The Rangers have made plenty of headlines in each of the past two offseasons. After signing Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Jon Gray during the 2021-22 winter, they added Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney a year ago.
It doesn’t appear Texas is planning to be so aggressive this time around. A few weeks removed from the franchise’s first World Series, general manager Chris Young hinted at a quieter offseason than the previous two.
“We expect to be active in free agency, but probably not spending at the level that we have spent in previous offseasons,” Young told reporters on Thursday afternoon (relayed by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News). The GM noted there’s “a great returning core group” and said the front office is “really looking for additions to kind of shore up the team.”
That’s a generally fair assessment of the roster. Texas is returning the vast majority of an elite batting order. Seager, Semien, Adolis García, Jonah Heim, Josh Jung, Nathaniel Lowe, Leody Taveras and Evan Carter will be back. Designated hitter/backup catcher Mitch Garver hit free agency after the Rangers opted against issuing a qualifying offer. He’s the biggest potential departure on the offensive side. Robbie Grossman and Travis Jankowski also hit the market after solid performances as depth outfielders.
Texas faces a few more impactful losses on the pitching side. Deadline acquisition Jordan Montgomery is one of the top free agent starters. Aroldis Chapman, Will Smith and Chris Stratton could depart the relief corps, while Martín Pérez played a swing role.
Garver and Montgomery are the most notable losses. Texas doesn’t has a perfect in-house replacement at designated hitter, although the likes of Ezequiel Durán and prospect Justin Foscue could take on larger roles. Wyatt Langford, selected out of Florida with the fourth overall pick last summer, briefly reached Triple-A at the end of his draft year. It’d be a surprise if he’s in the majors on Opening Day. He could hit his way to the big leagues at some point during the summer.
Of course, the headline-grabbing play at designated hitter would be a massive strike for Shohei Ohtani. Texas is reportedly in the mix for the defending AL MVP. Signing Ohtani would quite likely require the largest contract in MLB history. Young’s comments downplay that as a possibility, although perhaps ownership and the front office would pivot if there’s a realistic chance to land the sport’s best player.
Texas has also expressed interest in retaining Montgomery. That’d be a bit of a luxury strike. Effective as the southpaw was down the stretch, the Rangers could open next season with Max Scherzer, Eovaldi, Gray, Heaney and Dane Dunning as a strong rotation. deGrom could join the group in the second half as he rehabs from June’s Tommy John procedure.
Young made clear the Rangers aren’t planning to sit out free agency entirely. Yet adding a depth starter rather than meeting a nine-figure price for Montgomery could be more likely. Texas figures to bring in multiple relievers and will probably add to what presently projects as an inexperienced bench.
While the strength of the existing roster is one factor in projecting a relatively quiet offseason, it also seems the front office is working with more limited spending room than they’ve had in previous winters. Roster Resource projects the Rangers’ 2024 payroll around $203MM. That includes projected salaries for arbitration-eligible players but does not account for any additions they’ll make. That’s already above the approximate $196MM payroll which the team carried into this past season, which was itself a franchise high.
To be clear, Young didn’t forecast any kind of payroll cut. It seems all but assured they’ll go into 2024 at a franchise-record spending level. The championship run brought in extra revenue in the form of playoff gate receipts. Ownership and the front office are surely motivated to push for a repeat. The midseason acquisition of Scherzer (whom Texas will pay $12.5MM next season as part of the trade from the Mets) paired with arbitration raises for the likes of Lowe, García and Dunning organically raise the payroll in comparison to this year’s Opening Day mark.
The Rangers are also one of the teams facing short-term uncertainty about their local television rights. The organization’s deal with Diamond Sports Group for in-market broadcasting on the Bally Sports network is in jeopardy. The Athletic recently reported that Diamond was considering dropping its deals with the Rangers and Guardians before next season amidst its ongoing bankruptcy. Young pointed to the uncertainty about the rights fees, noting that the front office has “a responsibility to be financially prudent.”
That all hints at a less flashy offseason than Texas has had in the last two years. Grant suggests the team could try to stay below the luxury tax threshold during the offseason. While there’s not a clear mandate to avoid paying the tax, it seems ownership prefers to leave some flexibility for midseason acquisitions. A team’s CBT number isn’t finalized until the end of the year, so in-season pickups count against that figure.
Roster Resource pegs the Rangers’ 2024 tax projection (which is calculated using contracts’ average annual salaries and includes player benefits) around $219MM. That checks in $18MM below next year’s $237MM base threshold. If the organization truly prefers to stay under that during the winter, they’d be limited to complementary additions. Back-end starting pitchers Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson have signed for $11MM and $13MM, respectively, for reference.
The Rangers exceeded the tax threshold in 2023. If they surpass it next season, they’d be taxed at a heightened 30% rate as repeat payors on any spending between $237MM and $257MM (with heightened penalties if they surpass the $257MM mark).