Monday newsletter time: Looking into the weekend roster moves at Rangers camp
(Texas Rangers/Ben Ludeman)
What happened Saturday morning wasn’t terribly unusual.
It might have been later than normal, but not unusual.
The Rangers signed left-handed reliever Will Smith to a one-year major-league contract two weeks into camp. Other clubs have been adding players in recent days, too.
A reliever has the flexibility to sign after spring training has started as long as he’s been actively throwing. A reliever doesn’t need six weeks of spring training to get ready, especially if he won’t be pitching multiple innings and if he’s an MLB veteran.
Smith qualifies in both categories, and he has ties to manager Bruce Bochy. That can’t hurt. The Rangers were short on veteran experience in the bullpen.
Adding Smith led to bad news for Mark Mathias, who was designated for assignment to make room for Smith on the 40-man roster. Mathias did everything right in the offseason. He worked out at Globe Life Field, where he followed Marcus Semien like a puppy dog, and he has the kind of versatility a bench player needs these days.
Josh Smith and Ezequiel Duran are just as versatile, perhaps more so, than Mathias as both can play shortstop. They’re also younger.
The Mathias DFA speaks to how far the Rangers have climbed since the dismal 2021 season. Also, with eight prospects on the 40-man roster, there isn’t a lot of wiggle room.
The Rangers have protected several players from the Rule 5 draft the past two offseasons, including in right-handers Cole Winn, Owen White and Ricky Vanasco.
The Rangers are hoping Mathias clears waivers, and he’s probably hoping to clear, too. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he doesn’t, especially after his nice showing in the majors late last season.
Smith will be on the Opening Day roster, and he might be the closer. He did that very well two seasons ago with the Braves, including in the World Series. He’s definitely a candidate to close, along with Jose Leclerc, Jonathan Hernandez and Ian Kennedy. Brock Burke has been mentioned, but adding Smith would seem to lessen the need for Burke to be a one-inning reliever.
Also on Saturday …
Minor-league spring training starts this week, which means prospects in big-league camp who had little to no chance at making the Opening Day roster will start getting moved to the minor-league side.
The process started Saturday.
Right-handers Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker, the club’s past two first-round picks, were among 10 internal non-roster invitees reassigned to minor-league camp. The others: left-handers Cody Bradford and Antoine Kelly; infielders Justin Foscue and Blaine Crim; catchers Cody Freeman, David Garcia and Matt Whatley; and righty Daniel Robert.
The trimming of the roster doesn’t mean that group did anything wrong. The pitchers and players who have a more realistic shot at the team are going to be playing deeper into Cactus League games, which gives the young guys fewer opportunities.
They also need to get ready for their seasons and get more instruction than they would by sticking around big-league camp.
But they will be back. Some might return next season as members of the 40-man roster.
Some non-roster invitees remain in camp, including outfielder Evan Carter and relievers Chase Lee, Kyle Cody and Marc Church. Lee and Cody have a chance at the Opening Day roster.
Not being at spring training is far more taxing than being there. The good news is Rangers Today returns for another stint Wednesday. This time I’m bringing John Moore along, and he’s going to wear out our YouTube channel. Good stuff lies ahead, with the beginning of minor-league camp. Until then, catch up on our latest in case you missed it and subscribe for full access here.
The Sunday Read: Opening Day roster projection
Friday on the Farm: Ricky Vanasco’s face kick
Rangers Today Baseball Podcast: Links to Marc Church episode
Oh, c’mon. This can’t be real. Right? Enjoy.
Good boy…😂👏🐶 pic.twitter.com/HYfuGWb8uW
— Laughs 4 All 🤟 (@Laughs_4_All) March 3, 2023
Jeff Wilson, email@example.com