Texas Rangers – MLB Trade Rumors 2021-04-13T17:46:32Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Jonathan Hernandez Undergoes Tommy John Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=434719 2021-04-12T20:23:43Z 2021-04-12T20:14:35Z Rangers right-hander Jonathan Hernandez underwent Tommy John surgery on Monday, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. He won’t return to the mound until sometime in 2022. Meanwhile, fellow Rangers righty reliever Matt Bush will miss at least 12 weeks with a flexor strain.

It’s an unfortunate but not unexpected development for Hernandez, who has been on the shelf since March 9 with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. The surgery will at least temporarily derail a promising career, as Hernandez established himself as a key part of the Texas bullpen last season. Thanks in part to a fastball that averaged about 98 mph, the 24-year-old Hernandez registered a 2.90 ERA/3.67 SIERA with a 24.8 percent strikeout rate and a 6.4 percent walk rate over 31 innings – by far the most of any Rangers reliever.

While Bush doesn’t need surgery at this point, it doesn’t mean he’ll avoid going under the knife, with Grant writing that the Rangers will re-evaluate him in six weeks. Bush has already undergone two Tommy John surgeries in the past, and another could be a fatal blow to the 35-year-old’s career. A No. 1 overall pick of the Padres in 2004 and an ex-infielder, Bush reinvented himself as a reliever and had a strong run with the Rangers from 2016-17. But Bush threw just 23 innings from 2018-20 – none during the latter two seasons – and only logged three innings this year before suffering another arm injury.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Matt Bush Lands On IL With Elbow Issue]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=433318 2021-04-10T00:34:53Z 2021-04-10T00:23:47Z
  • The Rangers sent righty reliever Matt Bush to the 10-day injured list with inflammation in his pitching elbow, the team announced. He’ll undergo an MRI, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Bush has already undergone Tommy John surgery twice, so if he needs a third procedure, it could be a death blow to his career. The 35-year-old missed the previous two campaign because of arm problems, and though he was able to work his way back to the Rangers’ bullpen this season, he yielded three earned runs in as many innings before going to the IL.
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    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Rangers' Prioritized Talent Return In Odor Deal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=431686 2021-04-08T13:10:56Z 2021-04-08T13:06:08Z
  • The Rangers had other offers for Rougned Odor beyond the deal they accepted from the Yankees. Other offers had more favorable financial terms, but the Rangers prioritized adding talent, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News (via Twitter). Fangraphs had Antonio Cabello as the Yankees’ 23rd-ranked prospect prior to the trade, while Josh Stowers was listed in the “Realistic Bench Pieces” section.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Yankees Acquire Rougned Odor]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=428106 2021-04-06T22:01:48Z 2021-04-06T21:58:55Z 4:58pm: The Yankees will pay Odor the prorated minimum this year ($570,500) and next, but that money will not count against their luxury tax bill, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets.

    2:32pm: The teams have announced the trade. The Rangers acquired outfielders Josh Stowers and Antonio Cabello in return for Odor and cash. Notably, Texas announced Cabello as a catcher/outfielder, though he’s played exclusively the outfield in his minor league career to date. Kiley McDaniel of ESPN ranked Cabello as the Yankees’ 18th-best prospect, tweeting that he has the necessary tools for both center field and catcher. Cabello, whom the Yankees signed out of Venezuela for $1.4MM in 2017, hasn’t climbed above rookie ball yet, though he’s still just 20 years old. He owns a .251/.344/.409 line with eight home runs in 443 professional plate appearances.

    Stowers, 24, has now been part of two trades during his career. He was originally a second-round pick of the Mariners in 2018, but they dealt him to the Yankees as part of a three-team deal that also included the Reds and centered on righty Sonny Gray. Stowers slashed an impressive .273/.386/.400 with seven homers and 35 steals in Single-A ball in 2019, his lone season in the New York organization. However, FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen wrote over the winter that he doesn’t expect Stowers to max out as more than a fourth outfielder in the bigs.

    1:22pm: The Yankees are sending a pair of prospects to the Rangers in the deal, tweets Sherman.

    1:05pm: The Yankees and Rangers are finalizing a trade that will second second baseman Rougned Odor to New York, reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan (via Twitter). The Rangers designated Odor, who has two years and $27MM remaining on his contract, for assignment prior to Opening Day. Given that substantial commitment and the Yankees’ general aversion to paying the luxury tax, the Rangers are surely offsetting the majority of Odor’s contract in some capacity. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the two sides have agreed to a deal.

