The Texas Rangers lost the second most games in franchise history last season. The 102 loss effort was a brutal beating to watch all year. If not for flashy Cuban Star Adolis “El Bombi” Garcia, the Rangers would have eclipsed their all time loss record, set by the 1973 squad at 105 losses.
Rangers ownership said they were looking to add 100 million dollars in payroll this offseason. This sounds less impressive than it is. Going into 2022, the Rangers had very few people on the books. Omitting salaries below a million dollars, they had a mere 4 players signed for next season. Light hitting gold glove shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa is being paid 5 million a year to hit below average. IKF has a career OPS+ of 81. 100 is always average, the higher the better with ERA+ and OPS+. IKF is a likely trade piece considering the Rangers signed 2 All-Star middle infielders.
Fireballer Jose Leclerc makes just under 5 million a year. He was extended a couple years ago after a solid save streak. He spent the season after the extension struggling with control problems. He spent the season after that (2021) rehabbing his blown out elbow. Leclerc has an electric heater and change-up. He is a top end power arm when healthy.
Solid lefty Brett Martin makes a million a year. He is good for the price and has room to grow.
Rounding out the list is perennial disappointment Willie Calhoun. Big Willie gets hurt over and over. He cannot stay on the field. His defense is bad. This is a player seen as a career DH in his twenties. He is a liability to lineup structure. He has virtually no versatility or use outside of being an above average bat for 50 games a year. Willie was the player traded straight up for Yu Darvish. This “MLB ready top prospect” has been the most disappointing Rangers prospect since Martin Perez.
It should now be obvious why the Rangers adding 100 million in payroll isn’t as spectacular as it sounds. Their roster is a myriad of underdeveloped prospects and replacement level scrubs.
New Editions: the Rangers first big move was to add versatile infielder Marcus Semien. Semien, a longtime Oakland Athletic, spent last season carrying the Toronto Blue Jays offense along with Vlad Guerrero Jr. Semien plays gold glove defense and is *very* versatile. He is patient at the plate. He is *not* injury prone. He played all 162 games in 2019 and 2021. He was signed to a 7 year deal, being paid around 25 million a year. He is 31, which is the only bad part. The last two years of the contract could be problematic. In order to sign top tier free agents, players are wanting to be signed into their late 30’s. Teams have grown wary of these long contacts. The Angels have taught the league how *not* to approach free agency.
The Angels love to give out massive contracts to big names. They think throwing a ton of money at sluggers while having no pitching is the recipe for success. That’s why the Angels haven’t made the playoffs since 2014. They were swept and embarrassed that year. Mike Trout did little except strikeout. Josh Hamilton was awful in that series. So was Iron CJ Wilson. Thus concluded the Angels plan to win a pennant with the Rangers old stars.
Albert Pujols is a great example of a player given a huge contract that didn’t pan out. The Angels, always eager to make the “big splash” move, dumped a 10 year albatross contract on Pujols. Pujols started out decently in 2012, but by 2016 was a shadow of his former self. He was the slowest player in the league by far. His offensive numbers declined year after year. By 2021, the Angels couldn’t bear to even roster the Latin timepiece anymore. They gutlessly cut Albert instead of letting him ride out his last year on their joke team that hasn’t had pitching for a decade. Albert went on to be useful for the Dodgers, who paid him the vet minimum to hit lefties.
Remember the A-Rod contact? New Rangers owner Tom Hicks wanted the top free agent in 2001, especially because the Winter Meetings were in Dallas that year. Hicks signed Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez to a MONSTER 10 year, 252 million dollar deal. This contract staggered owners and caused a considerable amount of kvetching. It was double the highest sports salary ever at the time. The Rangers went on to 3 last place finishes, while A-Rod put up incredible numbers. Eventually the Rangers concluded that it was impossible to win with one player taking up such a big portion of their salary cap. They gave A-Rod to the Yankees for scraps and ended up foolishly eating half the contract anyway. Thus A-Rod was paid millions by the Rangers to put up MVP stats in New York. Disgusting.
At the time the contract was ostentatiously framed as a cautionary tale. However, the real reason the Rangers lost so much in the early 2000’s was pitching. It wasn’t A-Rod’s fault the Rangers decided their ace was going to be Chan Ho Park. Park was one of the worst Rangers of all time. He was paid the highest salary on the team for a pitcher. The lesson of the early 2000s Rangers was the importance of pitching. Not that paying a 9 WAR player a bunch of money is bad. Remember, the A-Rod contract went from his mid 20’s to mid 30’s. He wasn’t signed until age 40 like Pujols was.
Two decades after the A-Rod contract, the Rangers decided to give out another MASSIVE 10 year deal to a premier SS. Former Dodger Corey Seagar was the target for Texas.
Seagar is a talented and consistent All Star level player. His defense is great. He is versatile but plays middle infield best, just like Marcus Semien. Seagar was also the home run leader at the Rangers new stadium for months because as a Dodger he played in the COVID playoff bracket in Texas. By the end of his contract, Seagar should have the all time park record secured at 250.
The Seagar signing shows that the Rangers want to compete, especially in the years 2023 and 2024; when the top prospects should be ready and Semien and Seagar are still in their prime. The 10 year Seagar deal, complete with a no trade clause, almost feels like a marriage. A-Rod was a way better player than Seagar and his contract was panned for years. At 325 million, the Rangers are paying for 8 seasons of All Star production. They expect Semien and Seagar to play every day, hit in the premier lineup spots, and hit .300 with pop and a good eye. This is completely within the realm of possibility.
Seagar being committed for an entire decade is a weird feeling for a team that has been listless in their approach for the last 5 years. It is clear Chris Young is having a positive impact on the front office. The Jon Daniels era of lowballing a free agent on purpose then hand wringing after he signs somewhere else is over. This team now has a clear mission statement and goal. They are trying to win.
Seagar and Semien will define the success or failure of the Rangers for the next several years.
The Rangers also added Jon Gray, an above average rightie who had some good years in Colorado. Four years, 56 million dollars for Gray. Gray is probably a low end 2nd starter, or high end 3rd starter. The Rangers still need an ace, as Kyle “Ace” Gibson was traded last year.
Gray is a great signing for the price. He should be locked in for 180 IP and a 3.80 ERA.
The last addition the Rangers made before the lockout began was former Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun. Calhoun has pop and a hose in right field. He is a solid little addition. The Rangers cannot field All Stars at every position, but the days of starting the likes of Nick Solak and DJ Peters should be over.
The current MLB lockout will prevent the signing of players until it ends. A rapid ending of a lockout seems extremely unlikely.
A scandal broke a day before the final deadline to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. It was revealed MLB duplicitously changed the baseballs without telling the players. They already did this a couple years ago. They used a juiced ball for the regular second and reverted to a normal ball in the playoffs. The fans preferred the normal balls over the juiced ones that produced gimmicky games.
In the 2021 season MLB swapped the balls around without telling the teams. They used the juiced ball during big market, premier games, like the Field of Dreams game.
This obviously infuriated the players and made the labor dispute worse. Hopefully they do not miss Opening Day.
So what else do the Rangers need?
They need an ace, as usual. Dallas native Clayton Kershaw is a likely target. His two target teams are the Dodgers and Rangers. Kershaw is washed up and cannot stay healthy. He is inadequate in his current form to anchor a rotation.
The Rangers also need another outfielder. Former Reds slugger Nick Castellanos would fit perfectly with the Calhouns and El Bombi.
The Rangers also need to augment their bullpen. Tyler Clippard and Darren O’Day are both perfect free agent targets.
If the Rangers add a couple average starters that can eat innings in addition to these other players, they could win 85 games.