Texas Rangers: Does Jon Daniels rebuild or build a fighter for 2020?
By Travis Koch
The trade deadline looms and the Texas Rangers have yet to do anything notable. Perhaps Jon Daniels wants to keep everyone together for a potential 2020 run.
Less than 48 hours remain until the 2019 trade deadline. Abundant curiosity surrounds the Texas Rangers at the moment, as they have multiple pieces that are drawing interest. Time is running out for GM Jon Daniels to decide who should be dealt and what price tag to set.
Don’t be surprised if you see a handful of current Rangers traded in the coming days. Don’t be surprised if just about everyone hangs around either.
Texas has enough to play for next season to justify holding onto players that are under contract through at least 2020. Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, Jose Leclerc and Danny Santana qualify. Three of those four are having outstanding seasons, while the other dropped off quite a bit from an outstanding 2018 campaign.
It’s difficult to assume Minor, Lynn and Santana will continue their dominance into 2020, but what if they do? And what if Leclerc regains his form from a season ago? Suddenly, the Rangers are a couple of impressive offseason signings away from being a force to be reckoned with in the American League West.
That’s where Jon Daniels must pick a side. He could build a contender for 2020, albeit a borderline one by standing pat the next two days. Or, he could further invigorate the farm, pushing the Rangers’ contention timeline back another three or four years. The second option may sound worse, but the idea is to build a sustainable product.
Prospects always come with uncertainty, but the free agent market is even more uncertain. The Rangers aren’t the Yankees or the Red Sox; they’ll have to run into considerable luck to bring in any big name free agents. If they can’t, then another average season could be in the works for the coming year.
Daniels has a track record mixed with patience and aggression, so there’s really no telling what he and the front office will do over the next two days.
His options are not very well aided by the current Texas Rangers team. Say they trade Minor and/or Lynn, what’s next years rotation looking like? A couple of rookies may get their shot, but who knows what kind of growing pains they’ll run into. Daniels could once again find himself searching for placeholders, like he found in Drew Smyly and Edinson Volquez this year. Neither signing panned out, though.
Consider the offense as well. Remove Danny Santana, Hunter Pence and Logan Forsythe and the lineup loses a lot of stability. A strong dependence will once again fall on Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Rougned Odor and Ronald Guzman to carry the offense. Consistency can be expected from Elvis Andrus and Shin-Soo Choo, but hardly anyone past those two.
There is so much to love about Gallo’s game, though it seems he’s always going to be a player who is weighed down slightly by a hole or two in his swing. He can certainly make a pitcher pay, but he’s also often exploited somewhere in the strike zone.
Guzman still has to prove that he can hang in the big leagues and Odor has to prove he can be good for more than two months out of a six-month season. Mazara hasn’t taken any big strides. Oh, and what do the Rangers have in store for Isiah Kiner-Falefa next year?
The point is, Jon Daniels doesn’t have a whole lot to work off of for 2020. He could bring back Minor and Lynn, and sign Gerrit Cole in the offseason, but will the offense be steady enough to make the Rangers a legitimate threat?
Keeping Danny Santana would perhaps take care of some uncertainty. It’s also not out of the question that Hunter Pence re-signs with the Rangers. Alongside Gallo, those two have really been the club’s best hitters this year. And remember, through the first three months of the season, Texas had one of the top offenses in baseball. That was while getting little to no production from Rougned Odor, their catchers, and, for a decent amount of that span, Asdrubal Cabrera.
The Texas Rangers making the postseason in 2020 is not out of the question; however, a ton has to fall in place. Sure everyone wants to watch a good team throughout the first year at the new ballpark, but that single reason doesn’t justify setting the organization back way further than any fan would care to imagine. I wouldn’t want to be in Daniels’ shoes right now. We’ll see which side he chooses: stand pat and build a fighter for next year or sell and aim for a sustainable product 3-4 years down the road.