    It’s a bit surprising to see the Yankees taking on Odor, although it’s hard to imagine a park better suited for the 27-year-old lefty hitter’s pull-happy approach than Yankee Stadium. Odor’s strikeout rates have climbed continually since he signed an ill-fated six-year, $49.5MM extension with the Rangers, and generally been a poor all-around performer due to significant on-base deficiencies.

    However, Odor’s power has never really been in question. He has three 30-homer seasons in the past five years and swatted 10 long balls in just 148 plate appearances last year. The trade-off for that pop has been a strikeout rate that has soared north of 31 percent in the past two seasons and an overall .215/.279/.418 batting line through 1915 plate appearances dating back to 2017.

    Odor figures to join a Yankees bench that currently features catcher Kyle Higashioka, outfielder Mike Tauchman, outfielder Brett Gardner and infielder Tyler Wade. The only one of the bunch who has a minor league option remaining is Wade, and given that he’s also the only infielder of that group, it seems likely that he’ll be bumped to accommodate Odor’s acquisition. That would make Gio Urshela the primary backup to Gleyber Torres at shortstop, with Odor likely handling third base should Urshela be pressed into action at short for any reason.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Jose Leclerc To Undergo Tommy John Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=421021 2021-03-29T20:12:48Z 2021-03-29T19:56:08Z Rangers closer Jose Leclerc will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the 2021 season, general manager Chris Young announced to reporters Monday (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Kennedi Landry).

    Leclerc has battled elbow soreness since last week, so this news isn’t surprising, but it will rob him of an entire season and the Rangers of their best reliever. The 27-year-old threw just two innings last season as he dealt with a strain of his right teres muscle, and this latest injury will continue to throw a once-promising career off course.

    Between 2016-19, Leclerc threw 187 innings of 3.16 ERA ball, and though he walked almost 15 percent of batters during that span, he helped offset that with a 33 percent strikeout rate and a fastball that averaged upward of 95 mph. The Rangers were so impressed with Leclerc’s work that they signed him to a four-year, $14.75MM extension before 2019. It looked like a worthwhile gamble at the time, but it hasn’t worked out as hoped for Texas because of Leclerc’s arm troubles. His deal still includes one more guaranteed season, in which he’s also sure to miss time as he recovers from this surgery, and two years with club options for $6MM or more or buyouts worth $750K or less apiece.

    With Leclerc done for the season, it’s unclear who will open the season as the Rangers’ closer. Ian Kennedy and Matt Bush look like the most logical candidates, as they have game-ending experience and the Rangers selected their contracts over the weekend. Taylor Hearn and Josh Sborz are also among those who could be in the mix. Regardless, the loss of Leclerc is a significant one for the Rangers.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Rangers To Designate Rougned Odor For Assignment, Select Charlie Culberson]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=421007 2021-03-29T22:02:09Z 2021-03-29T19:52:50Z The Rangers have informed infielder Rougned Odor that he will not make the team’s Opening Day roster, as NBC 5’s Pat Doney first reported (Twitter link). Odor will be designated for assignment, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. Texas still owes him $27MM over the next two seasons, and because he has five-plus years of MLB service, he can still collect that salary even if he clears waivers and is released. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets that the Rangers will select the contract of veteran infielder Charlie Culberson, who has made the roster.

    Odor’s DFA further emphasizes the Rangers’ youth movement and closes the book on one of the more regrettable financial commitments in the franchise’s history. Nearly four years ago to the day, Odor inked a six-year, $49.5MM contract extension buying out his arbitration seasons and a handful of free-agent years. At the time, he was coming off a two-year run that saw him bat .267/.305/.487 with 49 home runs — including a 33-homer campaign in 2016.

    Questionable on-base skills gave some reason for concern, but Odor was a former Top 50 overall prospect who looked the part of a slugging second baseman. Few could’ve reasonably forecast such a stark decline in such rapid fashion, however. Odor struck out at just a 19.4 percent clip from 2015-16 with the Rangers, but his whiff rate jumped to 25 percent in 2017 and has now climbed as high as 30.9 percent from 2019-20. Odor maintained much of his power, but his suddenly sky-high strikeout rates made it difficult to keep his average north of .200. His OBP, meanwhile has routinely been south of .300.

