If the Texas Rangers can’t land one of their third base targets, they could pivot towards one of the top right-handed bats left in free agency per reports.
While third base remains a priority for the Texas Rangers this offseason options are starting to seem slim. With their top choices seeming tough to get (i.e. Nolan Arenado), the Rangers could pivot their offseason targets towards one of the top right-handed bats still available, Nick Castellanos or Marcell Ozuna per Jon Heyman.
Texas still needs to add an impact bat to their lineup this offseason and both outfielders have the potential to play big roles in the middle of the order. Ozuna is coming off a bit of a down year at the plate by his standards hitting just .243 in 130 games. He still flashed the power though with 29 home runs and an .804 OPS. At just 29, he’s still in the midst of his baseball prime and is coming off his fourth straight season of 2.4 fWAR or higher.
Castellanos on the other hand is coming off one of the better years of his career finishing the season with a .289 average, 27 homers and an .867 OPS. Even more appealing is that Castellanos was far better in 2019 after being traded to the Cubs. He played in 51 games for Chicago hitting .321 and a stellar 1.002 OPS. That breakout gives hope to potential teams that his first half numbers were the unfortunate product of playing for a struggling team and that when given the chance to be competitive, he can be among the best hitters in baseball. At only 27, he also has the makings of a solid long term signing.
The question with both players though isn’t the impact their bats can make, but where they would fit defensively. Ozuna has the benefit of being a solid defensive outfielder but he’s spent the past two years playing left field. As of now, the Rangers have an everyday left fielder in Willie Calhoun. Calhoun is a below average fielder so Ozuna would be an improvement, but Calhoun has a bat worth keeping in the lineup and no other positional home. Perhaps the Rangers could shuffle Joey Gallo back to center field and then put Ozuna and Calhoun in the corner outfield spots but that counters the long-term plan of Gallo playing right field.
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Castellanos, while putting up better offensive numbers, is a far worse defender than Ozuna. He spent most of 2019 in right field to underwhelming results, posting a -4.3 UZR/150 after 1,171 innings of work. It would take less outfield shuffling to fit Castellanos in as Gallo could move back to center and Castellanos would slot into right field. However, that would the give Texas a fairly suspect defensive outfield with only Gallo an above average fielder. There has been some discussion about transitioning Castellanos to first base with Evan Grant the first one to mention the idea.
Both players would be legitimate upgrades to the order but the fit isn’t a natural one. Still, with the Rangers determined to make significant upgrades to the roster, this possibility feels more likely as the third base dominos continue to fall. I’m personally intrigued by the thought of Castellanos playing first base and his age would fit well into the timeline of the club. These are two names to keep an eye on over the remainder of the offseason.