On to the off season for the Rangers

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, November 1st, 2019

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BY DIC HUMPHREY
DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL.COM

DALLAS, Texas – The World Series came to an end this week with the
surprising Washington Nationals beating the heavily favored Houston
Astros in seven games.  It was certainly an odd series as the visiting
team won all seven games. That was a first. The Nationals managed to
win three of the four games started by Gerrit Cole and Justin
Verlander, the likely winner and second place finisher for the
American League Cy Young Award.

With the conclusion of the World Series, the off season rebuilding
of next year’s roster is now the order of business. Actually teams
such as the Rangers that weren’t in the playoffs have been in next
year mode since before the 2019 season ended.  The action on Thursday
was quick as the players whose contracts have expired have become free
agents.  That total Thursday evening was 131, but it’s a list that
will get longer before it gets shorter.  There will be club options on
players for 2020 that don’t get exercised.  There will be players with
opt out clauses in their contracts that will get exercised.  Later on
there will be players that don’t get tendered contracts for 2020
making them free agents.

For the Rangers, the immediate three players that became free
agents were Hunter Pence, Edinson Volquez and Logan Forsythe. The
Rangers also announced that they would not be exercising the $2.5
million club option on Shawn Kelley, they will pay the $250,000 buyout
of the option. Earlier, Kelley said he would retire if the club
didn’t exercise the option, but presumably it’s still possible that he
could return to the Rangers next year for a salary less than $2.5
million.

The Rangers didn’t stop there though.  They made a trade with the
Chicago White Sox receiving catcher Wellington Castillo and $250,000
of international slot money.  The Rangers sent infielder/outfielder
Josh McReynolds to the White Sox.

Castillo’s contract comes with a club option for 2020 at $8
million.  Texas will buy out the option for $500,000 making Castillo a
free agent, as the motivation of this trade is to add the slot money
to sign international free agents next summer.   Much like the
situation with Kelley, the Rangers could make a deal with Castillo for
less than $8 million.

Elvis Andrus has an opt out clause in his contract and has $43
million remaining over the final three years of the contract.  He
hasn’t made an official announcement, but it seems likely he will not
be exercising the opt out.  It is the second and final opt out in the
eight year, $120,000,000 contract that Andrus signed prior to the 2015
season.  The Rangers have a club option for 2023 at $15,000,000.

The Rangers also took outfielder Zack Granite and left-handed
pitcher Jesse Biddle off the 40-man roster and outrighted them to
Triple A Nashville. Both can decide to become free agents next week.
They will have more such roster moves in the near future.
Texas has a number of highly regarded minor league prospects that
need to be added to the 40-man roster or else they become eligible for
the Rule 5 draft in December

As for the free agent market in general, two and perhaps three of
the top free agents participated in the just concluded World Series.
Nationals’ third baseman Anthony Rendon and the Astros’ starting
pitcher Gerrit Cole are definitely free agents.  The Nationals Stephen
Strasburg has an opt out clause in his contract which is expected to
be exercised, though there is a strong possibility that he and the
Nationals will make a deal to keep him in DC.

Strasburg was the World Series MVP.  Many thought Rendon should
have been the World Series MVP, and Cole was a strong candidate to be
the MVP had Houston won the World Series.  All three are represented
by Scott Boras, so expect an astronomical asking price, likely to be
$300,000,000 or more and don’t expect any of them to sign anytime
soon.  Boras likes to draw out the process trying to create a more
active market for the players he represents.  He represented Bryce
Harper last year, who was seeking more than $300,000,000 and didn’t
sign until after spring training began.  Clearly any of those three
would look really nice in a Ranger uniform next season.

The Rangers are expected to expand their payroll for 2020 with an
anticipated increase in revenue from the new stadium.  The total
increase is generally thought to be in the $30 million range, such
that committing to one of these three would zap up the entire
increase.  Do the Rangers really want to spend their budget increase
for one player?  Not likely.  If they do make a hard push for one of
the three, expect it to be Rendon.  He’s a Houston native, a graduate
of Lamar High School, and he played at Rice. The Texas ties may get
him interested in the Rangers, but it’s still doubtful that the
Rangers will be willing to pay the expected tab.

On the managerial front, teams are discouraged from making big
announcements during the playoffs, so as not to attract attention off
the field.  However, Joe Maddon quickly signed with the Angels after
parting ways with the Cubs. Joe Girardi was announced as the new
Phillies manager on one of the travel days during the World Series.
Kansas City wasted no time announcing the signing of former Cardinals
manager Mike Matheny once the Series concluded.  That announcement
came Thursday.  David Ross, a former player for the Cubs and recent
baseball analyst was named to manage the Cubs.  Rangers’ coach Jayce
Tingler was San Diego’s choice for their new manager, edging out
former Ranger manager Ron Washington.

That leaves three managerial openings unfilled: The Giants, Mets
and Pirates.

The first time team representatives gather is the general managers
meetings November 11-14 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  This year’s Winter
Meetings are scheduled for December 9-12 in San Diego.
NOTABLE:
• The four largest contracts given to players last off season went
to free agents Bryce Harper (Phillies) and Manny Machado (Padres) and
extensions to Mike Trout (Angels) and Nolan Arenado (Rockies). It is
notable that none of those four teams made the playoffs this season.
• Shin-Soo Choo underwent what is being termed “minor surgery” to
clean out his left shoulder in October.  He is expected to be fully
recovered by the start of spring training.
• The active roster for Major League teams expands to 26 players next season.

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