Rangers busy preparing for next year

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, October 4th, 2019

Image result for Texas Rangers press conference October 2019                                                                    BY DIC HUMPHREY                                                                                                                                       DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL.COM

ARLINGTON, Texas – The final Major League game at Globe Life
Ballpark, originally known as the Ballpark in Arlington, was played
last Sunday.  The Rangers created a spectacular going away
celebration.  The two Ranger executives that were the driving force
behind getting the ballpark built were there – George W. Bush and Tom
Schieffer. Nolan Ryan made a surprise appearance to throw out the
ceremonial first pitch and received the biggest crowd ovation of the
day.  The all-time Ballpark team was announced. It was exciting to
see so many of the great players that made the ballpark special
because they thrust the team into so many meaningful games including
two World Series.

The game on the field was almost secondary to celebrating the end
of the ballpark as a venue for Major League baseball.
Ranger starting pitcher Lance Lynn was brilliant.  He threw
8-1/3rd innings allowing just two hits. It was the 31st consecutive
game to throw at least 100 pitches. One of the hits was an Aaron Judge
home run, the only score of the game for New York. The Rangers
supported Lynn with six runs.

The sixth game of the 2010 American League LCS is generally
regarded as the best game in the 26 seasons of the ballpark.  The
Rangers beat the Yankees that Friday night to punch their ticket to
their first World Series ever.  The score of that game was ironically
6-1, identical to Sunday’s final game.

By Tuesday, the Rangers were back to the business of putting
together next year’s team.  They held a press conference to talk about
the off season.  First, all members of the coaching staff are invited
back for next year, and all are expected to accept the invitation.
General Manager Jon Daniels did most of the talking. He
tactfully refused to answer the question about the Rangers’ payroll
next year. The all-time Ranger high in payroll came in 2017 and has
dropped in each of the two seasons since.  It was roughly $128 million
this past season, slightly under the league average of $137 million
this year.  With the new park expected to materially increase
revenues, the payroll is expected to increase.

Daniels particularly mentioned third base and starting pitching
as the most glaring needs of the ball club.  The top two third basemen
in free agency are likely to be Anthony Rendon, currently with the
Washington Nationals, and Josh Donaldson with the Atlanta Braves.
Rendon has ties to Texas as he played in college at Rice and graduated
from Lamar High School in Houston.  He also has a contract offer from
the Nationals for more than $200 million.  That probably excludes the
Rangers from the bidding.

Donaldson is older (33 verses 29) and will probably looking for a
shorter term contract. He looks more feasible than Rendon.
An interesting possibility arose this week.  The Cubs are rumored
to be ready to trade away a couple of veterans to reduce their payroll
and one might be their third baseman, Kris Bryant. Bryant is younger
than Rendon….he will turn 28 next January….and has a .284 batting
average and .901 OPS in his five year career.  He’s been an All-Star
three times.  The Rangers look to match up nicely with Chicago for a
trade.  Bryant made $12.9 million this past season and is arbitration
eligible for the next two years before qualifying for free agency,
The Rangers need to add at least one veteran pitcher and
preferably two to join Lance Lynn and Mike Minor. (And speaking of
Minor, the Rangers are almost certain to enter into negotiations to
extend his contract.)  There are a number of quality free agent
starting pitchers expected to be available this off season.

The Rangers have some good looking pitchers on the cusp of being
Major League regulars – Kolby Allard, Brock Burke, Joe Palumbo, Ariel
Jurado, Adrian Sampson, Yohander Mendez and Taylor Hearn to name a
few.  The question is whether any of these can develop into a solid
Major League starting pitcher like Lynn and Minor.

Daniels did indicate that the team is likely to trade a
left-handed hitting corner outfielder.  The Rangers have four – Joey
Gallo, Willie Calhoun, Shin-Soo Choo and Nomar Mazara. Coupling these
hitters with Rougned Odor and Ronald Guzman makes the lineup too
left-handed.  Mazara is the most likely to be traded. Daniels
essentially indicated that Gallo and Calhoun are the two most secure
players to return among the position players on the roster.  Choo has
just one year left on his contract; but with a $20 million salary, the
Rangers are likely to have to kick in a substantial amount of money to
make a deal and still see little in return.

Surprisingly, Daniels’s endorsement did not include middle
infielders Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor.  Daniels specifically said
that the team needs better play from their middle infielders.  Andrus
has an opt out provision in his contract, but he is not expected to
exercise it.  Odor has unquestionably been disappointing since signing
a contract extension which still has more than $30 million left in
salary obligations.  He finished the season with a .205 batting
average, but led the Rangers with 30 home runs and 93 RBIs.

Texas has just three players that will be free agents – Hunter
Pence, Logan Forsythe and Edinson Volquez.  Pence has expressed an
interest in returning, but it’s unclear if the Rangers will have a
spot for him.  Volquez said early that he planned to retire after this
season.  Toward the end of the year, he wavered, indicating he might
want to come back as a reliever.  However, it’s still likely that he
retires. Forsythe probably won’t be back.  The Rangers are more
likely to utilize Isiah Kiner-Falefa in Forsythe’s back up infield role.

The Rangers have a decision to make on Shawn Kelley.  They hold an
option on Kelley at $2.5 million with a $250,000 buyout.  Kelley has
said he only wants to return to the Rangers.
Jose Trevino showed some offensive prowess in September and looks
solid defensively.  He and Jeff Mathis, who is signed through next
season, are likely to be the catching tandem next season, but the
Rangers might surprise if a catching upgrade situation arises.
————————-
On the Major League baseball front, there is an interesting shift
in off season managerial hires.  In recent years, teams have been
hiring younger managers with little if any managerial experience.  Two
years ago, the Yankees hired Aaron Boone right out of the ESPN
announcing booth.  The Rangers chose Chris Woodward last year who had
coached Major Leaguers, but had not managed at any level.  These hires
have largely been younger (and cheaper), and have been given less
power in the job.  Older managers with previous managerial experience
were basically shunned – names like Buck Showalter, Joe Girardi and
Mike Scioscia.

This year, the Cubs have decided to go in another direction from
Joe Maddon, their manager the last five years and the manager that led
the team to a World Series win for the first time in more than 100
years.  Amazingly, other teams are lining up to interview Maddon. San
Francisco is interested with their job open after Bruce Bochy retired.
The Angels, the team for which Maddon coached for 31 years, was
immediately mentioned as a team of interest, and they fired their
manager Brad Ausmus after just one year.  The Pirates are supposedly
interested and fired their manager and former Ranger hitting coach
Clint Hurdle once the Maddon news broke.  San Diego is also rumored to
be interested and perhaps Philadelphia if they decide to make a change
from Gabe Kapler. The Mets fired their manager, former Ranger pitcher
Mickey Calloway, and are also rumored to have interest in Maddon.
There are seven managerial openings now, and still a couple of more
that could become available.  Former Cardinal manager Mike Matheny is
rumored to be the favorite for the Kansas City Royals’ opening.
Showalter and Girardi are also drawing interest and definitely are
interested in managing again.  Perhaps former Ranger manager Ron
Washington will get another chance to manage

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