With 2020 coming to a close, the Rangers begin the offseason with a stated plan of action.
The team will cut payroll while rebuilding a team with no assurances of a stable revenue stream.
COVID-19 has many around the league, not yet committed to spending money. This could make for an interesting free agency period. There is a consensus that the top 3 free agents are George Springer, Trevor Bauer, and J.T. Realmuto (not particularly in that order).
While Springer and Bauer would be fantastic additions, the price is almost certainly above what the Rangers would consider spending.
So, what should they do?
Being a very unsuccessful “Armchair GM”, I figured why not get to work on what I might do.
First of all, the most talented long term talent will most likely come via trade. I haven’t given much thought as to who I would look into yet. But there are free agents who might be affordable and serve a purpose. The problem with free agents for a rebuilding team is that they are usually already a little long in the tooth. This means they may not be around when the team actually contends. So any player over the age of 32 except in certain situations, is not anything I am really interested in.
I am interested, however, in players who might come in here on a two or three-year low-cost deal. Players who have had success, but for whatever reason their value may be down enough to make them affordable. If they were to play themselves into value, they could then be flipped or extended. A winning team will always have players who are in their mid to late 30’s. This also allows for younger prospects to start out in the minor leagues and get at-bats, which a lot of them missed out on in 2020.
Although I am very high on Anderson Tejeda, Sam Huff and Sherton Apostel, they may need to start out in Frisco or Nashville. The same is true for names like Josh Jung, Tyler Phillips and Justin Foscue. All may be on the verge to make their major league debuts, but they need at-bats and consistent innings against other teams.
I have assembled 7 names the Rangers should be involved with.
The top six are in the order I would pursue, with the seventh being a wild card that doesn’t fit my criteria but might be worth it.
1) Ha-Seong Kim // INF
The Korean SS is only 25 years old and can also play 3B and 2B. He has been one of the better hitters in Korea’s major league for several years now, ranking seventh in OBP and 11th in slugging percentage in 2020 (as of Oct. 18). He has played shortstop and third in 2020, but some scouts think he could be a good second baseman also. He does have some pop. He has hit 30 HR’s in 2020 and 130 since 2015, with a batting average of .296 over those six years.
Seeing how second base is a big need for the Rangers, this could fill that void right away. He isn’t likely to put up the numbers he has in Korea. But if he can hit .260 with 15-20 HR’s and OPS of around .800, he is a huge upgrade. Plus he shouldn’t be too expensive and is young enough to hang around for the long term.
2) Taijuan Walker // RHP
2020 was a comeback year for Walker. He started 11 games for the Mariners. He’s a back-end starter now but has some upside potential to be a league-average guy if his control ticks up or he uses the curveball more often or he regains a little velocity with more time away from TJ surgery. His numbers in 2020 were not bad. He was 4-3 with a 2.70 ERA. He might be available on a two or three year deal similar to Minor, Lynn or Gibson but less money per year; plus he is only 28 years old
Whether he is a long term solution or trade commodity, Arlington could be a nice fit. He also keeps younger starters from having to be pressed into service before they are ready.
3) Marcell Ozuna // OF/DH
Ozuna might command more than the Rangers want to spend. Atlanta capitalized on his one year deal for $18 million. Ozuna had the best season of his career. He hit .338 with 18 HRs and an OPS of 1.067 in a 60 game shortened season. The Rangers need a good power bat and solid DH. He is about to turn 30 and a 5-year deal shouldn’t be out of the question. His bat protecting Gallo could be huge for him and the team who lacked a good power bat.
He improved his walk rate and power from 2019. That should give the Rangers more confidence that he can be a high-walk, high-power guy who has value even if his batting average goes down some. Plus, if the Rangers don’t show any signs of competing in 2022 or 2023, he could easily be moved in a deadline deal.
4) Kolton Wong // 2B
Should the Rangers not get Kim from Korea, you have to wonder about this possibility for second base. The Cardinals declined his S12.5 million dollar option for 2021 to cut payroll. This could be good for a team in need of a second baseman. (Know anyone?) He is a high contact hitter without much power. His downside is that he might require a 4 or 5-year deal, but he is an above-average second baseman who has been in the major leagues for 8 years.
Should the market turn into a buyers market, he is someone who might fit nicely. He would slide into second base opening day and give the Rangers a neat trivia question. What major league team has two starting infielders from Hawaii? Yep, he and Isiah Kiner-Falefa are both from there.
5) Jurickson Profar // INF/OF
Yes, you are reading that right. Why not bring back Jurickson Profar? He had his best season as a big leaguer in 2020. He has very good bat control and doesn’t swing and miss much. He can play every infield position and is an above-average left fielder. In my scenario, he is a first or third baseman. He switches hits and is only 27 years old. He wouldn’t be all that expensive. Plus I think it would be sweet revenge to have him replace Rougned Odor on the roster. (The guy who made him expendable)
The question is whether or not Profar would want to return to Texas. He wasn’t pleased with his last couple of years here. He didn’t have a set position. The Rangers had him penciled in to start 2019 as the everyday third baseman, but he was traded to Oakland before that happened. He didn’t live up to his number 1 overall prospect status, but he is a good baseball player.
6) Chris Archer // RHP
Archer missed the entire 2020 season after surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. The Rangers have coveted Archer for years. When healthy he is a legit ace. The one thing JD has been able to do is pick up a pitcher on a short cheap deal. Think Mike Minor, Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson. Knowing that the Rangers are in rebuild mode, Archer could return to form and be a valuable asset for a contending team. Even if he doesn’t bring an organizations top talent, he would bring talent. That is called flipping a player. Archer is barely 32 and could have a lot stuff left in that arm.
Now for the Wildcard…
7) Corey Kluber // RHP
Most expect the Rangers to buyout Kluber for $1 million dollars instead of the $18 million owed. That doesn’t mean that he can’t be signed at a cheaper rate. Again, I revert back to Lynn, Minor, or Gibson. When healthy, Kluber was a two time Cy Young award winner. The X factor is he is from the metroplex. He grew up in Coppell and was a Ranger fan as a kid. Whether that translates into a hometown discount is the question.
In most cases, money talks, but Kluber is 35 and might consider staying here on a short deal. He has been injured for the last two seasons, so signing him would be a risk. But if the money is right, why not? You can certainly flip him to a contender should he return to form.
Featured Image: Bruce Kluckhohn/AP