The Sunday Read: Trying to forecast what Rangers will do this offseason
(AP photo/Andy Jacobson)
Free agency is here. Sound the trumpets.
Baseball observers are taking the Rangers seriously this offseason when they say they have money to spend. They spent $580 million last offseason, $561.5 of it Dec. 1 with the signings of Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Jon Gray and Kole Calhoun, hence all the believers.
The Rangers haven’t spent anything so far but have already done some heavy lifting, hiring Bruce Bochy as manager last month and trading for a rotation piece Wednesday at the general managers meetings in Las Vegas.
They also dropped a weight on their toe with their best starter from last season.
Will the Rangers make good on their pledge to money whip starting pitchers? If so, who is going to coach them?
Here’s one man’s best guesses at what will transpire this offseason with the Rangers.
Pitching coach: Mike Maddux
Yes, the Rangers have a major hire still to make that interested free-agent pitchers might want to know when weighing if they should sign.
Young said that he is creating more or a pitching department, but it will still have a traditional pitching coach. A former pitcher, Young leans a little more old school on pitching philosophy and wants veteran coach who won’t be afraid to assert his will when things aren’t going the right way.
The best candidate is Maddux, the former Rangers pitching coach whose teams have made the postseason far more than they have missed. He has juggled a relatively young pitching staff the past few seasons in St. Louis, Adam Wainwright notwithstanding.
Two other candidates are Darren Balsley and Curt Young, who both worked under Bochy. Neither worked in the majors this year, and Balsley hasn’t been a big-league pitching coach since 2019.
Maddux, who lives locally and has spoken with Young and Bochy about the job, makes a lot of sense here.
Rule 5 protection
The Rangers have roughly a million minor-leaguers who would be worthy of a being protected from the Rule 5 draft, or at least is seems that way. It’s a big number, and not all of them are going to be added to the 40-man roster.
Right-handers Owen White and Cole Winn are easy choices. Outfielder Dustin Harris and infielder Luisangel Acuna are, too. Nine of the Rangers’ top 30 prospects, according MLB Pipeline, are Rule 5-eligible.
The Rangers cleaned up the roster Thursday and have cleared six spots on the 40-man. There is room for more, though the more players who are protected, the less roster flexibility the big-league team will have.
Six adds seems like a massive number. There are several minor-leaugers with a good case for being protected, including left-handers Antoine Kelly and Avery Weems and righties Kyle Cody and Zak Kent.
That would leave left-hander Cody Bradford exposed, and shortstop Jonathan Ornelas, first baseman Blaine Crim, infielder Davis Wendzel and righties Mason Englert and Ryan Garcia.
The Rangers must set their roster by Tuesday. The Rule 5 draft is Dec. 7.
Martin Perez: Does not return
The Rangers extended the qualifying offer Thursday to Perez, their best pitcher in 2022 and one of the best in the American League. That doesn’t mean Perez can’t re-sign, but the window is now wide open for him to leave.
He doesn’t want to leave, and the $19.65 million qualifying offer would be a massive raise over the $4 million he made this year. He also would be a free agent again next year, without the stigma of a qualfying offer weighing him down.
Perez understands how the qualfying offer could affect his free agency. There might not be many teams that want to surrender draft-pick compensation to sign him. But it only takes one, and Perez knows this might be his only chance to strike it big.
Of course, the Rangers and Perez could reach a deal, something like two years for $30 million and an option ($2 million buyout). A team that needs pitching and didn’t see its propsects advance as much as expected could use a trusty starter for two years.
The sense here, though, is that Perez will have suitors who can top the Rangers’ best offer.
Starters signed: Rodon, Eovaldi
The Rangers left the GM meetings with one spot in the rotation filled. They acquired Odorizzi from the Braves, who will pay the majority of his contract. Atlanta also received lefty Kolby Allard, who was traded to the Rangers in 2019 by …. Atlanta.
That’s a pretty good deal.
But the Rangers need at least two more starters, and might feel they need a third if they indeed let Perez go.
They love lefty Carlos Rodon, even though he isn’t far removed from a laundry list of injury woes, but it will require the Rangers going where they have never gone before with a starting pitcher — nine figures. Industry projections are that Rodon will bag a five-year deal worth $150 million, which seems a tad nuts.
Nathan Eovaldi, a righty, won’t need or get the length of contract and financial terms as Rodon. The Rangers like Eovaldi, too, despite his own injury history. A short-term deal makes more sense to mitigate risk and to have a spot opened by 2025 for a prospect to claim.
Big bat signed: Joey Gallo
The moans are audible, but consider a few things:
Globe Life Field is Gallo’s happy place, and happiness is a big deal for Gallo. He never wanted to leave and wants to come back.
The banning of the infield shift will, in theory, give Gallo a better average and on-base percentage. Granted, teams are likely searching for a way to put an extra player in the way of Gallo line drives and hard grounders to right field, but he should be better.
Even though Scott Boras is Gallo’s agent, Gallo isn’t going to bag a huge multi-year deal. He has to prove that what happened with the Yankees is not who he is, and might need to sign a short-term make-good contract to do so.
He doesn’t have to play every day. A platoon with Bubba Thompson isn’t hard to envision.
It wouldn’t be the end of the world to sign Gallo.
Offseason surprise: A closer
Prices on relievers have already gone through he roof, with Edwin Diaz signing a five-year, $102 million deal and former Rangers reilever Rafael Montero signing a three-year, $34 million contract.
There’s probably a one- or two-year deal out there for a proven closer. GMs love one-year deals.
If the Rangers don’t acquire a third starter, they can make the rotation better by making the bullpen better.
Young said that signing a closer is not a priority, even though he saw first-hand as a player what Trevor Hoffman and Greg Holland meant to a team. A closer could become more of a priority depending on which way the free-agency winds blow.
Jeff Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org