    In all, since signing the extension, Odor has turned in an awful .215/.279/.418 batting line and fanned in about 27 percent of his plate appearances. His defensive ratings have tumbled in recent seasons as well, further shining a spotlight on his struggles.

    With Odor now out of the picture and Elvis Andrus traded to Oakland, it looks to be a new era for the Rangers infield. They’ll task Isiah Kiner-Falefa with manning shortstop on the regular, and Odor’s departure should pave the way for Nick Solak to get everyday at-bats at second base. While Solak’s glovework draws questionable reviews itself, he’s a well-regarded offensive prospect — even if he struggled during last year’s shortened schedule.

    The Rangers will have a week to trade Odor, place him on outright waivers or release him. That timeline is something of a moot point, however, as no team is going to agree to acquire the remainder of the contract either via trade or waivers. It’s perhaps possible that the Rangers will find some kind of bad contract swap, but the likeliest outcome is that Odor will simply be released and free to seek opportunities with other clubs. Should he sign elsewhere, his new club would only be required to pay him the prorated league minimum for any time spent on the MLB roster. That sum would be subtracted from the $27MM the Rangers still owe him.

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    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 3/28/21]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=420177 2021-03-29T02:43:29Z 2021-03-29T02:35:45Z The latest minor moves around the league…

    Latest

    • The A’s announced a pair of roster moves, optioning Vimael Machin and Seth Brown to Triple-A. That means Rule 5 selection Ka’ai Tom is likely to make the roster as a reserve outfielder, notes Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle. Tom didn’t get a full spring because of an oblique injury, but he apparently showed enough for the A’s to keep him on the active roster. He’ll need to stay there for the entire season or else be returned to the Indians. Machin spent some of last season standing in for Matt Chapman at third before Jake Lamb arrived, but a relatively punchless .206/.296/.238 across 71 plate appearances likely returns the difficult-to-strikeout left-handed hitter to an emergency fill-in role. Brown, 28, contributed 0.7 fWAR in a highly-productive 26-game sample in 2019, but he logged only five plate appearances across seven games in 2020.

    Earlier Updates

    • The Rangers released Nick Vincent yesterday, but today they announced that he will stay with the organization on a minor league contract. We’ll see this pattern with a number of players between now and opening day. The 34-year-old Vincent has seen action in every season going back to 2012 when he debuted with the Padres. He has appeared in 405 games over his nine-year career with exactly matching 3.38 ERA/FIP marks while suiting up for the Pads, Mariners, Giants, Phillies, and Marlins.
    • 16-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Mario Piño has agreed to sign with the Cardinals for $767K, per ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel (Twitter links). Pino had multiple offers both for this signing period and next, but he ultimately has decided to join the Cardinals’ 2021-22 class of international signees. The White Sox, A’s, and Red Sox were among the teams who were said to be interested in Pino.
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    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 3/27/21]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=419237 2021-03-28T02:52:30Z 2021-03-28T02:52:52Z The latest minor moves around the league:

    Most Recent

    • The Diamondbacks have re-signed catcher Bryan Holaday to a new minor league contract, the team announced.  The 33-year-old catcher was in camp as a non-roster invitee and was released last night. Holaday has played for the Tigers, Marlins and Orioles over a big league career that has spanned parts of nine years. He got a little bit of MLB action in Baltimore last year, picking up 33 plate appearances.

    Earlier Today

    • The Phillies announced they’ve released reliever Michael Ynoa. The 29-year-old pitched in six games this spring as a non-roster invitee. Ynoa hasn’t pitched in the majors since a 2016-17 stint with the White Sox. Once a top prospect, the right-hander has signed with each of the Royals, A’s and Phillies since being cut loose by Chicago but hasn’t made it back to the highest level. Ynoa has a 4.42 ERA/5.12 SIERA over 59 MLB innings.
    • The Rangers have released right-hander Nick Vincent, per a team announcement. Texas has interest in bringing Vincent back to the organization on another minor-league deal, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning-News (Twitter link). The Rangers also re-signed catcher Drew Butera to a second minor-league deal in a procedural move. Both Vincent and Butera were Article XX(B) free agents- players with six years of service time who were in camp on minor league deals after finishing the 2020 season on big league rosters. As such, they’d have been entitled to respective $100K retention bonuses had Texas kept them on their original contracts without adding them to the major league roster.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Rangers Announce Roster Decisions]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=419544 2021-03-27T23:54:48Z 2021-03-27T23:54:48Z The Rangers are finalizing their plans for Opening Day, as manager Chris Woodward told reporters (including Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram) about some roster decisions.  The team will select the contracts of Ian Kennedy and Matt Bush prior to the opener, and the newly-acquired Josh Sborz has also won a job in the Texas bullpen.  At first base, Nate Lowe will assume regular duties while Ronald Guzman will work as the backup first baseman and likely be in line for DH at-bats while Khris Davis and Willie Calhoun are on the injured list.

