The Rangers cleared a bit of payroll yesterday that could further their campaign to host Anthony Rendon’s Texas homecoming. But that pursuit is hardly certain to be a successful one. The organization needs to consider backup plans at the hot corner while also chasing down other desired upgrades.
While Rendon’s Lone Star roots surely don’t hurt, the Rangers can’t count on a local discount. Agent Scott Boras indicated to reporters yesterday that geography isn’t going to be an “overriding consideration” for his client, as MLB.com’s TR Sullivan was among those to cover (Twitter link). That hardly takes the club out of contention — state tax advantages are still a factor and the ties may still matter on the margins — but it serves to highlight that the Rangers won’t necessarily come away with their top target.
If Rendon decides not to help christen Globe Life Field and the Rangers can’t circle back to land their other top potential match in Josh Donaldson, the possibilities look quite a bit less appealing. But the Texas organization would at least have plenty of powder dry to spend elsewhere. And it could put its third base opening to use to pursue upside.
Should the Rangers turn to the rest of the market, Maikel Franco could be a fall back option, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Franco did manage a serviceable 105 wRC+ as recently as 2018. In the absence of a more thrilling alternative, Franco would at least deliver a chance of liberating unrealized potential for a team with a chance of achieving “upstart” status in 2020. Still, Franco appears even less likely to make the leap than Nomar Mazara, the Rangers’ own underdeveloped star, shipped to Chicago yesterday.
Franco would certainly come cheaper than Rendon, for good cause, as Rendon’s superstar turn emerged in the national spotlight upon winning a World Series title – while Franco produced a career worst -0.8 bWAR before an inelegant end to his Philadelphia tenure via non-tender. Nick Solak is the nominal incumbent, but he can move around the diamond depending on who GM Jon Daniels adds to their collection of quasi-ill-fitting position players.
Not much further down Daniels’ checklist? Finding an offensively capable option behind the plate, per Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram. The Rangers have some interest in a reunion with Robinson Chirinos and have also been connected to fellow top-remaining free agent Jason Castro. But the club still faces competition for these and other backstops.
It’s tough to imagine the club will fail to come away with a new option to supplement the existing group of backstops. Jose Trevino ended the year on a high note and should compete for a roster spot. Jeff Mathis returns as well, the definition of a glove-first player in its extreme after a truly woeful .158/.209/.224 across his 248 player appearances in 2019. Depending on Trevino’s development and their ability to add to third wheel, the Rangers are open to using the new 26th roster spot to hold a third catcher. Trevino has an option remaining, however, so that’s not a necessity, and at 37 in March, Mathis’ playing days are likely nearing an end. Of course, they also have Isiah Kiner-Falefa on the roster serving as a third catcher/utility option, and they added former Tampa Bay Ray Nick Ciuffo to the Triple-A ranks. Ciuffo, in the mold of Mathis, is a strong receiver who has yet to hit his stride at the plate. 25 in March, Ciuffo is the youngest of the three primary catchers by a few years, while Kiner-Falefa turns 25 just a few weeks after Ciuffo.
The Rangers have other irons in the fire, too. As Wilson reports, the club is working on lining up some minor-league pacts of note. Daniels indicates that the club believes it’ll be able to bring back a few pitchers — lefty Jeffrey Springs and righties Matt Bush and Edinson Volquez — on non-roster contracts.