2017 Payroll: ~156m
- Non-tender A.J. Griffin
- (attempt to) Outright David Rollins to Round Rock
- Trade for Robbie Ray
- Sign Chris Carter
- Draft Kyle Wren in the rule 5 draft
- Sign Michael Saunders
The first and 2nd hardest decision to make was to non-tender A.J. due to the slender free agent market for pitching and high trade value of starting pitching currently. But I just didn’t feel like the Rangers would remain as competitive with A.J. as opposed to another option. I unfortunately also felt the same way for Derek Holland and Colby Lewis. That move also frees up about 2m in payroll.
The Rangers need to make some roster space for the upcoming rule 5 draft and for potential trades. I’d go ahead and attempt to give an outright assignment for David Rollins to Round Rock.
My first choice from Arizona’s stock of pitchers was Archie Bradley because I figured Ray was untouchable. When I heard that Bradley was untouchable, and not Ray, I knew I had to snag up Ray. I really love what Ray brings to the table. Currently, a MORP but his fastball/slider combo is so good that if he can ever get his change-up to work, he could be a TORP. His hard fastball is his money maker, averages 94.1 mph this season and if he stays down in the zone can induce a ground out. He doesn’t get as many ground balls as Martin Perez, however his GB% was at 45.7% this season, not too shabby.
With the overlay of Globe Life Park above, you can see his 24 home runs allowed would have been more like 26-27. He ended up giving up 4 of his home runs allowed off of a change-up and 5 of them off of a slider, the rest fastballs. He only threw his change-up 6% of the time last season and if he is ever going to improve as a starting pitcher, he has to figure out that change-up or develop a new off-speed pitch that he can keep hitters off balance with.
Ray needs to live down in the zone more often. You can tell by the above graphic, that is actually what he tries to do but he ended up in the zone with 1,036 pitches. He likes living on the lower inside part of the plate to right hand hitters and low and away to left hand hitters, slightly throwing across his body creating slight deception in his delivery. Righties hit 20 points better than lefties off of Ray, and that’s mainly due to him falling behind in the count and not having a refined change-up. If he can either refine his change-up, pitch ahead in the count, or both, his success will increase.
His fastball with Detroit averaged 91.3mph, 93.3 mph last season and now improved upon it even more at 94.1 mph this season. It appears he may have achieved this by lowering his arm slot in 2015 to a lower 3/4 delivery keeping his elbow inline with his head at release. His arm didn’t look like it was giving up at all at the end of this season, reaching 98 mph as his top velocity. His slider is average, but still does a good job at keeping hitters off balance and relies on pounding the zone with his fastball almost 72% of the time this season. His numbers were OK from this season, but I really focus in on his velocity improvement & xFIP. He pitched much better away from Chase Field this season, and I’m wondering if a change of scenario will impact his performance. Even with basically 2 pitches, he has great pitch-ability but ends up missing the zone quite a bit in the process. If he works on lowering that, and staying down in the zone especially with runners on-base, he will be powerful in the Ranger’s rotation.
Choosing Ray was easy, choosing who the Rangers give up for Ray, was not. If I’m Arizona, each time the Texas front office calls me the discussion starts with Yohander Mendez or Ariel Jurado and I don’t budge much from them. In my opinion Jurado is untouchable, unless we are talking about Chris Sale or Chris Archer. However, I’m not as hyped on Mendez as I once was. His fastball/change-up combo is great and worked well in the minors, but I feel he lacks any complimentary breaking pitches to keep MLB hitters off balance as a BORP. To me, his value all hinges on if he can improve his breaking ball pitches. If you think he can, then Mendez is untouchable. If not, then he should be included. I first started off with Mendez on the table, but I believe he can in fact develop the complimentary pitches required to slot into the major league rotation eventually. I underwent mental deliberation as Arizona’s GM to decide if this deal was fair, who knows I may be completely off. Originally the expired CBA gave value to guys like Ray who might be given a QO at the end of their term with the award of a first round draft pick if he declined the QO and signed elsewhere. The new CBA’s award for a team who’s player declines the QO is much lower now (3rd round draft pick) and even less of a chance for teams over the soft-salary cap to award if signed there (2nd round draft pick, 5th round draft pick and 1m+ international spending pool).
