The Texas Rangers could position themselves as major players this free agency. But before establishing their position, they need to answer the following questions.
The Texas Rangers concluded the 2019 season with a 78-84 record, 29 games behind the division winning Houston Astros. Texas won 11 more games than the year prior, and went from last place to third place in the American League West. Emerging from a rebuild, entering a new stadium, and trending in the right direction, this is an important offseason for them.
The front office can plan its offseason after answering 10 questions.
1. Is a 2020 playoff berth realistic?
If yes, Texas has reason to be aggressive this offseason. If no, it may be wise to lay back and allow the youth throughout the organization to further blossom.
They can begin with an aggressive approach and adjust based on how free agency unfolds. It may take signing a premium free agent or two to change the 2020 projection from non-contender to contender. If they fall out of the running for the premium players, they can reassess and choose to pick their spots.
2. Who’s on the short list of free agent candidates?
The Rangers need a third baseman. They also need a talented and proven starting pitcher to boost their rotation. Those happen to be the strong points of this year’s free agent class. Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg (plans to opt out), and Hyun-Jin Ryu highlight the starting pitching bunch. Third baseman Anthony Rendon is considered the top bat on the market.
If the answer is indeed yes to question #1, now would be the time for the club to fill their position voids in tremendous fashion.
3. How does the rotation project?
Texas Rangers’ starting pitchers ranked 11th in the AL with a 5.06 ERA in 2019, but the poor ranking was not because of their top guys. Mike Minor and Lance Lynn finished in the top 10 of the MLB ERA race. It was the remaining starting pitching participants that weighed the team down.
Minor and Lynn will be back in 2020, but which names are expected to fill out the rest of the rotation? Will a couple of prospects be ready for the show? Who can Texas sign? They can’t allow a lack of rotation depth to hurt them once again.
4. Who plays center field?
The Rangers’ center field intentions will affect other positions as well. If they plan for Joey Gallo to be the everyday center fielder, then Nomar Mazara and Willie Calhoun can hold down the corners. However, Gallo playing either right field or left field would push Mazara or Calhoun out. Trust in Delino DeShields will also factor into the decision.
5. Can Nomar Mazara be who everyone hopes he will be?
Mazara’s 2019 campaign was rather pedestrian given the surrounding lofty expectations. His 19 home runs were a career low, he missed 46 games, and his .786 OPS was below league average. Texas desperately needs him to perform better and more consistently. He has all the potential in the world, but there are a few holes in his game that are concerning. Namely, he struggles to hit left-handed pitching, he’s not producing middle of the order power, and he’s a below average defender.
In a season in which Willie Calhoun proved worthy of every day playing time, Mazara flat-lined. The Rangers will be forced to make a move on the 24-year-old’s future very soon. That move could send him elsewhere.
6. Which right-handed power bat should we sign?
Power from right-handed hitters was extremely bare for the Rangers this past season. Hunter Pence led qualifiers with 18 homers. He’s not expected to return in 2020. Next up was Elvis Andrus with 12 long balls, and the switch-hitting Danny Santana with nine.
They need a big bat from the right side. Free agent, right-handed hitting sluggers include J.D. Martinez, Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, Nicholas Castellanos, and Edwin Encarnacion. Texas could easily find a position for any of those candidates.
7. Is Ronald Guzman the first baseman of the present?
After an impressive spring, Guzman had a forgetful regular season. In fact, he was demoted to Triple-A at the end of July. He hit .219 with a .414 slugging percentage and an 81 OPS+. No matter how good he is defensively, such mediocre offensive numbers are not going to cut it.
So, the question is, should the Rangers plan for him to start at first base on opening day? Or should they weigh other options?
8. Where does Danny Santana fit in?
Santana was as good as any Ranger in 2019. He finished top three on the team in home runs, batting average, and slugging. He also helped out by playing seven different positions throughout the year. Surely, Texas can find a way to fit him in as a super utility player again in 2020. But is there a full-time position available to him?
Second base would be if the Rangers relieve Rougned Odor of his duties. Third base is currently available; however, that’s a spot where Santana played only eight times this past season. They could also look at him as a common center fielder.
9. What’s the plan for Rougned Odor?
Odor was practically unwatchable for much of the 2019 season. He flirted with the Mendoza line all year, and posted poor results in just about every meaningful offensive category. His 30 home runs led the team, but that’s far from enough to justify all else.
How much longer can the Texas Rangers tolerate such terrible play from Odor? He’s been a liability to the lineup too often. If the club wants to take steps forward, their longtime second baseman may need to get steppin’.
10. Which prospects could crack the opening day roster?
Many of the Rangers’ offseason plans will depend on which prospects are ready to take on significant roles with the major league squad. Brock Burke, Joe Palumbo, Kolby Allard, and Jonathan Hernandez got substantial playing time with Texas in 2019. Perhaps a couple of them could crack the opening day rotation. Lefties Yohander Mendez and Taylor Hearn are names to keep in mind as well.