It’s been a quiet Ranger’s offseason, or so many people think. Some would say that JD has not been active enough, but the people who can hearken back even just 1 year will know that patience pays off in a saturated free agent market. However, this free agent class was dry of starting pitching, and the Rangers decided to act fast in signing a pitcher, Andrew Cashner, to fill the void that Derek Holland will leave. That still leaves a 5th spot to worry about, plus rotation depth that is important in a 162 game season. Colby Lewis is still lingering as a free agent. It is very possible we will see him as a Ranger in 2017. He likes playing for the Rangers, the Rangers like what he offers, and we know what he can contribute to the staff. A.J. Griffin will add depth and compete for the 5th spot, along with Nick Martinez, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Tyler Wagner and Mike Hauschild. That’s a pretty decent pool to compete for a 5th spot in a rotation, and to add rotational depth to the club. Since Hauschild was drafted in rule 5, he will need to remain on the 25-man roster even if he does not win the job, and could be used as a long man out of the bullpen. If the Rangers decide that he just won’t work out this season in Texas, they will have to offer him back to Houston.
So our starting rotation is answered for, however, JD and the front office would like to however add a known and proven starter to the rotation through trades, and I would agree with this if I believe we could bring in a pitcher of the caliber that I’d think the front office would be interested in (Robbie Ray, Jake Odorizzi, Anthony DeSclafani). Bringing a guy like that in would shore up our rotation, and we’d have no question who 1-5 would come opening day barring injury. The guys mentioned above would contribute to depth. The problem is, due to the lack there of in the free agent market, and the astronomically high prices seen for pitchers in trades recently, more conservative front offices like Texas are unwillingly to rollover on asking prices. For example, a fair value trade for Robbie Ray would be Keone Kela, Brett Martin, Anderson Tejada & Josh Morgan. Not a single one of those guys are near top 100 in prospect pipeline, but a good haul for a pitcher like Ray. The Dbacks get an exellent and proven bullpen arm in Kela, a fairly promising young starting pitcher in Martin, a raw and toolsy 18-year old in Tejada, and a great glove and speedy guy in Morgan. None are well known, and unfortunately talks with the Dbacks would cease if Yohander Mendez or Ariel Jurado were not the headline from the haul. It’s unfortunate because I believe that trade would work in a pitcher saturated market. And this is the reason why I doubt we will see the front office acquire one of those guys above, or within their caliber, this offseason. Mendez and Jurado are our systems biggest assets that are closest to major league ready, and JD is unwilling to give them up. But…that’s fine. Come 2018, those guys will be needed at the major league level. They will be especially needed if we are not able to extend someone’s contract…
The market, however, is saturated with big bats. And there is no doubt that the Rangers need a big bat. Edwin Encarnacion is off the market, and I had my suspecions on how serious the Rangers would get signing a guy like that for a long term and big money. Adding a big right handed bat like Mike Napoli or a Chris Carter would give Joey Gallo more time to develop at AAA and would give Banister the opportunity to platoon Profar at first if desired. The Rangers could also take a different approach, and sign Michael Saunders or Jose Bautista if Adrian Beltre OKs the acquisition. The members of the team and staff might not be ready for a Bautista signing, and I believe Beltre being the captain would have to sign off on this to work. Saunders would add more value, as he could play LF every day, and enable Choo to claim a full-time DH role on the team. Saunders might require a multi-year deal, as would Napoli. It feels like Bautista’s stock has dropped so much, and has a draft pick attached to his signing that teams would look to sign him for 10m-14m on a 1-year. His best bet is to swallow his pride and return back to Toronto at a discount then try the open market once again in 2018. The Rangers will take their stalwart approach of patience in this free agent market, as they did last year and paid off in an Ian Desmond signing for only 8m. Look for a similar acquisition this year in February in the form of a corner outfielder or a first base/DH type.