    Kennedy and Bush were both signed to minor league contracts in the offseason, and the two veterans could now be the Rangers’ top options for save situations with Jose Leclerc, Joely Rodriguez, Brett Martin, and Jonathan Hernandez all ticketed to begin the season on the IL.  Sborz and Taylor Hearn might also get some looks in the ninth inning as the Rangers figure to be relatively fluid with the closer role unless one of the candidates is particularly dominant.

    Once his contract is officially selected, Kennedy will lock in a $2.15MM salary for the 2021 season.  The 36-year-old joined the Rangers after five years with the Royals, with the last two seasons spent as a reliever rather than Kennedy’s customary starting pitching role.  He took well to the new assignment at first, posting an impressive 30-save campaign as Kansas City’s closer in 2019, but struggled over 14 innings last season before his season was ended by a left calf strain in late August.

    Bush, meanwhile, hasn’t appeared in a Major League game since 2018 due to a pair of elbow surgeries (including a Tommy John procedure).  Texas signed Bush to a two-year minor league deal in the 2019-20 offseason to allow him to rehab throughout the 2020 campaign, with an eye towards making him available this season.  The first overall pick of the 2004 draft, all of Bush’s MLB experience has come with the Rangers, as he posted a 3.35 ERA and 23.4% strikeout rate over 137 innings out of the Texas bullpen from 2016-18, though walks became an increasing problem over Bush’s three seasons.

    There wasn’t much doubt that Guzman would make the roster since he is out of options, though he’ll need to start performing quickly in order to regain a foothold as part of the Rangers’ future plans.  Guzman has hit only .230/.308/.417 with 30 home runs over 809 Major League PA, but given the relatively small sample size and Guzman’s still-young age (26), it isn’t yet out of the question that he could break out at the plate.

    Wilson writes that the Rangers are leaning towards using their final remaining 26-man roster opening on a position player, but the team would need to carve out a 40-man roster spot to accommodate either Charlie Culberson or Adolis Garcia (both in camp on minor league deals).  The same would be true if Texas included an extra pitcher on the roster, with minor league signings Luis Ortiz, Hunter Wood, and Hyeon-jong Yang all candidates.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Delino DeShields Jr. Won’t Make Rangers’ Roster]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=418366 2021-03-26T03:18:54Z 2021-03-26T03:18:54Z The Rangers told outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. that he will not earn a spot on their Opening Day roster, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets. DeShields has been in camp as a non-roster invitee, but it’s not yet clear if he will remain in the organization. The Rangers will lean on Joey Gallo, David Dahl, Leody Tavaras and Eli White as their top four outfielders, while utilitymen Brock Holt and Charlie Culberson (who hasn’t yet made the team) are also capable of playing in the grass.

    [RELATED: Reviewing The Rangers’ Offseason]

    The 28-year-old DeShields signed a minor league contract with the Rangers during the offseason in hopes of landing a second major league act with the club. He appeared in the majors with the Rangers in each season from 2015-19, topping out as a 2.1-fWAR contributor in 2017, but was never much of an offensive threat. While DeShields did amass 106 stolen bases as a Ranger, he batted just .246/.326/.342 (76 wRC+) with 18 home runs in 1,936 plate appearances.

    DeShields’ first Texas tenure ended when the Rangers sent him to the Indians in December 2019 as part of a trade centering on two-time AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Cleveland ended up getting little from DeShields, who hit .252/.310/.318 (72 wRC+) without a homer and stole just three bases in 120 PA last year. The Indians then non-tendered him during the winter.

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    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Offseason In Review: Texas Rangers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=413907 2021-03-25T23:48:50Z 2021-03-25T23:48:50Z Coming off an American League-worst 22-38 record, the Rangers are in for a transition year in 2021. Their new general manager will help shepherd the process.

