When you hit rock bottom the way the 2021 Texas Rangers did, there’s no way to go but up. Or so at least we hope.
2022 is bringing us numerous reasons to be optimistic for what’s to come as a new era of Rangers baseball kicks into gear, chief among them the $561 million the team spent in free agency on Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Jon Gray and Kole Calhoun. And that’s not counting what we expect to still be on the horizon once the dreaded lockout ceases.
The Texas Rangers’ exorbitant spending figure caught all of us by surprise, but that’s what happens when there’s nowhere to go but up: rebuilding is futile when there’s nothing left to tear down.
There’s nothing left for the Texas Rangers to tear down, so why keep rebuilding?
Not all rebuilds are created equal. The Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs are widely considered the franchises which modeled the so called “ideal” rebuild last decade, with years of tanking and player development, while sacrificing the MLB product. And the arduous process resulted in a World Series title for the Cubs! Not so much for the Astros… unless you believe trash cans are the MVP. They haven’t won a title since that year, despite all their winning, but I digress.
People questioned why the 60-102 Texas Rangers from 2021 would be a desirable place to land for free agents, or why a team that seemingly has a long way to go to return to contention, would buy up all these good players just to add 10-15 more wins, at best, for 2022.
Money was one factor, for sure. But also? Why keep being bad? Why not change the culture and start looking ahead? That’s what the Rangers want to do, and it’s working early on.
You don’t have to be the Baltimore Orioles or Pittsburgh Pirates or Miami Marlins, franchises which appear to be in perpetual rebuilding mode. That’s how you lose credibility with a fanbase.
You also don’t have to be the Astros or the Cubs, who were horrendously bad for years before they became successful. That method worked for them. But it doesn’t have to be the blueprint for the Texas Rangers.
After trading away Joey Gallo, Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy this past season, and before them Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus, Texas’ roster was about as stripped down as you could get. There weren’t any more assets to deal away. And when that happens, that’s when you end your rebuild.
Theoretically, the Rangers could continue to sign inexpensive (relatively speaking) veterans to their roster and keep selling them off at July trade deadlines (like Ian Kennedy) but what’s the point of that? And at what point do you pivot to winning consistently, or at least trying, for that matter?
Texas already has a very deep farm system and one poised to take a leap into the top-10 in all of baseball next season. They’re starting to establish a big league core once again. The pieces are falling into place. And they’re doing it their way.
Not the Astros or Cubs blueprints, nor the constant flux of the Orioles, Pirates or Marlins. No, the Texas Rangers’ way. From the early looks of it, the plan seems to check out.