It’s October and postseason baseball is in the air once again. It’s the best time of the fall portion of the sports year, and the Rangers are once again not participating. The Rangers’ 2022 season has finally (thank god) come to a conclusion for the Texas Rangers. They finished 68-94 and 38 games out of first place sitting in fourth place in the AL West. If you’re reading this, then you probably already knew these things because you, like myself, suffered through all 162 games of this season.
Formerly Jon Daniels and now Chris Young told us that this year was expected to be a year of great progress. When we all did our record predictions weeks ahead of Opening Day, the general consensus was anywhere in the range of 72 and 78 wins. The fans bought into the progress. The Rangers proceeded to win 68 games, which is by definition progress, but by the timetable set forth by the front office, it’s quite simply not enough. They haven’t backed down from their stance though. They expect this team to contend next season. They expect them in the playoffs next year and to compete for a chance to play in the Fall Classic around Halloween. The joint stance of ownership and Chris Young have set up an offseason that may be the franchises most important in a decade, or potentially even longer.
So, where do they begin to morph a 68 win club into a contender during the offseason? The answer is obvious. They need starting pitchers in the worst way, and they don’t need the back end guys as much, they need the badass, apex predators that you put on the mound in Game One of a playoff series. Fortunately for the franchise, there are candidates for that role in the free agent market this offseason, and the Rangers will be competitive for them. Chris Young has said that they will be playing at the top end of the free agent market, and with that the first two names that pop into minds are Jacob deGrom (more likely IMO) and Carlos Rodon. The Rangers have since been reported to be interested in signing both, but I’m not going to try to sell anyone the fantasy scenario where the Rangers somehow slot both of those pitchers into their rotation next year (wouldn’t that be fun though.) While they are financially capable of doing it, it just doesn’t seem like there’s a ton of likelihood to pulling that off. With that being said, it is of absolute paramount importance that they sign one of those pitchers. Why? Multiple reasons. The first being that you need them in the worst way. Secondly, because it took the franchise years to rebuild the farm into one of the best in the sport, and if you don’t sign one of these pitchers, you have to look to the trade market in order to find one of those players. Controllable starting pitchers of that caliber are often the most expensive trade asset in the sport.
I expect the Rangers to re-sign Martín Peréz in short order once the offseason begins. They weren’t incredibly far off from a numbers standpoint during the regular season, and I expect the compromise will come rather quickly, because Texas is where Peréz wants to be. The deal will likely range in the $14M AAV range over the course of multiple seasons and tie him to the middle or backend of the Rangers rotation for years to come. A combination of one of the frontline starters and Martín Peréz is somewhere between a $50-60 million investment in AAV.
A secondary topic that they’re going to have to deal with is that the Rangers have an absolute crunch for people to put on their 40 man roster.
Grant Schiller @OGSchill So let's say the Rangers protect Josh Jung, Owen White, Cole Winn, Luisangel Acuna, Dustin Harris, Jonathan Ornelas, Zak Kent, Antoine Kelly (8 spots) and add 5 non-organizational pieces (arbitrary number), there's a lot of 40 man space to be cleared.7:34 PM ∙ Aug 17, 2022
Grant (@OGSchill) does a great job in the linked thread explaining the roster crunch, so that I don’t have to break it all down here. Essentially, the Rangers are going to have to create 10 roster spots between expiring contracts and getting rid of current roster guys, so that they can put crucial minor league players on the 40-man roster and keep them away from the Rule 5 Draft. They’re not going to simply DFA or release everyone. It’s a strong indicator that the Rangers are going to be active in the trade market (hi Shane Bieber) both shopping guys who don’t belong on their roster anymore, as well as real prospects who have to be added this offseason. It’s another avenue to solve the starting pitching problem. Bieber would be a ton of fun but the Rangers have put a ton of work into rebuilding their farm and he would come at an extreme cost, depending on which prospects are available (I’m looking at you middle of the infield guys), they may be able to bring in another solid 3 or 4 type of pitcher to build rotational depth, and give themselves a chance to win more than two days a week. If you don’t believe it, check out this stat that Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) was able to find.
Three starters of above average caliber are necessary if the Rangers have any hopes of meeting the expeditious timeline set forth by ownership and the front office.
My writing of this has been in progress for some time now, so things happen, the Rangers appointed Bruce Bochy as the manager of the club sometime between the start of this blog and the end. It’s another move from the front office and ownership that shows that they intend to contend. The pocketbooks are fixing to open, and Bochy is a guy that I don’t have to agonize over costing the Rangers one run games. Other than that, I’m not sure I have any sweeping takeaways about the hire.
The Rangers next step has much more to do with the roster than it does with the coaching staff, albeit until a few days ago both were issues. I’ve emphasized it throughout, but the most important words said in this piece are that it’s the most important offseason for the franchise in over a decade. With swift execution and some big bags, the Rangers could be on the verge of returning to October baseball with all that that implies. It’s go time.