    Major League Signings

    Option Decisions

    Trades and Claims

    Notable Minor League Signings

    Extensions

    • None

    Notable Losses

    After somewhat surprisingly staying on the fringes of contention for most of 2019, the Rangers looked to have an opportunity to compete for a spot in the expanded postseason in 2020. Instead, the team fell flat, leading president of baseball operations Jon Daniels to sell at the trade deadline. At the time, Daniels noted the organization viewed 2022 as “the more likely window” for a return to contention and suggested there’d be a drop in player payroll in the upcoming season.

    That hinted at an offseason of change in Arlington, and the Rangers eventually saw the departures of a few of the franchise’s most recognizable faces. Ace Lance Lynn entered the offseason as one of the league’s most obvious trade candidates and indeed wound up on the move. Elvis Andrus, the lone remaining member of the franchise’s 2010-11 pennant winning teams, was shipped off to a division rival a few months later. Shin-Soo Choo, the team’s second-longest tenured player, hit free agency and eventually returned to his native South Korea.

    Before any of that roster turnover, though, the Rangers made a key move in the front office. Former MLB pitcher Chris Young signed on to become the team’s new general manager in early December. Young’s experience as a player and in the league office, where he spent the past three years overseeing on-field operations, had also garnered him some GM consideration from the Mets. His ascent didn’t come out of nowhere, but it’s something of an outside-the-box hire to install a person with no MLB front office experience in such a significant role.

    The Rangers will look to ease Young’s transition by pairing with him with Daniels, one of the longest-tenured executives in the league, who remains on hand as baseball ops president. The latter retains final say over the roster, although it seems Young is being groomed to assume a larger share of the responsibility as he gets more familiar with the ins and outs of front office work. The move is something of a modernization of the club’s front office, as the president – GM tandem has become commonplace throughout the league.

    Just a few days after bringing Young aboard, the Rangers pulled off the long-awaited Lynn trade, sending him to the White Sox. In return, Texas picked up six years of team control over 26-year-old righty Dane Dunning (as well as low minors lefty Avery Weems). A former first-rounder and top 100 prospect, Dunning got to the majors last season after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He had some immediate success, tossing 34 innings of 3.97 ERA/4.33 SIERA ball in his first seven starts. That came against a weak slate of opposing lineups, but Dunning has long drawn praise for his secondary stuff and command. He’s not likely to be a future ace, but he’s a big league-ready arm to replace Lynn in the rotation. Dunning is expected to open the year working as a tandem starter to keep his innings in check, but the Rangers surely view him as a starting pitcher long-term.

    Competent back-of-the-rotation production from Dunning would be of plenty of value to a Rangers’ rotation that, outside of Lynn, was downright awful in 2020. Corey Kluber, acquired from Cleveland during the 2019-20 offseason, got through just a single inning before going down with a shoulder injury. The Rangers predictably bought out his $18MM option at the start of the offseason. Also gone is Mike Minor, who was moved at last summer’s deadline amidst a down year.

    The only other Rangers’ starters to throw at least 30 innings last season were Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles. Both were disappointments in the first season of respective multi-year contracts but will get an opportunity to bounce back. They’ll be joined in the rotation by Dunning and a pair of low-cost offseason signees, Kohei Arihara and Mike Foltynewicz.

    Arihara received a two-year, $6.2MM contract to come over from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (Texas also paid $1.24MM directly to his former team, the Nippon-Ham Fighters, as a posting fee). Public scouting reports on Arihara generally paint him as a back-of-the-rotation type, with his low price tag suggesting teams viewed him in a similar light. The 28-year-old isn’t overpowering and never missed many bats in NPB, but he has a wide array of pitches and a history of throwing strikes. Perhaps just as importantly, Arihara threw 132.2 innings in 2020, far more than any pitcher managed in the United States last year. That should allow him to handle a fairly robust workload, no small matter with teams needing to build pitchers up dramatically to get through a 162-game season.

    On the other end of the innings spectrum is Foltynewicz, who lasted just 3.1 MLB frames with the Braves before being designated for assignment. Foltynewicz spent the remainder of the season at the alternate training site after passing unclaimed through waivers, with no team willing to pick up the prorated portion of his $6.425MM salary. It was a rapid fall from grace in Atlanta, where Foltynewicz had tossed 183 innings of 2.85 ERA/3.77 SIERA ball two years prior. He was only OK in 2019, though, and the Braves moved on after he averaged 91.3 MPH on his fastball (down more than five MPH from his peak) during his only start in 2020.

