The Rangers announced that they have picked up their option on reliever José Leclerc. He will stick with the team and make a $6MM salary in 2023.
Leclerc had a dominant season in 2018, putting up a 1.56 ERA over 59 appearances while striking out 38.1% of batters faced. That included high leverage work, as he racked up 12 saves and 15 holds that year. It was enough for he and the club to agree to a four-year, $14.75MM extension with a pair of club options for 2023 and 2024. Unfortunately, he scuffled to a 4.33 ERA in 2019 and then missed most of 2020 and 2021 due to Tommy John surgery.
He returned healthy in 2022 and seemed to have a bit of rust at first, posting a 4.37 ERA through early August along with a 20.6% strikeout rate. However, he finished quite strong, posting a 1.44 ERA the rest of the way while striking out 33.7% of batters faced. That also included a return to high leverage situations, with Leclerc earning seven saves and four holds on the season, most of those down the stretch. That latter sample is just 25 innings but more closely resembles his form from 2018.
The Rangers have decided to make a $5.25MM bet that Leclerc’s work over the final couple months of the season can be carried over into 2023. They could have bought him out for $750K but will instead pay him a $6MM salary. If he does indeed stay in strong shape next year, they could retain him again in 2024 with another club option, that one valued at $6.25MM with another $750K buyout.
For the Rangers, their bullpen was middle of the pack, putting up a 3.72 ERA that was 12th in the majors. Matt Moore is set to reach free agency after a successful transition from the rotation to the ’pen, but the club has prevented the relief corps from being further weakened by keeping Leclerc around.