MLB Offseason Preview: Texas Rangersby Andersen Pickard November 30, 2021 0 comments
The offseason is still one month young, but it’s been a thriller for the Texas Rangers. The organization has handed out $561.2 million in contracts since Sunday evening, putting pen to paper with shortstop Corey Seager, second baseman Marcus Semien, outfielder Kole Calhoun, and pitcher Jon Gray. It’s a truly fascinating development for an organization that traded Joey Gallo, Kyle Gibson, and Ian Kennedy at the trade deadline before finishing 60-102 in 2021.
It was no secret that the Rangers were willing to add $100 million-plus to their 2021 payroll (they’ve added $76.7 million so far), but the successive manner in which the deals have been reached remains jaw-dropping. There were clear needs for the team all-around, especially at third base, second base, shortstop, the starting rotation, and the bullpen. Initial speculation suggested that Texas would seek younger players, and if they did look for a veteran, it would come on a short-term deal. These theories were gashed, though, as the Rangers signed Semien through his age-38 season. Seager’s deal won’t expire until he’s 37 years old.
Keys to the Offseason
We can talk all day about the crazy last 48 hours for the Rangers, but they’re still not done. The franchise still has more than $23 million to go before it reaches its $100 million payroll, and voids remain on the roster.
Add more arms to the rotation
Adding Gray to the starting rotation is impactful, but he can’t carry the load by himself. With both Jordan Lyles and Mike Foltynewicz hitting free agency, the current depth chart beyond Gray features reliever-turned-stater Taylor Hearn, the inexperienced but effective A.J. Alexy, and struggling ex-prospects Dane Dunning and Spencer Howard. The Rangers clearly want to compete very soon, but that can’t happen without a further fortified group of hurlers.
Strengthen the bullpen
No team can succeed without a good bullpen. While all 30 clubs are looking for relief pitching help, Texas remains one of the neediest teams in this department due to their sudden shift from rebuild to contention (or whatever word describes this massive swing of the pendulum). Texas traded away Joely Rodriguez and Ian Kennedy at the deadline, leaving a significant void in the bullpen.
Strengthen the third-base position
This isn’t imperative, but it would certainly be nice. The Rangers have questions at third base right now. Josh Jung isn’t ready to make his MLB debut while shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa could shift to third base but would likely fetch a solid haul in the trade market. Texas should look into trading Kiner-Falefa and then signing an average third-baseman to a one- or two-year deal, giving Jung the time he needs to develop in the upper levels of the minors.
Clayton Kershaw, 33, Starting Pitcher
One of the best pitchers over the last decade-plus, Kershaw is an intriguing fit considering he was born and raised in Dallas, Tex., just minutes from the Ranges’ home stadium in Arlington. The former first-round pick has been a Dodger for his whole career, and while Los Angeles could push extra hard to re-sign him after losing Seager and Max Scherzer, the pull of playing in his hometown could be too strong for Kershaw to ignore. The dominant southpaw went 10-8 with a 3.55 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and .224 OBA in 2021.
Hansel Robles, 31, Relief Pitcher
The Rangers have already found their next closer in Joe Barlow, but they could still use a late-innings arm. Robles offers just that. The right-hander threw 69 innings over 72 games with the Twins and Red Sox last season, posting a 4.43 ERA and .320 xwOBA. The seven-year MLB veteran tallied 14 saves and ranked in the 92nd percentile in terms of fastball velocity. Furthermore, 55 of his 69 frames came between the seventh and ninth innings. He’s obviously a legitimate setup option and could even fill in as a closer from time to time.
Brandon Drury, 29, Third Baseman
The Rangers platooned Charlie Culberson and Brock Holt at third base for most of 2020, which wasn’t great. If Kiner-Falefa isn’t part of Texas’ 2022 plans, it should look into adding someone like Drury. Although he logged just 88 plate appearances this past season, he looked good doing so, slashing .273/.307/.476 with four home runs and 14 RBI. He hit .257 with nine homers through 56 games at Triple-A, too. The 29-year-old, who appeared in 134 games in 2016, 135 in 2017, and 120 in 2019, could be a temporary and affordable bridge option for the Rangers this year.
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