The Rangers still have a long way to go

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, September 27th, 2019

Image result for Texas Rangers Pence
BY DIC HUMPHREY
DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL.COM

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers end the 2019 season and the
Major League lifetime of Globe Life Park with three games against the
New York Yankees this weekend. The Rangers look to be out of gas
having lost nine of their last 11 games going into the weekend.  While
Ranger players are perhaps giving more thought to October tee times,
the Yankees are still battling Houston for the best record in the
American League and home field advantage in the American League
Championship Series.

The Rangers go into the weekend with 76 wins. That’s nine more
than last season, so they are at least heading in the right direction.
Last week, they finished their final road trip of the season at
Houston and Oakland.  Houston is this year’s division champion for the
third straight year, and Oakland is finishing second for the second
year in a row.  The A’s are all but mathematically in for a Wild Card
berth.

The Rangers won just once last week.  They in fact lost all nine
games against the Astros in Houston this season.  The point is that
while the Rangers made progress this season over last year (at least
in their win total) they still have a long way to go to catch Houston
and Oakland.  Both have a talented nucleus that is largely young and
returning next year.

So the question is “what do the Rangers do about next year?”
One unknown is how much money the Rangers are willing to commit
for either free agents or expensive trade chips.  The new ballpark
will undoubtedly be a moneymaker.  Current season ticket holders are
still reeling from sticker shock as to how much it will cost to keep
their current seat locations.  Many are opting for lesser quality
seats to lessen the financial burden, and a good number are giving up
season tickets altogether.

The Rangers drew more than 2.5 million fans in 1994 when the then
named Ballpark in Arlington opened.  That season ended August 12
because of labor difficulties, but the attendance was the most in
Ranger history at that point.  They had never drawn as many as 2.3
prior to 1994.

The new Globe Life Field will attract customers next year despite
the astronomical price increases for the most prime seats.
The Rangers’ payroll has been significantly reduced in the past
couple of years as big dollar players such as Adrian Beltre have
departed and not been replaced with comparably salaried players.
There should be the capacity to take on significantly more payroll in
2020.

The batting order is too left-handed.  Nick Solak has shown to be
a solid right handed bat that should get better, but the question is
where to play him.  Second base is his best position, but Rougned Odor
is the incumbent.  Odor signed a contract that guarantees him $35
million after this season.  His batting average is a miserable .204
this season in more than 500 at bats going into the weekend, but he
leads the Rangers with 29 home runs and 87 RBIs.  He’s at least a
decent defender at second base.  No matter what sparks are coming out
of Arlington, Odor is the likely starting second baseman next March
(opening day).

Third base is one position that needs shoring up. Josh Donaldson
and Anthony Rendon are two top third basemen that are expected to be
free agents this winter.  Rendon played at Rice, so has Texas ties.
Donaldson will be 34 in December, so will likely be getting offers for
just two or three years.  With Josh Jung, Sherten Apostel and Davis
Wendzel developing in the minors (all third basemen) the Rangers
likely have a future at the position in 2022.  All three are ranked in
the Rangers’ top 10 minor league prospects.  A short term contract for
Donaldson would serve as a nice bridge until one of those three are
ready.

Another pitcher in the class of Mike Minor and Lance Lynn would
help fill out the rotation. Two would be nice.  Gerrit Cole is the
best starting pitcher in this winter’s free agent class. Forget
him…he’s likely going to the Los Angeles Angels.  He grew up as an
Angels’ fan in Southern California and pitched at UCLA. Angels owner
Arte Moreno can outbid the Rangers.

The Rangers have a host of young pitchers to fill out the rotation
– Kolby Allard, Brock Burk, Joe Palumbo, Ariel Jurado, Johander
Mendez, and Jonathan Hernandez among others, but they need at least
one proven veteran.

Catcher is another position where the Rangers could make an
acquisition. The team has Jeff Mathis coming back next season, but
it’s doubtful he’ll catch 86 games again.  The Rangers have given Jose
Trevino a good look this month…he has shown a lot. Good defensive
skills and his bat has been better than advertised.  They seem pleased
with the way Trevino has worked with pitchers. He could be the long
term solution.

There’s still a myriad of things that could happen.  Shin-Soo Choo
could finally get traded with just one year remaining on the onerous
contract he signed after 2013.  Joey Gallo will be back, but where
will he play?  The Rangers need to acquire a top notch outfielder.  If
that outfielder plays center, Gallo may move to a corner; but if not,
Gallo may be the center fielder.

The Rangers have some decisions to make soon on current players.
The team has an option on Shawn Kelley at $2.5 million next season.
Kelley has said he’ll only play for the Rangers. Edinson Volquez was
set to retire after this season, but is apparently having second
thoughts. He too has said he wants to play only for Texas if he plays
next year. Hunter Pence was a marvelous story in the first half of
the season as he made the All-Star team and has a good chance to be
the American League’s Comeback Player of the Year. He is a
right-handed bat in a lineup that is also left-handed. He’s a
consideration.
For Texas, the off season show starts next week.
NOTABLE:
• There have been 14 games this season in the Majors in which a
pitcher has thrown 120 pitches or more. Mike Minor threw 126 Thursday
against Boston. Lance Lynn has thrown two games of exactly 120
pitches, so the Rangers account for three of the 14.
• Mike Minor reached 200 strikeouts for the season in his final
start Thursday afternoon against the Red Sox.  Minor set career highs
this season in wins (14), innings pitched (208.1), and strikeouts.
Lance Lynn has already reached the 200 plateau in strikeouts and
innings pitched, and he still has one more start this Sunday.  It’s
the second time in Ranger history that the team had two pitchers
strike out 200 batters.  Nolan Ryan and Bobby Witt both reached 200 in
1990.
• Danny Santana hit his second grand slam of the season Thursday
against Boston. He becomes the 24th Ranger to hit two grand slams in
a season.
• Elvis Andrus stole the 300th base of his career Thursday against Boston.

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