Spotrac highly overvalued Michael Saunders and projected a 3 year 48m deal, however I believe is fairly accurate on Napoli’s value. I’d offer either a 2 year deal around the same amount of money. Saunders really falls off on money because his glove is not that great. He had a good season at 1.4 fWAR to the tune of 11.4m value, but is projected at 0.8 for next season. He has good potential with his bat, with a 117 wRC+ which is higher than both Napoli or Carter. Carter is a similar case, his value drops off a bit due to his glove. Napoli did not have a great season defensively either but is a higher leverage player than both Carter and Saunders @ 2.15 WPA/LI verses 1.6 for Saunders and 1.55 for Carter. He is in the important situations and seems to deliver more often than the other two. Carter is in his last year of arbitration, and was non-tendered by Milwaukee prior to the signing of Eric Thames. Carter should expect to earn slightly more than his 3rd arb year amount which is typically roughly 60% of market value. If you take that verbatim, that would be 3.84m at 60% value of a projected 0.8 fWAR. I doubt a team will sign him for this amount and I’ll look for it to be a bit higher. I’d expect in the range of 5m-6m on a 1-year deal, and to be a late signing in February as I’m sure he will expect more in the range of 8m-10m, which is also in the realm of possibility if a team wants him that bad. Bautista is projected at 2.8 fWAR in 2017, that is technically a value of 22.4m. Bautista is coming off of a down year, where an injury interrupted his season. He still has a great bat, a great eye, and a good approach at the plate. He may not have been ridiculous to think he could get a 3 year deal worth 60m+, but the year he had ultimately ruined any chances of that happening. I’d expect him to resign with the Blue Jays for 12m-14m or with another team on the lower side of 10m-12m range as they would lose a draft pick.
I’ve also heard how bad of a spot the Rangers are in compared to last year. I don’t understand this sentiment either. Comparing the Rangers to last year, at least in terms of what we thought we were getting, we are in better shape.
I put names in bold font whom I think, or whom I thought at the time, would or were impact players. Notice how Matt Bush, Tony Barnette and A.J. Griffin are not bold font. At the time, these players were unproven in MLB with exception to Griffin who was coming off of an injury bounce back. All three were low-risk, high reward time signings, something JD likes to do often, and we all know how it paid off in 2016. Who knows, Wagner, Dragmire and/or Hauschild could all three themselves be high impact guys in 2017, but that’s just something we will have to wait and see. The Rangers lost 3 impact guys, and gained 2 in 2015 offseason. So far this offseason, the Rangers have lost 4 impact guys, and only gained 2. I know what you are probably thinking. Beltran didn’t hit when he came here, Moreland could never hit, and Holland was terrible. All true points, but who’s to say that would be the same in 2017. Beltran added a veteran presence that is great for the younger guys. The Rangers will miss Moreland’s glove at first, but a glove at first does not win more games than a bat at first. Holland has regressed every single year since his signing, and was injury prone. Either way, the true reason is I am trying to be conservative. If you discount the 3, then we only really lost Ian Desmond who was impact, and gained two impact guys. And even for not hitting, or not executing pitches that is 4.5 bWAR lost in total, while Cashner and Gomez totaled -0.6 bWAR. Yikes! Let’s hope Gomez and Cashner are able to bounce back this season.
Earlier I spoke about 2018, and that is going to be a strange year with Darvish, Lucroy, Cashner and Gomez hitting free agency. JD has mentioned his intentions are open to a contract extension for both Lucroy and Darvish. I highly doubt it is possible to do both. Many believe this is Darvish’s last year as he is likely to command 26m-30m a year. Could the fact that we haven’t seen JD sign a big money asset or trade for one in a while mean that ownership is wanting to extend Yu Darvish? Last big trades that increased payroll was in the 2013 off-season for Prince Fielder and at the 2015 trade deadline for Cole Hamels. Prince Fielder’s contract is still being paid off, but has been cut in half due to insurance. And, the last big signing was Shin-Soo Choo the same offseason that Prince Fielder was acquired. Could the reason the Rangers did not sign an Encarnacion, be preparation for a Darvish extension? Or does the Hamels contract ruin the chances of extending Darvish? I plan on investigating this further in a future article as well to explore the haul that Darvish can expect to obtain and the likelihood of the Rangers chances to extend Darvish. Chances are slim for the Rangers, but I think if ownership wants to extend him, they could without breaking into luxury tax threshold.