Texas Rangers Rumors

Texas Rangers trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Offseason Outlook: Texas Rangers

Prior to the season, pundits expected the Rangers to be in the thick of the AL West. Instead, they finished with fewer than 70 wins for the first time since 1985. Injuries are the most commonly cited culprit for the poor season. The organization could experience a quick turnaround with better health, but several questionable long term commitments put the franchise outlook in jeopardy.

Guaranteed Contracts

  • Prince Fielder, 1B: $144MM through 2020
  • Adrian Beltre, 3B: $18MM through 2015 (plus $16MM voidable option for 2016)
  • Shin-Soo Choo, OF: $116MM through 2020
  • Yu Darvish, SP: $31MM through 2017 (2017 could become player option based on Cy Young voting)
  • Matt Harrison, SP: $39MM through 2017 (plus $13.25MM club option for 2018)
  • Elvis Andrus, SS: $120MM through 2022 (plus $15MM club option for 2023)
  • Derek Holland, SP: $18.4MM through 2016 (plus $11MM club option for 2017 and $11.5MM club option for 2018)
  • Leonys Martin, OF: $3.75MM through 2015
  • Martin Perez, SP: $10.75MM through 2017 (plus $6MM club option for 2018, $7.5MM club option for 2019, and $9MM club option for 2020)

Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via Matt Swartz)

Contract Options

  • Alex Rios, OF: $13.5MM club option ($1MM buyout)

Free Agents

In addition to the many injuries suffered in Texas, former manager Ron Washington left the team in early September for personal reasons. MLBTR will continue to track the latest from the Rangers ongoing managerial search. Presently, the field is wide open with as many as eight candidates.

Once a manager is selected, GM Jon Daniels has a tough road ahead of him this offseason. He’s said he doesn’t “expect to play at the top end of free agency this year,” so it’s unclear how much payroll the club has available. Currently, $107.15MM is guaranteed to nine players. Arbitration expenses shouldn’t be unwieldy, but may tie up around $12MM. Assuming payroll stays steady after the losing season, Daniels will have about $15MM to $25MM with which to work.

As noted, injuries contributed heavily to the team’s 95 losses. Of the regulars, only Andrus survived the season unscathed, and he turned in a disappointing .263/.314/.333 line. Over 2,000 player days were lost to injury. It’s the biggest injury burden since data has been collected on the topic, and they also lost the most salary to injury.

Aside from this season, Texas has recently done well with injuries. It’s hard to pin blame on the training staff. Some players suffered fluky injuries like Holland (dog tripping incident). Others were lost for extended periods with difficult-to-prevent problems like Jurickson Profar, Harrison, and Perez. It’s not worth digging into the entire list of injured Rangers – it suffices to say the list is long.

So where is the club headed? Three players are contracted through 2020, and those deals already look like potential burdens. As mentioned, Andrus disappointed offensively for a second straight season. Fielder struggled leading up to his season-ending injury. Choo was decent early, but slumped on his way to the doctor. It’s unclear how long Choo played through injury, so there is at least some room for optimism with him.

Two of the club’s best position players – Beltre and Martin – may become free agents after the 2015 season. Beltre possesses an option for 2016 that can be voided if he fails to reach 586 plate appearances next season. The club’s best pitcher, Darvish, has an interesting provision that could allow him to convert his 2017 season into a player option. It will trigger if he either wins the Cy Young award once in the next two seasons or finishes between second and fourth in both years.

The farm system isn’t particularly deep, with Joey Gallo and Jorge Alfaro representing the top prospects. Gallo is a high strikeout corner infielder while Alfaro is a well-rounded catcher. No matter how optimistic you are about the Rangers system, it’s not positioned to bail out the major league club in the next couple seasons.

Therein lies the rub. Texas exists in a weird state between contending and rebuilding. Several injured players like Profar, Harrison, and Perez may be unavailable at the start of the season. Additionally, Darvish, Ogando, and Tanner Scheppers were all sidelined with elbow inflammation. We’ve seen elbow issues recur in other pitchers, most recently Cliff Lee.

Texas is expected to decline Alex Rios‘ $13.5MM club option. That leaves potential openings for a starting outfielder, second baseman, and catcher. The latter two positions will probably be solved internally. Profar may man second if healthy or Rougned Odor, 21 next season, could be given another extended look. With the catching market so thin, the club is thought to be leaning towards using Robinson Chirinos as their primary backstop. Unfortunately, internal options in the outfield are limited. The 2014 club used Jake Smolinski, Jim Adduci, Daniel Robertson, Michael Choice, and Ryan Rua to patch the outfield. It’s unclear if any of them can handle more than a supporting role.

