The Rangers welcomed back All-Star slugger Hunter Pence from the injured list Tuesday. Pence’s return forced the Rangers to option someone else from their 25-man roster to Triple-A Nashville. They chose outfielder Willie Calhoun, which left him “speechless.” Demoting Calhoun was not a slam-dunk decision on Texas’ part, though. The club also considered optioning two regulars – right fielder Nomar Mazara and first baseman Ronald Guzman – Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.
Mazara was billed as a potential superstar coming up through the minors with the Rangers, so sending him back would have been especially notable on their part. To this point, however, Mazara hasn’t matched the hype since his initial promotion to the majors in 2016. The Rangers realize it.
“We want him to be better,” manager Chris Woodward told Wilson of Mazara. General manager Jon Daniels believes Mazara has “been a solid contributor,” but “he’s got another step he can get to.”
Daniels may be right – Mazara’s just 24 years old, after all. Still, it’s difficult to regard Mazara’s career .259/.319/.428 line (91 wRC+) and 1.7 fWAR across 2,077 plate appearances as anything but a disappointment. Likewise, his 2019 has been a letdown. As has typically been the case during his time in the majors, southpaw pitchers have handled the lefty-swinging Mazara. He hasn’t been great against righties either, though. In all, Mazara has hit a personal-worst .258/.310/.433 (86 wRC+) with 12 home runs and a replacement-level fWAR (0.1) over 361 trips to the plate. While Mazara’s on pace for his fourth straight 20-home run season, the HR-heavy nature of today’s game means that accomplishment doesn’t carry as much weight as it once did.
As for Guzman, it seems his position helped spare him of a demotion. Sending him down would’ve left the club with too many outfielders, Wilson notes. Also 24, Guzman has been a decidedly below-average offensive player (83 wRC+) since his 2018 debut. So far this season, Guzman has hit a punchless .201/.286/.413 (73 wRC+) with eight HRs and minus-0.4 fWAR in 217 PA. Like Mazara, lefties have stymied Guzman this year – he has batted .111/.203/.296 against them – which has led the Rangers to use righties Danny Santana and Logan Forsythe against them.
Barring in-season turnarounds from Mazara and Guzman, one wonders how much longer the Rangers will rely on them as key parts of their lineup. Mazara’s team control is running out – next year will be his penultimate season of arbitration eligibility – meaning he’s not guaranteed to stick in Texas for much longer as it is. Guzman won’t be eligible for arbitration until after 2020, so he could be with the organization for a while longer. However, a team with designs on contending can’t keep turning to an offensive albatross at a bat-first position.