Rangers GM Jon Daniels managed to engineer an AL West title, but his club washed out in the ALDS. Today, he and manager Jeff Banister addressed the 2016 season and broke down the roster needs heading into the offseason, as MLB.com’s TR Sullivan was among those to cover:
- Texas will exercise its club option over catcher Jonathan Lucroy, which is about the easiest decision the team will face this winter. The 30-year-old’s $5.5MM tab for 2017 was one of the chief reasons that the Rangers gave up a strong haul of prospects to acquire him at the trade deadline. Lucroy rewarded the investment with a .276/.345/.539 batting line and 11 home runs over 168 plate appearances down the stretch.
- Starting pitching represents the Rangers’ top priority heading towards 2017, Daniels suggested. Texas also needs to fill in at center field and first base. There are a variety of considerations in all of those areas involving departing free agents, open-market options, trade targets, and internal candidates for increased roles. Regarding the team’s own players whose contracts are expiring — righty Colby Lewis, first baseman Mitch Moreland, and outfielders Ian Desmond, Carlos Gomez, and Carlos Beltran — Daniels says: “All of those free agents, under the right circumstances, we would love to have back.”
- Bolstering the rotation will be accomplished somehow, Daniels promised. “We will be better,” he said of the position, while also suggesting that the team still has enough assets in its farm to strike a significant swap to bring in a new hurler. Texas also needs to make a call on the $11MM option of lefty Derek Holland — declining it would require a $1.5MM buyout, as well as a $1MM buyout of his ensuing $11.5MM option for 2018 — after he turned in a 4.95 ERA over 107 1/3 innings. Daniels indicated that the team remains undecided on that move.
- Desmond is “the Rangers’ first choice to play center field,” according to Sullivan. He seems a highly-likely qualifying offer candidate, though that wasn’t confirmed in the presser. Gomez, too, could be a consideration up the middle. “We like what we saw from Gomez,” said Banister. “We feel like he is a quality player.” It’ll certainly be interesting to see what kind of interest he’ll draw on the open market after bouncing back with a .284/.362/.543 batting line in his 130 plate appearances late in the year with Texas. Otherwise, Texas has a wide variety of uncertain outfield options already kicking around in the system. “We have a number of guys we believe in and have talent,” said Daniels. “They are certainly going to get opportunities. Competition is very healthy.”
- At first base, the big question may be whether the club is ready to entrust Joey Gallo with a big chunk of playing time. The 22-year-old put up a .240/.367/.529 slash and swatted 25 long balls in his 433 trips to the plate at Triple-A, but has struggled badly in limited MLB exposure. “Joey is still a premium talent,” Banister said. “This guy has what very few in the game have. His raw power is off the charts. The power shows up, but it’s the hit-ability and the consistency that has to get better.”
- Another question mark of sorts is infielder Jurickson Profar, the former top prospect who finally returned to health this year. He isn’t lined up for much time up the middle after strong years from Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor, with Sullivan suggesting he may yet be a trade candidate. But Texas believes in his talent and values his versatility, writes Sullivan, and his trade value may not be quite what the team would need to pull the trigger on a deal. Profar has just three seasons of control remaining, and only ended up with a .239/.321/.338 slash line on the year. “As I sit here today, my expectation is for [Profar] to be on the ballclub in a winning role,” said Daniels. “I think he is a winning piece.”