While outfield is a problem area, the free agent market offers few solutions. Rather than trying Colby Rasmus, Michael Cuddyer, or a return engagement with Nelson Cruz, the Rangers may want to explore a trade. We’ll know more about that marketplace in the coming months, but trade candidates like Justin Ruggiano could work as a means of fortifying those internal band aids. Yasmany Tomas is another option who could fit well for a semi-rebuilding club.

The rotation is a major area of concern. Darvish has an upcoming doctor’s appointment in November which will determine his offseason schedule. Harrison may or may not be available to start the season as he recovers from spinal fusion surgery. Perez had Tommy John surgery in May, so he’ll be out at least the first month. Assuming Darvish is healthy, he’ll be joined by Holland. Veteran Colby Lewis is reportedly expected to be re-signed. Despite an unsightly 5.18 ERA, the soft-tossing righty posted typically decent peripherals which improved late in the season. Nick Tepesch and Nick Martinez were the most successful of the internal options. Others like Miles Mikolas and Lisalverto Bonilla appear better suited as minor league depth.

In total, assuming Lewis is re-signed, the Rangers have plenty of arms, but lack in health and proven quality. That’s where a free agent hire or two could really pay off. If the club is looking for an affordable innings eater, Roberto Hernandez could fit their offense friendly stadium with his ground ball profile. Potential mid-market targets include Ervin Santana, Justin Masterson, and Edinson Volquez. Some may recall that Volquez was once traded by the Rangers for Josh Hamilton.

The bullpen is yet another area of uncertainty. A whopping 30 relievers were used this season, counting position player appearances from Moreland and J.P. Arencibia. The club’s best reliever was Joakim Soria. He’s now with Detroit. The second best reliever was Cotts, and he’s headed to free agency. Neftali Feliz regained his previous role as closer in the waning months of the season. He gained strength late in the year, running his fastball up to 98 mph at times. Now that he’s further removed from Tommy John surgery, the Rangers have to hope he can provide a stabilizing influence in the bullpen. However, it would be risky to rely solely on Feliz and other internal options.

The closer market is fairly robust. A candidate like Jason Grilli might be willing to serve as a competition for Feliz. The club should probably look to hire at least a couple relievers – you can view the full list of available names here. Jesse Crain, Luke Hochevar, and Andrew Bailey are among the low-risk, high-reward crowd.

Rather than just patching holes and hoping the ship doesn’t sink for a second consecutive season, Texas does have the option to kick off a thorough rebuilding process. Of their long term assets, only Harrison appears impossible to trade at this moment and only because his career is uncertain at this time. Any contract dump of Fielder, Choo, or Andrus would be selling low, but an opportunistic partner with money to spare might be willing to bet on any of the three. Certainly, a deal for Choo or Fielder is especially unlikely. Darvish and Holland offer substantially more value, although their recent injury history probably dampens their market too.

That leaves just Beltre and Martin as sell-high candidates, and they have the shortest commitments. As such, I think it’s more likely that Texas will take the current roster into the season. Even if the club doesn’t compete, better performance from their big names along with the constricted in-season market for talent should help with trading.

Ultimately, Rangers fans may want to see a big change after a dreadful season, but a steady course appears to be the forecast. Daniels is in a poor position to make sweeping changes. His trade assets are at a low point in value, and he admittedly doesn’t have much to work with for free agent acquisitions. Any future pivot to rebuilding will likely be the result of early season performance.

Rangers Claim Ed Lucas

The Rangers have claimed infielder Ed Lucas off waivers from the Marlins, according to Rangers executive VP of communications John Blake (on Twitter). Lucas, 32, will be controllable at league minimum next year.

It took some time for Lucas to reach the big leagues, but he’s seen a good bit of action over the past two years. In total, he has a .255/.302/.323 slash and five home runs over 573 plate appearances. Those numbers looked better after 2013, but a .580 OPS campaign saw Lucas land under replacement value last year.

Clearly, Lucas’s value lies in his defensive flexibility. Over that limited stretch of time, he has seen significant time at third, second, first, and even short. Lucas has also played some innings in the corner outfield.