With this in play, I decided to settle on more lottery tickets from Texas:
I scoured their system for a low priced lottery ticket and found it in Jason Morozowski. If you look up his stats, he isn’t really a player you would be interested in. He was a pitcher in college, but ended up switching to a position player and was placed in center-field and at first glance you wouldn’t be able to tell. His speed gives him range and is able to track down balls most are not able to. He has plus base-running and is gaining more power. He can hit but his bat is still coming around. He has pure athleticism and I see his highest ceiling as a 20/20 player with a plus glove in center, and that puts him as a deep sleeper in their organization that I wanted in return.
Texas gets Morozowski, and 4 years of Ray. Arizona gets 4 years of Kela, a well established weapon in our bullpen which is a huge need for Arizona, as well as Sadzeck who has primarily been a started who can reach triple digits, but I believe he would be better suited in the pen and could be an option for the Diamondbacks in 2017. Martin might be a very under rated player in the system. His 2016 stats might not reflect it but he has improved a bit this season and could eventually end up as a MORP. Tejada is only 18 years old, and has an incredible amount of talent and a huge potential ceiling. This should give Arizona a possible option in 3-4 years if Marte is still around. Regardless he is only 18, and improving each year at the plate.
Sign Chris Carter to a 1 year 8 million contract. Carter was non-tendered by the Brewers a day before they signed Eric Thames to be their first baseman. Carter should be relatively cheap even now that he is a FA. Ultimately, he should be worth ~ 6.25 million but if you expect him to put up anywhere near 1 WAR, he should get an 8 million contract because a lot of teams are going to be interested in him. This somewhat replaces the bat the Rangers lost with Fielder gone, and solves the first base vacancy. I would 1B/DH Carter and have him penciled in the lineup each day, and platoon him on the field with Rua.
As far as if his 41 homers in 2016 were a fluke or not, it appears not. He did not have many no doubters, at only 4, but only had 1 “lucky” home run and was 13th in all of baseball in average true home run distance. His 41 home runs would have been 39 home runs if they were all hit in Globe Life Park, I’ll take 39 home runs from anyone that I can pencil into the lineup. And if we know anything from this year’s playoffs and playoffs of the past, is that home runs have a tendency to win ball games.
Select Kyle Wren in the rule 5 draft to platoon with Delino DeShields in center field next season. I know, another rule 5 draft as our opening day starting center fielder??? Let me sell Wren to you. He is the highest projected player in this year’s rule 5 draft according to KATOH. And I’m surprised, and not surprised he went unprotected. Milwaukee has former Rangers Lewis Brinson and Ryan Cordell to protect instead, as well as Brett Phillips.
He hasn’t played in the majors yet, but he can definitely hit, and I’m expecting him to hit more than DeShields did his rookie season and currently has shown. He has a very low strikeout rate, and I think this is going to play a huge factor in his potential success at the major league level. His walk rate has typically been abysmal and has relied on getting hits to get on base. However that has improved a bit this season. It should take teams a while to figure out how to shift him and his BABIP should benefit from this. Once teams find a shift for him, he will have to rely on his improved plate discipline to get on base more.
Like DeShields, he can run, and about as fast too with 80 grade speed he gets to first in 3.9 seconds. He steals a lot of bases, and that shouldn’t change at the major league level. Although he has shown a very slight increase in power, you won’t see him hit any more home-runs than DeShields. He has a total of 5 home runs over his 4 minor league seasons. Other than the improved hit tool over DeShields, Wren offers a better glove and a very slightly better arm. With the free agent market for center fielders being a bit pricey, it should be very intriguing to see what Wren can do at the major league level.
After Wren is drafted, we can go after a corner outfielder spot and sign Michael Saunders to a 3 year 28 million contract with a team option for 10 million. Saunders had a great season and even though he slowed down a bit in the second half he adds another needed bat and and shores up the LF corner. He should hopefully be a solid sign as he is projected to play at least 1 WAR baseball, plus he has hit very well at Globe Life park his career, especially last season.
Projected Lineup & Rotation/Bullpen
Choo and Mazara will platoon RF and Maz will sit for left-handed started. The Rangers did not face a whole lot of left handed starters last season anyways so he should still get 400+ AB on the season. Rua and Carter will platoon 1B, and that leaves Jurickson Profar on the bench in both scenarios. If Wren ends up mashing and DeShields ends up flopping, he could end up facing left handed starters, and even possibly end up at the top of the lineup but his plate discipline would have to be solid.
In my next takes, I’d like to explore the options of bringing Mike Napoli back to the Texas whom adds another strong leader with experience. Signing Carlos Gomez, Clayton Richards, Brett Anderson, Henderson Alvarez & exploring Cuban amateur Dairon Blanco.