Free agency is right around the corner and if they choose to, the Texas Rangers have the financial flexibility to make some impact moves.
This offseason is gearing up to be an exciting one league wide as some of the biggest names in baseball are set to hit the market. Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, potentially JD Martinez. The possibilities seem endless and this will be much more entertaining than the Manny Machado/Bryce Harper sweepstakes from last offseason. With all that talent and more available, we can jump to a fairly reasonable conclusion that the Rangers will be involved in the market.
Assuming the Rangers are pretty heavily involved as they look to build a contender on their way to the first season inside Globe Life Field, they have the financial space to make some bids. As of now, Texas has $105 million tied up in active payroll and retained salary entering the 2020 season according to Spotrac. That number includes arbitration estimates Nomar Mazara ($5.7 million), Joey Gallo ($4.0 million), Danny Santana ($3.9 million), Delino DeShields ($2.4 million), Rafael Montero ($900,000, and Jesse Biddle ($600,000). With the luxury tax threshold set at $208 million for the 2020 season, they have roughly $110 million in space to work without crossing into the tax.
While that is a ton of space, Texas hasn’t been a club that has pressed very close to the tax threshold in the first place. The Rangers’ payroll was $163,350,840 in 2017, $140,625,018 in 2018 and $128,838,766 last year. All those were well below that tax and even if they are willing to boost payroll from last season, I don’t seem them approaching the $200 million mark, at least not yet.
Possible Changes to Current Players’ Salaries
New Deal for Gallo?
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Right now the Rangers have a few players whose futures are up in the air with Texas. One guy who is not in that category is Joey Gallo. Gallo has emerged as one of the premier sluggers in the league and if injuries hadn’t interrupted his 2019, was well on his way to another 40+ homer season and a career best year. Gallo is arbitration eligible and as mentioned above, is projected by Spotrac to get $4 million. It wouldn’t be a shock for Texas and Gallo to work out an extension and with three years of team control remaining, the Rangers probably could work something out well below what his value would be on the open market. If they did come to an agreement, I wouldn’t expect it to cross the $20 million per year mark and it would increase incrementally each year of the deal. In short, Gallo’s potential extension shouldn’t eat up more than $13-$15 million in payroll next season.
Choo a Trade Chip?
While Gallo looks set for an extension, a couple of players could be on their way out of Arlington. Shin-Soo Choo would be the biggest impact on the payroll as he currently sits the highest paid player on the roster at $21 million due in 2020. This being the final year of the 37-year old’s deal, the long-term impact is non-existent. Now Choo has been floated as a possible trade piece for a couple of years now but his contract has always been the obstacle to move past. In a final year, Choo is much more moveable especially to a top tier contender in need of a lefty bat.
The Rangers would have to eat a chunk of his remaining money to move him but they could probably net some good young talent. All that being said, I think it’s unlikely Texas moves Choo. He’s been very consistent for the Rangers for years now and was helpful in 2019 hitting .265 with an .826 OPS and a bWAR of 1.6. Nothing that just jumps off the page, but he’s a respected veteran that I’d imagine the Rangers would only entertain trading at the deadline if the season is a lost cause. So Choo’s contract is here to stay in 2020 which is fine by me.
Mike Minor has been the best pitcher on the Rangers for the past two seasons and among the best in baseball even landing an All-Star nod in 2019. He was a potential player to be moved at this past deadline but Texas opted to keep him which was something Minor himself said he preferred. He’s no doubt going to surface on the rumor mill again, especially if he stays strong in 2020 but the Rangers falter. However, there is a possibility that the Rangers opt to put their chips in on a Minor/Lance Lynn led rotation and extend Minor past the 2020 season. The lefty is due just under $10 million this season which is a bargain considering his production.
I would love to see the Rangers hand Minor an extension because even if there is a little regression, he would be a great front-half starter especially if the Rangers can ever nail down a bonafide ace. If he is extended, I’m not sure it would have a massive impact on his 2020 salary. Even if that payroll hit does increase, it wouldn’t drastically change what Texas could do this offseason.
Mazara’s Time Up?
Mazara found himself as a hot button topic within the Rangers circle last season as he continued to show little improvement at the plate. His numbers were up a bit from 2018 but he has yet to cross the .800 OPS mark or hit more than 20 homers. His 0.7 bWAR means he basically is replacement level in terms of value. At just 24-years old, he still has plenty of time ahead of him and the potential is still there. He’s entering his 2nd year of arbitration and Spotrac projects him getting $5.7 million. If Texas feels they could move him out for some decent potential prospects, Texas may decide to move on with other guys looking ready to fill the void.
If They’re Willing, They Have The Way
Entering what looks to be an exciting free agency with a lot of possibilities, Texas has holes to fill and some buzz being generated. A new ballpark, a young core, and a shift in identity will hopefully be a draw to potential players. They have an opportunity to add a franchise defining player and a new face to join Joey Gallo. While it won’t come cheap, they have the space if they’re willing to pony up the dough. Even with potential extensions they’re sitting around $100 million in luxury tax space. That’s a lot of room to make some moves and potentially catapult this club into playoff status.