Quick Hits: Tomas, Fulenchek, Royals, O’s, Pace, Rookies

Though it’s early in the process, the market for Yasmany Tomas is beginning to develop, tweets MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. To this point, the Rangers, Phillies, Padres, Giants, Mariners and Dodgers have all shown strong interest in the young slugger. Most of those clubs are logical fits, though the Dodgers are a bit surprising given the logjam of outfielders the team already has under contract. The Dodgers are already unable to find regular at-bats for Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Scott Van Slyke, so adding another outfielder to the mix would make a semi-surprising addition.

Some more news items from around the league…

  • Braves right-hander Garrett Fulenchek and his agent, Craig Rose, have joined MSM Sports, MLBTR has learned. The 18-year-old Fulenchek was selected with the 66th overall pick in this year’s draft and will join the same agency that is home to No. 8 overall pick Kyle Freeland and Josh Harrison of the Pirates.
  • The Royals and Orioles have built somewhat unconventional rosters, writes ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, pointing out that their meeting in the ALCS marks the first time in the divisional era (beginning in 1969) that two teams that ranked in the bottom five of the league in walks will meet in an LCS or World Series. Crasnick looks at each team’s emphasis on defense as well as the Orioles’ emphasis on power and aggression and the Royals’ emphasis on speed. Somewhat incredibly, Baltimore ranked first in the Majors in homers and last in steals, while Kansas City ranked last in homers and first in steals. Crasnick spoke with Adam Jones, Buck Showalter and the Elias Sports Bureau’s Steve Hirdt for the piece, the latter of whom opined that clubs have gone from undervaluing walks to overvaluing them.
  • Crasnick’s colleague, Jayson Stark, writes that players feel underrepresented as MLB experiments with new rules to increase the pace of play. No active players were included on the seven-man committee to look into the matter, though MLBPA executive director Tony Clark (a former Major Leaguer himself) is on the committee to serve as a voice for the players, commissioner-elect Rob Manfred explained to Stark via email. Nonetheless, players such as Curtis Granderson, Kevin Slowey and Brad Ziegler all went on the record with Stark, and a number of players who wished to remain anonymous brought up several issues they’ve taken with the endeavor. Some players feel that too much of the blame has been placed on them, when there’s been little talk of shortening commercial breaks or the consequences that an increasingly matchup-based game has brought about (i.e. more pitching changes). More than anything, players hope to have a voice in the matter before changes are implemented, Slowey and Granderson explained.
  • Baseball America’s Matt Eddy compiled an “All-Rookie Team” for the 2014 season, highlighting the excellent work of Travis d’Arnaud, Jose Abreu, Mookie Betts, Nick Castellanos, Danny Santana, Billy Hamilton, Kevin Kiermaier, George Springer, Kennys Vargas, Jacob deGrom, Collin McHugh, Marcus Stroman, Masahiro Tanaka, Yordano Ventura and Dellin Betances. Names such as Matt Shoemaker and David Peralta also earned mentions, and you can read Eddy’s rationale behind his selections in the full article.

Minor Moves: Arencibia, Kouzmanoff

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • Catcher J.P. Arencibia and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff have elected free agency rather than accepting outright assignments with the Rangers, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest reports on Twitter. The pair was set to reach free agency anyway, but will be eligible to test the market now rather than waiting until after the World Series.

Rangers Outright J.P. Arencibia, Kevin Kouzmanoff

The Rangers announced today that they have outrighted catcher J.P. Arencibia, third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, infielder Guilder Rodriguez, outfielder Engel Beltre, right-hander Wilmer Font and left-hander Pedro Figueroa off the 40-man roster to Triple-A Round Rock. Both Kouzmanoff and Arencibia are eligible to become free agents, and will likely do just that. The moves drop the Rangers’ 40-man roster to 37, as three of the players (Beltre, Kouzmanoff and Figueroa) all had to be activated from the 60-day DL in order to be outrighted.

Arencibia, previously of Blue Jays fame, hit .177/.239/.369 in 222 plate appearances for Texas this year, appearing at both catcher and first base. His .196/.263/.427 batting line following a recall from the minors and a shift to first base was an improvement over his numbers while serving as a catcher, but his 28 percent strikeout clip this past season was still troubling.

Kouzmanoff was outstanding in 13 games for Texas before hitting the 60-day DL due to a back injury that required surgery. The former Padre/Athletic hit .362/.412/.617 with a pair of homers in 51 trips to the plate as he filled in for a then-injured Adrian Beltre.

Beltre spent the entire season on the DL as he recovered from surgery on each of his legs, and Figueroa saw just 10 games of action before going down to Tommy John surgery. Rodriguez was a feel-good story that made his big league debut and collected two hits after 13 seasons in the minors. Font didn’t pitch in the Majors this season and underwent elbow surgery in August before being designated for assignment last week when the team claimed Alfredo Figaro from the Brewers.

