Texas Rangers offseason recap: How did GM Jon Daniels do?

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 25: Shelby Miller #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks making his season debut throws his first pitch of the season in the first inning during the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on June 25, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JUNE 25: Shelby Miller #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks making his season debut throws his first pitch of the season in the first inning during the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on June 25, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

With pitchers and catchers reporting in a week, the offseason is nearly complete. It was a busy one for the Texas Rangers. How did the organization fare?

The Texas Rangers may continue to pitter-patter throughout the free agent market, but it seems the bulk of their offseason work is done. It was a surprisingly busy offseason for a team coming off a last place finish in the AL West. General Manager Jon Daniels clearly wants his team to be more competitive this season, though 2020 and beyond remains his primary focus.

How did Daniels’ decision-making effect the 2019 season? More importantly, how did it effect the outlook of 2020 and beyond?

Notable Free Agent Signings


Lance Lynn (3 years, $30 million)

Shelby Miller (1 year, $2 million)

Edinson Volquez (1 year, $2 million)

Shawn Kelley (1 year, $2.75 million with 2020 club option)

Jesse Chavez (2 years, $8 million)

Zach McAllister (1 year, $1 million)

Position Players

3B Asdrubal Cabrera (1 year, $3.5 million)

C Jeff Mathis (2 years, $6.25 million)

Trade Acquisitions

SP Drew Smyly

2B Eli White

LHP Kyle Bird

LHP Brock Burke

RHP Yoel Espinal

3B Patrick Wisdom

Daniels also signed several players to minor league contracts, including Matt Bush, Adrian Sampson, Zac Curtis, Jason Hammel, and Matt Davidson.

Bargain Bonanza

Combined, the Texas Rangers spent $55.5 million on free agents for 13 years of control. That’s an average annual salary of $4.26 million per player.

Texas Rangers
SEATTLE, WA – SEPTEMBER 8: Starter Lance Lynn #36 of the New York Yankees delivers a pitch during the second inning of a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 8, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /

There is upside to every player the Rangers signed, and that by itself is enough reason to take a chance on each. A few players are trying to find their way back from injury, a few are past their prime, and a few need to reclaim their once good form.

Are you seeing flashbacks of 2018? A year in which the Rangers took flyers on Bartolo Colon, Matt Moore, Doug Fister, Yovani Gallardo…?

I understand your scare of Deja Vu, but 2019 will be different. This time Texas invested in more depth. The club will have at least seven pitchers competing for a rotation spot this spring. Therefore, they’ll have at least two fail safes in case someone gets hurt or underperforms.

My three favorite signings: Jesse Chavez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shawn Kelley. The bullpen will get two years from Chavez, who is coming off the most dominant season of his career. If Kelley pitches well enough, they’ll essentially be paying pennies to exercise his club option for 2020. And Cabrera is the perfect stop-gap at third base. He’ll be a nice switch-hitting feature in the Rangers’ lineup this year.

Daniels made a good trade

The organization took advantage of a highly sought after Jurickson Profar. Texas managed to swap Mr. Versatile for their current #6 and #12 prospects. #6 is left-handed pitcher Brock Burke and #12 is infielder Eli White.

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They also acquired Kyle Bird, who is a very talented 25-year-old left-hander. Bird posted a 2.39 ERA over 75.1 innings at Triple-A last season. Lastly, Yoel Espinal is a 26-year-old pitcher who concluded last season at Double-A with a 1.98 ERA over 54.2 innings.

Daniels got what the Texas Rangers needed most: young, promising pitching.

Yes, losing the beloved Jurickson Profar is a bummer, but he was going to be a free agent in 2021 anyway. Plus, with his injury history, who knows if he would’ve maintained his productivity with the Rangers. Texas needed to trade Profar while he was a popular, and that’s exactly what they did.

The Drew Smyly trade is a favorable one as well. Texas gave up a player to be named later for a starting pitcher with a career 3.74 ERA. Smyly has missed the last two seasons due to Tommy John surgery, though even a failed season from him won’t set the Rangers back. He fits into the theme of the offseason: low-risk; potential for high reward.

What Daniels didn’t do

Even Daniels’ inactions have been good plays this offseason.

I honestly haven’t heard much complaining, which is great. If I were to pinpoint a few murmurs, some folks may not think Jon Daniels did enough to help the team’s future. He could have dealt Nomar Mazara or Joey Gallo or Mike Minor or Jose Leclerc.

To that I say, have patience! There’s a very good chance Minor and Leclerc will be dealt sometime before this year’s trade deadline. Each would have to suffer a major fallback for teams to lose interest.

As for Gallo and Mazara, I’m all for keeping them. They’re young and super talented. The Rangers have stocked the farm with enough ability to move forward with the players that are performing well in the big leagues. There’s a better chance the Gallo/Mazara storylines are centered around contract extensions rather than trades as the year progresses.

Some folks also want JD to make a play on either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. While the Rangers were at one point involved (at least reportedly), there were, and still are, plenty of reasons to shy away.

So close to moving on from the rebuild, it wouldn’t be wise to handcuff the future by taking on an unreasonably large contract. Sure the values of Harper and Machado seem to be going down, but the Rangers already have offensive talent. It’s far wiser to save up for next offseason so they can jump in on a number of elite starting pitchers — Chris Sale, Gerrit Cole and Madison Bumgarner will be free agents. They could also pursue Nolan Arenado and Nick Castellanos.

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Job well done by Jon Daniels this offseason. He’s put the Texas Rangers in a position to improve on last year’s 67 win season. He’s also kept the supply chain moving for 2020 and beyond.