    At last year’s end, Foltynewicz unceremoniously qualified for minor league free agency as a player with more than three years of MLB service who had been outrighted off his team’s 40-man roster. He threw for prospective suitors in late January and the Rangers jumped in with an incentive-laden $2MM contract quickly thereafter.

    It’s a straightforward, low-cost bet on a 29-year-old bounce back candidate. If Foltynewicz struggles again, Texas can cut bait at minimal cost. If he performs at something resembling his peak, the Rangers will have an interesting decision to make. As a player with between four and five years of MLB service, Foltynewicz remains controllable through 2022 via arbitration. If the Rangers truly believe they can contend by then, perhaps they hold onto Foltynewicz all year. Otherwise, they can turn to the midseason trade market and hope to acquire a mid-level prospect from a more immediate contender. (For what it’s worth, Foltynewicz’s velocity has reportedly been most of the way back to peak levels in Spring Training).

    Each of Gibson, Dunning, Lyles, Arihara and Foltynewicz has had enough success in the past that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of them pitch well in isolation. But it’s highly unlikely all five perform at a high level, and the depth behind them is lackluster. Sixth starter Kolby Allard has a career 6.72 ERA in the big leagues. Kyle Cody had a shiny ERA (1.59) last year but had poor peripherals and didn’t work deep into his starts. That uncertainty attracted plenty of non-roster invitees with starting experience. Tyson Ross, Jharel Cotton, Sam Gaviglio and Drew Anderson are all in camp on minor league deals, as is former KBO starter Hyeon-jong Yang.

    The bullpen is even more rife with opportunity. Former closer Rafael Montero is gone. Texas traded the right-hander to the Mariners in December for 17-year-old pitching prospect Jose Corniell and a player to be named later. Corniell’s a faraway developmental flier but looks like a fair return for two years of a good but unspectacular reliever.

    Montero aside, the Rangers went into camp with most of their top relievers from last season. The past few weeks have been absolutely brutal, though. Jonathan Hernández and José Leclerc, perhaps Texas’ top two late-inning arms, are each facing extended absences due to elbow issues. Southpaws Joely Rodríguez and Brett Martin are also starting the season on the injured list, albeit with more minor maladies. Rodríguez, cheaply controllable via a club option through 2022, could be a midseason trade candidate if he returns to form early in the season.

    Taylor Hearn and Wes Benjamin are locks for key roles in the season-opening bullpen, but the picture’s wide open beyond them. Josh Sborz, acquired from the Dodgers in a minor trade last month, will probably assume some sort of late-inning job. Brett de Geus, selected in the Rule 5 draft from Los Angeles, has to stick on the active roster (or MLB injured list) all season if the Rangers want to retain his rights. There’s plenty of space to stash him in lower-leverage innings if Texas is intrigued by his long-term upside.

    That still leaves a lot of room for the Rangers’ non-roster invitees to earn bullpen jobs. Some of the depth options in the rotation could spill over as long relief or swing pieces. Right-handers Ian Kennedy, Nick Vincent, and Hunter Wood are all in camp and have been productive relievers in the not-too-distant past. Spencer Patton signed a minor-league deal on the heels of a solid run in NPB. Matt Bush, who signed a two-year minor-league contract in December 2019, is back from Tommy John surgery and seems to have pitched his way into consideration as well.

    There’s a lot of uncertainty on the pitching staff, but things are a little more stable on the position player side. Joey Gallo is back and has the everyday right field job. The Rangers have listened to offers for the slugger since last summer’s trade deadline but seemingly never gotten close on a deal. Gallo remains controllable through 2022, so the Rangers still have some time to determine how they wish to proceed with him.

    David Dahl will claim another outfield spot when healthy. The former All-Star signed with Texas for a modest $2.7MM in December, not long after being surprisingly non-tendered by the Rockies. Dahl has had myriad injuries in recent years and performed terribly in limited time in 2020, leading Colorado to move on. But he’s a former top prospect who has typically been an above-average hitter (even after adjusting for Coors Field) and is entering his age-27 season. Equally important given the Rangers’ competitive outlook, Dahl is controllable via arbitration through 2023. As with Foltynewicz and Gallo, Texas could decide to hold onto Dahl beyond this season if they hope to make a push in 2022.

