Will the Texas Rangers opt for a committee approach to go about replacing a Hall of Famer at third base in the upcoming 2019 season?
The Texas Rangers have a tough task in the upcoming 2019 season as they aim to replace a future Hall of Famer in Adrian Beltre at third base. They’ve made some signings and made some trades but what will we see at third base for Texas this season?
The most likely candidate to attempt to hold down the hot corner for Texas in 2019 is Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera was signed by the Rangers on a 1-year deal this offseason worth $3.5 million. The veteran infielder from Venezuela is a shortstop by trade playing over 1000 games in the 6-hole. He also has 334 games under his belt at 2nd base but Texas is banking on those 67 games he’s played at 3rd. He’s got a .951 fielding percentage at 3rd which isn’t the best, but the Rangers are hoping an offseason of work and a defined role could help him become more comfortable.
At the plate, Cabrera hit .262 in 2018 splitting time between the Mets and the Phillies. He managed 23 home runs and drove in 75 runs which gives Texas faith he can hold his own in the order.
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The Backup Plans
The Rangers do have a couple of alternatives to Cabrera if that’s not the right fit. First, Texas traded Drew Robinson to the Cardinals for Patrick Wisdom, a third baseman who adds some much-needed depth. The 27-year old has very limited MLB experience spending the majority of his pro career in the minors. Despite this, he still shows a lot of promise and is a low-risk acquisition for Texas.
Defensively, Wisdom is a natural third baseman with 651 career minor leagues under his belt at the position. Additionally, he’s also gotten some work at first base giving Texas some flexibility. At the plate, in Triple-A last season, Wisdom hit .288 in 107 games. In his limited 32 games with the big league clubs in St. Louis, he hit .260. Wisdom, as aforementioned, gives the Rangers some much-needed depth and flexibility and will probably have a shot at the position out of Spring Training if he performs well.
Additionally, the Rangers picked up third baseman and pitcher, Matt Davidson on a minor league contract. Davidson spent 2018 with the Chicago White Sox as mostly a DH and first baseman with 12 starts at third sprinkled in there. He’s likely to compete with Wisdom in Spring Training for a roster spot and personally, I think Wisdom has the leg up. Still, Davidson could be a factor for the Rangers down the road and just continues to add to the depth the Rangers desperately needed.
The Emergency Options
If neither Cabrera nor Wisdom are up to the caliber Texas needs, the Rangers have a couple more options they could turn to however they are unlikely. First, Texas could move Isiah Kiner-Falefa from behind the plate back to third base. IKF is a true utility player and a solid defensive asset at third but Texas is committed to shaping him into their catcher of the future so this would be an absolutely last resort. Still, expect to see Kiner-Falefa get some time at third in 2019 when he needs a day off behind the dish.
Along with Kiner-Falefa, Texas could turn to another young piece to try and fill in at third base. The Rangers acquired infield prospect Eli White in the deal that sent Jurickson Profar to the Oakland Athletics. White, 24 years old, plays pretty much every position on the diamond including the hot corner. This is also unlikely but I wouldn’t be shocked to see White crack the major league lineup a time or two. He hit .306 in Double-A last season as a part of the Oakland system and is a highly ranked prospect for Texas this season. The Texas Rangers may give him some opportunities as they continue to evaluate their future.
What Does This All Mean?
My expectation is that we’ll see Asdrubal Cabrera taking most of the time at third base for the Rangers this season. He’s the veteran, he’s got the proven track record and therefore is the safest and most logical option. We’ll see Wisdom get his time over there as well I’d imagine and even see IKF a time or two. Davidson will have the opportunity to compete during Spring Training but I think he loses out to Wisdom. He’s on a minor league deal meaning Texas can keep him around and keep developing him if needed. The Rangers will look to fill this position best they can as they look to patch the spot until next offseason when they can find a long-term solution. Just look at next year’s free agents and read into that what you will.