Cubs Claim Joseph Ortiz

The Cubs announced that they have claimed left-hander Joseph Ortiz off waivers from the Rangers.

The 24-year-old Ortiz missed much of the 2014 season after he was struck by a motorcycle this offseason in his native Venezuela, as Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News wrote back in January. Ortiz missed upwards of three months this season due to a broken foot suffered in that accident and spent the remainder of the season in the minor leagues. He totaled just 18 innings between the team’s Rookie-league affiliate and Double-A, pitching to a 4.00 ERA with nine strikeouts against two walks.

Ortiz made his big league debut for the Rangers in 2013 at the age of 22 and fared well given his young age. He compiled a 4.23 ERA with 5.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 39.5 percent ground-ball rate in 44 2/3 innings out of the team’s bullpen. Ortiz ranked 30th among Rangers prospects heading into that 2013 season, according to Baseball America, who noted that his breaking ball made him a candidate to hold down a spot in a Major League bullpen.

Quick Hits: Rangers Rotation, Martin, Trumbo

The Rangers top priority is finding a manager. Their other top priority is building a rotation, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The Rangers aren’t expected to “play in the top end of free agency,” according to GM Jon Daniels, but they will need to locate some external rotation help. Even if staff ace Yu Darvish is pronounced healthy and ready to resume throwing in November, the club needs a mid-rotation pitcher to slot after Derek Holland. Grant assumes Colby Lewis will be re-signed (I agree) and the final spot will likely fall to Nick Tepesch or Nick Martinez. Martin Perez is a mid-season option as he works back from Tommy John surgery, and Matt Harrison could potentially slot into the rotation if he recovers from spinal fusion surgery. My own two cents: in order to avoid a repeat of 2014, the Rangers need at least one more viable major league starter than Grant suggests.

  • The Pirates would like to re-sign catcher Russell Martin, says Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The issue – he’s arguably outperformed peers like Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero, and Brian McCann in the seasons leading up to a new contract. Molina signed for $75MM, Montero for $60MM and McCann for $85MM. Martin’s combination of defensive value and stealthy offensive prowess makes one wonder if Molina’s five-year, $75MM deal could be in play. If so, it would be hard for Pittsburgh to flex the muscles necessary to retain him.
  • We haven’t heard much from newly minted Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart, but he seems to be a fan of Mark Trumbo, according to Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona. With Paul Goldschmidt set to return to first base in 2015, Trumbo will either slot in left or right field. Arizona brought in Trumbo to provide a double threat with Goldschmidt in the middle of the order. While some have looked to him as a trade candidate, it sounds like Stewart is inclined to see what he can do when healthy.

Quick Hits: Bonuses, Braves, Padres

Winning a postseason series might be its own reward, but for players, coaches and team personnel, there are financial rewards as well, David Waldstein of the New York Times notes. Postseason series wins mean bonuses, and while those bonuses aren’t significant for a star like Miguel Cabrera (a full share for a World Series win in 2013 was $307K, compared to Cabrera’s 2014 salary of $22MM), they can make a huge difference for coaches and less highly paid players. “Our coach Brian Butterfield, when he was with the Red Sox, he gave his house to his son and his grandkids and moved into a new house,” says infielder Kelly Johnson, now an Oriole. “It changes lives. Guys are paying off college loans, house payments and cars. You can’t beat that.” Here’s more from around the big leagues.

  • The Braves will replace scouting coordinator Tony DeMacio with crosschecker Brian Bridges, John Manuel of Baseball America writes, citing a tweet by Peter Gammons. Former scouting director Roy Clark will return to the organization as a special assistant to the general manager. DeMacio presided over drafts that included players like Andrelton Simmons and Evan Gattis, but the Braves’ current farm system is not highly regarded. Still, the timing of these changes is somewhat odd, since the Braves don’t have a permanent general manager right now, just an interim GM in John Hart, who stepped up when the Braves fired Frank Wren. Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan tweets that these moves suggest the Braves may simply keep Hart as their GM and have him groom assistant GM John Coppolella to eventually replace him.
  • The Padres have hired Chris Kemp as director of international scouting, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. Kemp had previously been an area scout with the Rangers, for whom new Padres GM A.J. Preller also worked. Preller’s own key interest is international scouting, so it’s not surprising that he would hire someone with whom he’s familiar to direct that department. MLB.com’s Corey Brock notes (via Twitter) that the Padres’ hiring of Kemp does not violate the Padres and Rangers’ agreement that Preller not take staff with him from Texas, because Kemp is being promoted.

