Complete Offseason Guide, Predictions for the Texas Rangers
Despite getting swept in three games by the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Division Series, Texas general manager Jon Daniels hasn't lowered his expectations for the Rangers in 2017 and beyond.
With much of the roster still under contract and one of the game's premier managers, Jeff Banister, in the dugout, Daniels' job isn't quite as daunting as those facing some of his counterparts around the game, whose teams aren't in nearly as good of shape as the Rangers are.
Of the more than $50 million due Prince Fielder and Josh Hamilton, the Rangers are only on the hook for just over a fifth of that sum—$11 million.
The Los Angeles Angels are picking up $24.1 million of Hamilton's $26.1 million salary, leaving the Rangers to make up the $2 million remaining. They owe Fielder $9 million of his $24 million salary, with the remaining $15 million picked up by the Detroit Tigers ($6 million) and, per the Star-Telegram's Gil Lebreton, insurance ($9 million).
|Player||Pos||2016 Salary||2017 Salary|
But that still leaves the Rangers with more than $100 million committed to just seven active players, a list that includes their top three starting pitchers, starting left fielder and starting shortstop.
Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus' double-play partner at second base, leads a small group of players with renewable deals.
|Delino DeShields Jr.||OF|
With the collective bargaining agreement set to be reworked, we can't be sure of the figures these deals will renew at. Assuming things don't change drastically, we'll estimate each player to receive something around a $600,000 salary in 2017, adding an additional $4 to $5 million to Texas' payroll.
A slew of relievers lead the way when it comes to Texas' arbitration-eligible players, of which only a few would qualify as must-haves for the club moving forward.
In the table below, projected salaries are loosely based on what the players listed for comparison received, either as a one-year deal or through the arbitration process, at similar points in their careers. You can find the exact figures for those players by clicking on the links included.
|Player||Pos||2016 Salary||Proj. 2017 Salary||Player Comp.|
|Shawn Tolleson||RP||$3,275,000||$3,750,000||No comparison|
|Robinson Chirinos||C||$1,550,000||$2,250,000||Michael McKenry|
|Jake Diekman||RP||$1,255,000||$1,975,000||Jerry Blevins|
|Tanner Scheppers||RP||$900,000||Non-tender candidate||N/A|
|A.J. Griffin||SP||N/A||$1,250,000||No comparison|
|Lucas Harrell||SP||N/A||$1,000,000||No comparison|
|Sam Dyson||RP||$525,270||$2,250,000||Mark Melancon|
|Jeremy Jeffress||RP||$519,100||$1,750,000||Al Alburquerque|
If my predictions are anywhere near accurate, it's going to cost the Rangers nearly twice as much to retain this group than it did in 2016.
Robinson Chirinos is one of the better backup catchers around, and his familiarity with Texas' pitching staff makes him a valuable asset to keep in the clubhouse.
Sam Dyson emerged as a legitimate ninth-inning weapon after replacing Shawn Tolleson as the team's closer, while Jeremy Jeffress was solid, albeit unspectacular, after coming over from the Milwaukee Brewers in the trade that added Jonathan Lucroy to the Rangers lineup.
Players with Options and Texas' Free Agents
Texas heads into the offseason with a number of significant players set to test free agency. While it'd be nice to think the team could simply bring them all back, that's not realistic, according to Daniels.
"We've got to make some decisions," Daniels told Sullivan. "All those free agents, under the right circumstances, we would love to have back. It's about allocating resources."
|Derek Holland||SP||$10,000,000||$11.5M team option, $1.5M buyout|
|Jonathan Lucroy||C||$4,350,000||$5.25M team option, $250K buyout|
Daniels confirmed to Sullivan what most already knew—that the Rangers would exercise their $5.25 million team option on Lucroy. Considering his All-Star level of production at a premium position, the veteran remains one of baseball's biggest bargains.
As for who Lucroy will be looking at in center field when he's behind the plate, bank on it being Carlos Gomez and not Ian Desmond. Gomez figures to be less expensive to re-sign than Desmond, whose market will be far more robust than it was a year ago now that he's proven to be a solid outfielder.
Derek Holland and Colby Lewis could both be brought back to provide rotation depth, but neither one is a picture of health. Both are near-locks to miss time during the regular season with one ailment or another. Of the pair, Lewis might be the more realistic to return, as, like Gomez, he figures to cost less.
Carlos Beltran isn't retiring and would like to stay with the Rangers, according to Sullivan. But he'll likely have to take a significant pay cut to do so. Mitch Moreland figures to depart as a free agent, replaced by a platoon of Joey Gallo and Ryan Rua at first base.
Potential Free-Agent and Trade Targets
Chi Chi Gonzalez, A.J. Griffin and Yohander Mendez are the most likely in-house candidates to join Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels and Martin Perez in Texas' 2017 rotation. But with minimal minor league depth, the Rangers figure to add at least one starter from outside the organization to the mix.
If Texas is willing to continue dealing away its young, controllable talent—namely Gallo and/or Jurickson Profar—then it's possible that a trade could be made for one of these starting pitchers who are, at the very least, expected to routinely see their names on the rumor mill during the offseason.
- Chris Archer/Jake Odorizzi, SPs, Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays and Rangers discussed a potential Odorizzi deal back in July, per ESPN.com's Jim Bowden, while Sullivan reported that Archer was one of Texas' primary targets.
- Jose Quintana/Chris Sale, SPs, Chicago White Sox: Sale was right alongside Archer in Sullivan's report on the team's interest in outside starters and remains one of the game's best. Quintana, while a notch below Sale on the pecking order of elite starters, is no slouch himself.
- Ervin Santana, SP, Minnesota Twins: He'll be entering his age-34 season, but Santana is a solid, reliable, innings-eating No. 3 starter who isn't likely to cost quite as much as the likes of Archer, Quintana or Sale to acquire—if the Twins make him available.
There aren't nearly as many solid options available in free agency, but there are a handful of starters the Rangers could target to fill out the back end of the rotation.
- Jeremy Hellickson, SP: His penchant for giving up home runs isn't an ideal fit at Globe Life Park, which, per ESPN.com, remains a homer-friendly venue. But Hellickson has become better at inducing ground balls over the past two years, per FanGraphs, and can eat innings at the back of a rotation.
- Ivan Nova, SP: Nova has surprisingly solid career numbers in Arlington and, entering his age-30 season, is one of the younger free-agent options available. If the Rangers believe he can continue to pitch like he did in Pittsburgh (3.06 ERA, 1.10 WHIP), Nova could be an option.
Unless otherwise noted/linked, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and all payroll and salary information courtesy of Cot's Contracts (via Baseball Prospectus). All player comparisons link to Baseball Prospectus.
Want to talk Rangers' offseason plans or anything baseball-related? Hit me up on Twitter: @RickWeinerBR