Speaking at the Rangers’ “Peek At The Park” fan event on Saturday, GM Jon Daniels gave MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan and other reporters a seeming hint about the club’s offseason direction, stating “I would think that if we do make any significant acquisition, a trade is more likely than a free agent….just the discussions we’ve had make me feel that way.”
Daniels’ comment would seem to diminish the chances of a deal between Texas and Nicholas Castellanos, the top free agent left on the board and a player who has already emerged as a Rangers target. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently detailed, a few teams are speculative fit for Castellanos at this point in the offseason, though all of these clubs seem to have at least one significant obstacle — a crowded outfield, lack of payroll space, etc. — standing in a way of a signing.
Texas arguably has the least-daunting of these positional obstacles, as Castellanos could be installed at first base or in right field, thus relegating either Ronald Guzman or Danny Santana to part-time duty (and Joey Gallo into a primary center field role). It’s possible, therefore, that money could be the holdup in talks. MLBTR projected Castellanos for a four-year, $58MM deal at the beginning of the offseason, though it could be that the Rangers or other teams aren’t willing to meet such a significant multi-year price given the narrowed market for Castellanos’ services. Marcell Ozuna, often considered Castellanos’ closest peer amongst free agent corner outfielders, recently had to settle for a one-year/$18MM pact with the Braves, though Ozuna was also impacted by draft pick compensation via the qualifying offer.
If a big free agent signing isn’t happening, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Rangers are set to make a splashy trade for the likes of a Nolan Arenado. While Texas has been linked to the Rockies third baseman on the rumor mill, Daniels called it “unlikely” that a deal would be worked out. Rockies GM Jeff Bridich seemingly put the Arenado rumors to rest earlier this week, only for speculation to re-escalate once Arenado went public with what he felt was “disrespectful” treatment from Bridich in particular and the Colorado organization as a whole.
Offense continues to be the Rangers’ primary target, with Daniels saying that he has had talks with almost every team in baseball about potential lineup acquisitions. Pitching is a lesser concern, as Daniels said that is more apt to add relievers on minor league deals than on multi-year Major League contracts. This might not bode well for the Rangers’ chances of signing Pedro Strop, though Strop wouldn’t necessarily require a multi-year deal.
Texas could also add veteran starters on minor league deals, though Daniels is pretty satisfied with his team’s in-house options, saying “I’d rather go to Kolby Allard than most of the guys who are available to us.” Daniels revealed that the Rangers had interest in signing Jerad Eickhoff before the righty inked a minor league pact with the Padres earlier this month. Eickhoff is a known quantity to Daniels, as the Rangers made Eickhoff a 15th-round draft pick in 2011 before sending him to the Phillies as part of the trade package for Cole Hamels in July 2015.