It’s just over a month before the Texas Rangers have their pitchers and catchers report to Surprise, Arizona. With the season looming, where do the Rangers stand and what expectation should we have?
It’s been a slow-moving offseason for Texas Rangers fans, and all other baseball fans, giving little to talk about since Shohei Ohtani picked the Angels and Giancarlo Stanton was traded to the Bronx to create the most powerful lineup in baseball. Many of the top free agents are still on the market, even after the calendar has turned over.
The Texas Rangers were busy early on in the offseason, but activity has slowed down along with the rest of the baseball world. They’ve met necessary needs and any additional moves would be purely beneficial.
Taking into account that there still is time for moves to be made, there are some things to get excited about this upcoming season. There are also some big question marks.
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This is something for fans to be excited about. The Rangers boast a core of position players that could carry the team to success. This includes Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Rougned Odor, and of course Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus. These five guys make up the heart of the Texas lineup and have serious potential. Mazara is entering his third season, Gallo improved in many facets of his game last season, and Elvis had a breakout year making him one of the elite shortstops in the game. Beltre showed last year that when healthy, is still a productive player. Odor is the only question mark, but we’ll get to that in a bit. He has had success at the big league level at a young age, and that’s something to consider.
It would not take the stars to align for these five players to be productive. Three of them are young and under club control for at least four more seasonable together. Beltre’s and Andrus’ futures are yet to be determined. Elvis can opt out of his contract after 2018, and whether the Rangers negotiate with him during Spring Training or not is yet to be known.
This core of players is the backbone of the currently constructed 2018 team. Their health and success will make or break the Texas Rangers’ playoff chances.
The pitching staff is something many fans won’t be excited about. Looking at it on paper, it’s not a sexy staff at all. The Rangers have shopped in the clearance section so far, and unless prices come down, won’t be adding any top- or second-tier pitching.
The rotation of Cole Hamels, Matt Moore, Martin Perez, Mike Minor, and Doug Fister would’ve been great in 2013. Now, Hamels has aged and coming off his worst season. Moore hasn’t been the same since Tommy John surgery. Perez has yet to put together a consistent season and will miss a month of the season because of a bull. Minor hasn’t been a starter since 2014, and Fister to looking to regain prior form like Moore is.
There’s so much low-risk/high-reward in the rotation. Odds are not all of them pan out. As a matter of fact, the Rangers would be lucky if two of them had successful years. The Rangers did this last year with Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. Cashner was a home run hike Ross was a swing-and-miss.
The bullpen has been slightly upgraded and could be upgraded even more if Minor gets moved to the bullpen, where he was very successful in 2017. Even with minor upgrades, the bullpen still doesn’t seem to be a shutdown group.
Rougned Odor is a big question mark. After having success in 2015 and 2016, he was horrendous in 2017. It’s hard to say what kind of player Odor will be in 2018. If he bounces back, that could give the Rangers a couple of extra wins. If not and he repeats 2017, the bigger issue becomes dealing with the contract he was given last spring.
Another big question mark for the Rangers is not a player. It’s a question of whether the Rangers are trying to compete or trying to rebuild. The fact is the Rangers are trying to compete. Jon Daniels defines compete as “competing for a playoff spot.”
Daniels is very aware that the AL West is arguably the best division in baseball. It’s very realistic that four of the five teams could finish over .500. With the Rangers not spending money this offseason like they did for the previous two, they have the flexibility to upgrade at any moment, or if things go wrong, they can sell players and help retool the farm system that’s been heavily depleted by trades that didn’t pan out.
Some fans might prefer an all-out rebuild, but it’s not realistic for the Rangers to do that. They have a brand new ballpark being built next door and a year three of a five-year rebuild is not how ownership envisions kicking off a new era in Texas Rangers baseball.
Expect the Rangers to play competitive baseball in 2017. They might play above their ability and overachieve. They also might fall flat on their faces. The beauty of where they are currently at is they can take advantage if either situation arises.