Texas Rangers could benefit from proposed 2020 league realignment
By Kenneth Nash
If the league moved forward with the potential single season realignment to cope with COVID-19, the Texas Rangers could be among the beneficiaries.
The consistent flow of ideas and ways to ensure the quickest possible start to the MLB regular season continue to pour in but one idea seems to stand out among the rest because of the drastic change to the league norms it represents. Alongside the recent idea that the season could begin in Arizona comes a new proposal that would include realigning the league for the 2020 season based on the teams’ Spring Training locations. This realignment would mean the Rangers, who hold their Spring Training in Arizona, would remain in the Cactus League while those clubs that hold their Spring Training in Florida, would participate in the Grapefruit League.
Along with league realignment would come divisional changes as the MLB tries to keep some normalcy about how the season would be formatted. In the proposed idea, the Rangers would compete in the Northwest division of the Cactus League according to Bob Nightengale. Their divisional opponents would be the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers. How the postseason would be formatted is still being discussed as well but there is the potential it remains in a similar format with the added potential for a couple of more Wild Card teams in the mix.
How the Texas Rangers could benefit from this set up though is the significant change in division quality from their standard AL West opponents. Last season the Rangers finished third in the AL West significantly off the pace of division winners Houston and the second place A’s. While Texas is better this season, so are the Angels who finished fourth meaning the fight to win the AL West would be as tough as its ever been for Texas. Looking at this set up though, the Rangers would now swap out the Astros, A’s and Angels for the Brewers, Padres and Royals. If we align the new teams with the regulars, we can equate the Brewers to the Astros as the division favorites, the Padres and the A’s with San Diego being the next best opponent after Milwaukee, while the Royals replace the Angels. Those swaps are all downgrades in terms of quality with the drop-off from the A’s to Padres and Angels to Royals significant differences.
Based on 2019 records, the Texas Rangers had the second best season among this group of five by a fair margin. The Brewers finished the season at 89-73, the lone team to make the playoffs in this group, and fell in the NL Wild Card. Meanwhile the Padres ended the season at 70-92, the Mariners went 68-94 and the Royals ended the year with a 59-103 record. In this hypothetical division set up, considering the offseasons had by each of these teams, the Rangers look like a safe bet to finish second. The question would be, can they make enough of a push to close the gap on the Brewers or take hold of one of the Cactus League’s Wild Card spots.
This has to be noted that this plan is just a plan at this stage among other ideas being discussed. We’re still a ways off from hearing much in the way of decisive news’s the MLB continues to follow the advisement of health professionals. However, with this seeming like a legitimate option on the table, it’s fair to evaluate how the Rangers would be impacted. Texas would still be a healthy long shot to win a World Series via this setup, however it’s safe to assume their playoff chances would increase drastically should this plan go into effect.