind Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus, and Todd Frazier. When Frazier subs in for Guzman at first, Duffy would be the clear go-to at third base along with Isiah Kiner-Falefa as a utility. Duffy was signed to a minor league contract with the chance to earn $1 million if he earns a spot in the majors.
Trades, Trades, and More Trades
We already recapped the Corey Kluber trade that added the ace to the rotation, but what Jon Daniels also did was go out and strike deals that either made room for younger players or brought in new faces to help this team grow.
The first baseman and outfielder Sam Travis was acquired in exchange for Jeffrey Springs from the Red Sox. Travis was a former 2nd round pick in 2014, showing great strides in lower levels minor leagues with Boston. But when called upon in the majors, it seems as though the young prospect wasn’t able to continue his success. He hit just. .230 with just seven home runs over 3 seasons in the pros. The Rangers acquired him as a pure shot in the dark in hopes of Travis able to find a way to regain the form that had him drafted so high. The trade simply means the Rangers aren’t 100% sold on Ronald Guzman and that improvement is needed, whether it comes from Guzman himself or another player altogether. Travis’s ability to play infield or outfield is definitely a plus when it comes to a young player added as depth.
Thought of as a solid piece of the future for this organization, Nomar Mazara was traded to the White Sox in exchange for top prospect Steele Walker. Mazara had become somewhat stale, if you will, within the organization even though he was averaging 20 HR per season. His defense had become a liability and his consistency at the plate vs left-handed pitching made him an expendable piece with an abundance of left-handed outfielders on the team.
With Mazara, it just seemed as if he reached his ceiling with his development and the Rangers weren’t willing to spend top dollar for an average hitter that can’t make a positive impact in the outfield. Steele Walker isn’t MLB ready, which should tell you all you need to know about the Rangers and their thoughts on Nomar Mazara on a long term basis with the franchise.
Probably the least known move to casual fans is the addition of Adolis Garcia from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for cash considerations. He’s an outfielder, sure, but after the Rangers moved on from Mazara and Deshields, transactions were bound to happen in order to restock and regroup in the outfield. Garcia is a right-handed hitter that was excellent in AAA with Memphis in the Cardinal’s farm system. He hit 32 HR with 96 RBI in 132 games with the affiliate, posting a .253/.301/.517 slash line in the process. He has limited MLB experience with just 21 games and 17 at-bats under his belt, but in Arlington, he may get a chance to shine with newly vacant outfield positions if he takes advantage of the opportunity.
What Can Still Happen?
The offseason is far from over, and if the Ranger’s front office has proven anything this year, it’s that they are not afraid to look into trades or free agents up until the very end. Several names are still on the free-agent and trade market right now, and the Rangers have several needs that these players could fill.
Let’s take a look at some available free agents first.
- Kevin Pillar – CF
- Yasiel Puig – RF
- Billy Hamilton – CF
All three players are outfielders, but right now the Rangers have only two legitimate everyday starters in the outfield with Joey Gallo and Danny Santana, who both avoided arbitration this offseason by signing deals with the club. Santana will likely be the starting center fielder with Deshields gone, and Gallo would continue to man left field in his regular fashion, occasionally spotting at DH on rest days if needed. Pillar, Puig, and Hamilton are all players with different skill sets that could equally help this team, depending on the Ranger’s preference.
Pillar and Puig have plenty of experience that includes the playoffs, and they offer great defensive skills along with prowess at the plate. Since 2015, Pillar has 37 outfield assists and over 98% fielding rate defensively, which would be an immediate upgrade in this outfield in Arlington. Pillar’s speed is his biggest attribute defensively, helping him create highlight after highlight in the outfield. Puig has been known for his cannon arm defensively along with his power at the plate. Puig burst onto the scene with the Dodgers in 2013 and played through 2018 with the club before hitting free agency and splitting time between Cincinnati and Cleveland in 2019.
A free agent once again, Puig offers power and consistency at the plate. A career .277 hitter at the plate, Puig had a career-high in RBI and stolen bases in 2019 (19), but also 133 strikeouts. There’s good and bad with Puig, as he has had off-field issues as well, but at 29 years old, the Rangers could strike a deal with the star if the price is right.
Billy Hamilton is a player that won’t excite many people as he lacks the power in a home run driven league, but his speed on the bases is what helped him stay in the big leagues. He had four straight seasons with over 56 steals before “falling off” in 2018 with 34 steals and then 22 in 2019. Defensively, he’s very good all-around using his speed to make the plays, similar to Kevin Pillar.
In seven seasons or 777 career regular-season games, Hamilton has committed just 10 defensive errors while posting a career 99.5% fielding percent, which is unreal for any player. Hamilton would help defensively and on the base paths more than at the plate but would help nonetheless if the Rangers decide to give him a shot.
This offseason isn’t over, but even if the Rangers stayed pat and rolled into spring training with the roster as is, this has been a successful offseason for Jon Daniels and the front office.
The rotation has improved, the lineup has improved, and overall, the entire team has improved. The season will be here before you know it, and this team will be ready to be put to the test.