Well, the MLB lockout continues, but our hope in improving the Texas Rangers knows no bounds. The CBA negotiations HAVE to end sometime, and free agency will be a whirlwind when it does. Teams and players alike will have to move quickly to make deals in order to utilize whatever is left of spring training. And even though the Texas Rangers were the busiest team before the lockout, a few glaring needs still stick out.
Yes, they continue to need starting pitching, but who doesn’t. As far as in the field goes though, the outfield stands out as the group most needing attending to. Yes, there is reigning TSN rookie of the year, Adolis Garcia, out there and yes, there has already been a free agent outfielder signed. However, Garcia suffered a major drop-off in the second half of the season and Kole Calhoun is rather… uninspiring. We could see a group that consists of Eli White, Zach Reks, Leody Taveras, and possibly Nick Solak battle it out for the other spots with a sighting of Willie Calhoun if the lineup calls for it.
As far as minor leaguers, Bubba Thompson and Steele Walker COULD be in consideration.
Now, the Texas Rangers aren’t necessarily expected to compete at a high level in 2022 so it wouldn’t be surprising for them to continue their “let’s see what we’ve got” strategy. After all, if that doesn’t work out, the ’23 free-agent market consists of Andrew Benintendi, Joey Gallo, Brandon Nimmo, Aaron Judge, and Tyler Naquin.
We could also see some of the backlogged middle infielders (Smith, Duran, Wendzel) switch positions to the outfield but I’d expect if that were the case, they’d have a full year to try it out in the minors. This doesn’t necessarily mean they may not look to add this winter, so let’s take a look at who is left.
Texas Rangers free agent options for the outfield
- Seiya Suzuki- Possible
- Nick Castellanos- Unlikely
- Kris Bryant- Unlikely
- Kyle Schwarber- Possible
- Michael Conforto- Unlikely
Suzuki should be the number one remaining FIELDER left to target. His combination of age, offensive prowess, and a manageable contract should make him a top priority. Unfortunately, it seems plenty of other teams sees things that way too.
I tentatively put his signing as possible but with rumors of Seattle, San Francisco, and Boston being the front-runners, it would be surprising at this point to see him in Texas.
Nick Castellanos, meanwhile, gets the slight edge over Kris Bryant but this could be interchangeable. Career-wise, these two are about as close as they come.
Castellanos has 168 home runs, Bryant has 167. They both have a batting average of .278 with Bryant having the edge in OBP/SLG with .376/.504 to .329/.486. Strike out percentage is each at 23% with Bryant having the edge in walker rate at 11% compared to 6%. Bryant has also been the better base runner being successful on 69% of attempts as compared to Castellanos 45%.
So why would Castellanos be ahead of Bryant? Well, their trajectory. The past 3 years have seen these two go in different directions. in 325 games Bryant has hit .251 with 60 home runs. Castellanos in that same stretch has played 349 games hitting .271 with 75 home runs. This is just touching on some of the statistics that show that Castellanos could be growing into a better player while Bryant is sliding. Age and experience-wise, they’re once again very similar with Bryant being older by exactly two months, but Castellanos has 200 more games played having broken in a year earlier.
Either way, they’re both unlikely to sign. For Castellanos, it’s the Qualifying Offer he’s attached to and Bryant is more about the size of contract he’d command. The Texas Rangers may not be scared of either one, but having already doled out two large contracts to position players who received qualifying offers already makes it unlikely there would be a third.
Next, we come to Kyle Schwarber. In my opinion, he has the highest chance of the group to sign. Not only does he not have a draft pick attached to him but he would also come in a fair bit cheaper than the rest, save for Suzuki.
If Schwarber is willing to sign a 4 year/$48 million deal then he should absolutely be on their radar. He does come with some scare though, as 2020 was a rough year that saw him hit .188/.308/.393 and be non-tendered by the Cubs. Hopefully, he’s put that in the past though and 2021 may have shown that. Combining his Washington/Boston numbers, he hit .266/.374/.554 with 32 home runs leading to a career-high OPS+ of 148.
Finally, we come to Michael Conforto. He was expected to be one of the best free-agent bats this year but set career lows, outside of 2016, across the board. He could find his way into a one-year prove-it deal though as his peripheral numbers were still strong. Outside of a plummeting HR rate, and opposite-field power, he maintained career averages in exit velocity, hard-hit rate, fly ball, and pull rate. he actually improved his walk rate too. 2021 could have been a fluke year to Conforto, but it would take a large deal for him to not take one year to prove it contract. That kind of money and the draft pick loss make his signing unlikely to happen.