West Notes: Preller, Mariners, Rangers

A.J. Preller’s rise to GM of the Padres was nearly a lifetime in the making, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes in a long profile. Josh Boyd, the Rangers’ pro scouting director, says he knew Preller would become a GM since meeting him in 1999, when Preller was barely out of college. “He’s gonna be a GM in five years,” Boyd recalls telling his parents. Preller interned with the Phillies while at Cornell, then took a job in MLB’s offices, working with Frank Robinson. He then worked for the Dodgers before joining the Rangers, where his college roommate Jon Daniels was an assistant GM (and later their GM). Preller worked as a scouting director, director of player personnel and assistant GM before being hired by the Padres. Here’s more from the West divisions.

  • The Mariners increased spending in 2014, and they’ll need to do it again in 2015, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes. The Mariners have missed the postseason every year since 2001, and beyond Kyle Seager, the Mariners lack the sort of cheap young impact players who might justify a low overall payroll. Mariners president Kevin Mather recently said the team’s payroll would increase in 2015.
  • With the Rangers‘ release of a list of candidates for their managerial job, it’s clear that their next manager will be a rookie, Evan Grant of Dallas Morning News writes. The new names include interim manager Tim Bogar, Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister, Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash, ESPN analyst (and former infielder) Alex Cora, Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo and White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing. Between them, there are plenty of connections to Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, Indians manager Terry Francona and Red Sox manager John Farrell, all of whom are known for having the kind of powerful clubhouse presence that makes them strong leaders.

AL West Notes: Donaldson, A’s, Young, Harrison, M’s

While multiple reports yesterday raised the possibility of the Athletics trading Josh Donaldson this offseason, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) spoke with an A’s official who completely dismissed the notion, bluntly stating, “That would be stupid.”  Of course, one such comment doesn’t completely rule out the possibility, but it does seem unlikely that the A’s are feeling too much pressure to move their All-Star third baseman, as he’s just hitting arbitration for the first time.

In other Oakland and AL West news…

  • Athletics GM Billy Beane doesn’t regret pulling the trigger on the trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to Boston in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, he told reporters, including Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com“Simply put, if we don’t have Jon Lester, I don’t think we make the playoffs,” Beane said. First baseman Brandon Moss also spoke, noting that he doesn’t think there was any way for the A’s to catch the Angels based on their torrid second-half run.
  • The A’s could potentially have a strong pitching staff fronted by Sonny GrayJeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir in 2015, writes John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, but they’re left with question marks surrounding that strength. The team has no middle infield to speak of, and the free agent market doesn’t offer much in the way of impact options. Meanwhile, a large portion of the roster — including Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Brandon Moss, Stephen Vogt, John Jaso, Derek Norris, Craig Gentry and Sean Doolittle — is marred by injury concerns. Building a team that can contend in 2015 is a long shot, in Hickey’s estimation.
  • Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has some more details on Michael Young‘s upcoming role in the Rangers‘ front office. Young and the Rangers are finalizing a deal that will make him a special assistant to GM Jon Daniels — a role that the Rangers are also discussing with Darren Oliver. However, while many former players that land special assistant roles are loosely affiliated with the club and have a light workload, Grant reports that these roles would be far more significant. The Rangers feel they’ve lacked insight into the psychology of modern players when making recent decisions, and the presence of Young and Oliver could help to provide that insight. The roles will also involve field work and player evaluation at times.
  • Rangers lefty Matt Harrison has pushed back the beginning of his offseason throwing sessions from November to January, reports Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com. Harrison called the move precautionary, noting somewhat ominously, “I got only one shot at this. I just have to make sure it’s right.” The talented southpaw, who is entering the third year of a five-year, $55MM extension, is attempting to work his way back from his third back surgery in a span of two years.
  • Perhaps the Mariners‘ biggest weakness was the lack of a productive DH this season, writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. That flaw, he opines, should be remedied with a hard pursuit of Victor Martinez. Though he’s 36, will cost a draft pick and is sure to be expensive, Stone points out that the time for exhibiting patience is waning, as Felix Hernandez and especially Robinson Cano move closer to the end of their primes. He also points out that Martinez “reveres” manager Lloyd McClendon, who was his hitting coach with the Tigers prior to becoming Seattle’s manager.