Texas Rangers Free Agent Outlook: Third Basemen and Starting Pitchers

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 30: Anthony Rendon #6 of the Washington Nationals hits a single to drive in the game-winning run in the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park on August 30, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 30: Anthony Rendon #6 of the Washington Nationals hits a single to drive in the game-winning run in the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park on August 30, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /

The stars of free agency fit the Texas Rangers’ needs. Here are the top third basemen and starting pitchers for them to consider this offseason.

Attention turns to the offseason. The tide is supposed to turn and the Texas Rangers are supposed to be competitive in 2020. They took a step forward this year. They need to take an even bigger step next year. The path towards competitiveness will be shorter if the Rangers can sign a couple of impact free agents. But where are their needs and who do they chase?

Third Base

Believe it or not, Texas had a difficult time replacing Adrian Beltre at third base. Six players manned the hot corner at some point this season for them. Asdrubal Cabrera led the way with 90 starts at third; however, he was eventually waived by the Rangers and claimed by the Washington Nationals.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa played a lot of third base at the end of the season, though his lack of punch at the plate hurts his chances as a starting third base candidate next season.

Impressive offense from Danny Santana and Nick Solak will have the Rangers searching for a spot for each in 2020. Third base looks to be available, but Solak performed poorly in few opportunities at third, and Santana has only 16 games of experience there in his career.

Texas Rangers
ARLINGTON, TX – MAY 24: Isiah Kiner-Falefa #9 of the Texas Rangers bare hands an infield hit in the second inning throwing out the runner on first base against the Kansas City Royals at Globe Life Park in Arlington on May 24, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images) /

With no obvious or convincing in-house choice, Texas could look to the free agent market. There’s some firepower in the third base category this offseason. Anthony Rendon is the headliner. Getting ready for the World Series, Rendon is wrapping up an MVP worthy season, in which he ranked in the top five of the National League in batting average, RBI, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. A lucrative and lengthy contract is surely coming his way.

Three additional third baseman to consider: Josh Donaldson, Mike Moustakas, and Nicholas Castellanos.

Donaldson proved to be a wondrous offseason sign for the Atlanta Braves. Playing on a one-year contract, the 33-year-old hit 37 home runs and posted a .900 OPS. Donaldson clearly has plenty left in the tank. He should be a popular topic this offseason.

Maybe the Rangers don’t need another left-handed bat, but they could certainly use some more pop from the batter’s box. Texas ranked 17th in baseball with 223 home runs. They’ve received very little power from a position that naturally syncs with it. Moustakas’ 35 home runs this season were more than any member of the Rangers.

Just because Nick Castellanos hasn’t played third base since 2016 doesn’t mean he can’t once again become familiar with the position in 2020. He may never be a gold glove-caliber third baseman, but he can hit, and that’s what matters most. Castellanos played remarkably with the Chicago Cubs after being traded. In 51 games with the Cubbies, he hit .321 with 16 home runs and 21 doubles. He also had a .646 slugging percentage and a 1.002 OPS.

Starting Pitching

Gerrit Cole is the biggest name in the game right now. He’s been historically dominant this postseason, and will toe the rubber for the Houston Astros in game one of the World Series. There’s a very good chance he wins the AL Cy Young award after a regular season in which he posted a 2.50 ERA, 20 wins, 326 strikeouts, 212 innings pitched, and a 6.8 WAR.

29 years old, Cole is in line for a record-breaking contract once the offseason officially begins. The Texas Rangers are likely to join roughly 20 other teams in an effort to sign him. The Rangers need him, and with a middle of the pack payroll, they can probably afford him. Expect an average annual value north of $30 million and a contract length of six or seven years.

Cole’s eventual contract will make a huge dent in any team’s payroll. Texas will have to think long and hard at just how far they are willing to go in negotiations. Once it’s all said and done, it might be best to let one of the spoiled, luxury tax-threatening organizations take him.

Three additional starting pitchers to consider: Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Wheeler.

Strasburg’s price is only going up after a dominant postseason in his own right. He looks as confident as ever, pounding the strikezone, pitching deep into games, and making hitters look silly with his filthy changeup.

The 31-year-old will have to opt out of his contract with the Washington Nationals. Though, there’s a good chance he does. He’s likely to demand the second highest contract among starting pitchers this offseason.

Strasburg finished the regular season with 18 wins and a 3.32 ERA. He logged over 200 innings for just the second time in his career. He would be the ace in Texas, something he has not been in Washington ever since Max Scherzer joined the team.

Madison Bumgarner hasn’t posted an ERA over 4.00 in his 11-year career. He had a 3.90 ERA in 2019, and was a  member of the 200 strikeout/200 innings pitched club. The strong left-hander should cost around $25 million a year. He’d certainly improve the Rangers’ rotation, though it’s tough to see him leaving the National League, where he’s played his entire career, and where he’s gotten the chance to hit on a routine basis. It is important to note that Bumgarner’s ERA away from home last season was 5.29.

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Zack Wheeler has come into his own the last two seasons , sporting a 3.31 ERA in 2018 and a 3.96 ERA in 2019. He has also thrown over 180 innings each of the last two seasons. The 29-year-old right-hander should be an easily affordable option for the Texas Rangers this offseason. He’d slot in behind Mike Minor and Lance Lynn as a quality #3 arm.