Despite looking to be buyers this offseason, the Texas Rangers are receiving interest on one of their bright young relievers, Jose Leclerc.
Entering the offseason the Texas Rangers were determined to bring in talented free agents with third base and starting pitching the priorities. After striking out on their top targets, Texas has had to take a step back and reassess their plans not only for the offseason but the 2020 season. That could lead them into the trade market as they try to establish themselves as contenders in the future. They’ve already traded away Nomar Mazara in an effort to get better and according to Levi Weaver of The Athletic, multiple teams are contacting the Rangers about the availability of reliever Jose Leclerc.
Texas isn’t looking to swap their forces in 2020 to rebuilding but Leclerc has the opportunity to draw significant value on the trade market. He had a down year in 2019 making 70 total appearances posting a 4.33 ERA. Despite the struggles, he still maintained a 13.11 K/9 rate and his 3.59 FIP suggests he might’ve been better than his ERA would suggest. The value for Leclerc though comes from the ability he showed in 2018 and the extremely team friendly contract he’s on currently.
In 2018, Leclerc was among the better relievers in the game posting a 1.56 ERA in 59 games. His 13.27 K/9 rate was the best of his career as was his 2.6 fWAR. In fact, his fWAR in 2018 trailed only three other relievers in baseball in Blake Treinen, Edwin Diaz and Josh Hader. He did that at just 24-years old and emerged as the likely candidate to be the Rangers closer of the future. His name floated around in trade talks last offseason and some during this season but Texas opted to extend the hard-throwing righty on a very team friendly deal that will keep him in Arlington at least through the 2022 season with team options for 2023 and 2024. His annual salary would never exceed the $6,250,000 he would earn on his 2024 team option.
For context, Blake Treinen who was arguably the best reliever in baseball in 2018 signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Dodgers this offseason despite an ERA of 4.91 last year and a -0.3 fWAR. Treinen does have a bit longer career with more examples of success but in the two-year model, his drop-off was far more severe than Leclerc’s in 2019 and he’ll earn nearly four times as much as him in 2020.
All that info is to tell you, that Jose Leclerc should carry a ton of value on the trade market if Texas decides to move him. A team trading for Jose would likely be wanting to part with prospects as he fits with a contender better than a team looking to build like Texas, however his contract is such that he could fit with those who aren’t concerned with payroll and those on a budget. If the Rangers are going to move Leclerc, it needs to be for maximum value. All the notes listed above as benefits to another team are also benefits to the Rangers and they should only be moving him at a premium. Because of that, I think if they were to move him it could be far more likely in-season when contending teams are a bit more desperate and it could give them a chance to let Leclerc get back to his 2018 form and maximize value.