    Precisely where Dahl fits in the outfield remains to be seen. Leody Taveras made his MLB debut last season and held his own. Taveras seems likely to get continued run in center field, which would push Dahl to left. That’d work the latter into a corner outfield/DH mix that remains crowded, even after Choo’s departure.

    That’s largely the product of two offseason trades. In December, the Rangers acquired Nate Lowe from the Rays in a deal that also swapped five prospects among the organizations. Lowe was consistently one of the best hitters in the minors during his climb through the Tampa Bay farm system. He slashed .330/.416/.568 across three levels as a 22-year-old in 2018, then followed it up with a .289/.421/.508 mark at Triple-A in 2019.

    Despite that high minors productivity, Lowe only picked up 245 plate appearances at the highest level in Tampa. The Rangers should be in position to give him more regular major league work. Ronald Guzmán has hovered around replacement level over the past three seasons and might be a better fit off the bench. Lowe could also work in at designated hitter if the Rangers want to give Guzmán another opportunity at first, although it seems more likely Willie Calhoun will get the bulk of the DH time once he returns from a season-opening injured list stint.

    There’s also the presence of former Athletic Khris Davis to consider. Davis was acquired in early February as part of the deal that sent Andrus to Oakland. The Rangers took on Davis’ $16.75MM salary in 2021 to spur the A’s to absorb just more than half of Andrus’ respective $14.25MM salaries over the next two seasons (as well as a potential 2023 vesting/player option). Swapping out Davis and Andrus puts more money on the Rangers’ books in 2021 but frees up some payroll space the following year, when Texas is more likely to contend.

    Davis’ inclusion in the deal was financially driven, although he remains on the team and should get some DH at-bats once he recovers from a quad strain. From an on-field perspective, the more meaningful part of the Andrus return is catcher Jonah Heim. The 25-year-old has had a long climb up the minor-league ladder but had a very strong 2019 season in the high minors. Sean Murphy’s presence blocked his path to playing time in the Bay Area, but Heim could carve out a meaningful role with the Rangers this season. Jeff Mathis departed in free agency, leaving Heim, Jose Trevino and non-roster veteran Drew Butera as the favorites for playing time behind the dish in Arlington. (Well-regarded prospect Sam Huff popped three homers in 10 MLB games last year but has otherwise yet to play above High-A, so the Rangers would probably like to get him some more minor-league seasoning).

    The infield is a little more set in stone. Even before trading Andrus, the Rangers were prepared to turn shortstop over to Isiah Kiner-Falefa. The 26-year-old is coming off a Gold Glove-winning campaign at third base and the Rangers will try their hand at pushing him up the defensive spectrum. Nick Solak rotated between second base and left field last season; the Dahl signing probably pushes Solak to the keystone regularly. That’d move Rougned Odor to third base, where he has gotten plenty of action this spring. Non-roster invitees Brock Holt (who will make the Opening Day roster) and Charlie Culberson have infield experience and could factor in at the hot corner if the Rangers are tired of Odor’s long-running struggles at the plate. Top prospect Josh Jung might’ve been an option in the early summer, but he was set back by a stress fracture in his foot that’ll sideline him for six-to-eight weeks.

    It was a fairly active winter in Arlington, as the Rangers added some young players they hope can help them contend in 2022. They also achieved their previously-stated goal of dramatically cutting expenses after last year’s revenue losses. The Rangers opened the 2020 season with a $153.1MM payroll (prior to prorating), in the estimation of Cot’s Baseball Contracts. They’re going into 2021 in the $88MM range. Selecting the contracts of a few of the many non-roster veterans in camp will likely push that figure over $90MM by Opening Day, but it remains a stark decline from Texas’ typical level of spending.

    The team’s fans will surely hope ownership is more willing to splurge next winter after a season with gate revenues. The upcoming free agent class should include a handful of stars, and the Rangers have been speculated as a potential suitor for Dallas-Fort Worth natives Trevor Story and Clayton Kershaw. In the interim, the Rangers are likely in for another below-average season, but they should at least get some clarity about which of their young players could be part of the next contending team in Arlington.

    How would you grade the Rangers’ offseason? (poll link for app users)

     

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    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Brock Holt To Make Rangers’ Opening Day Roster]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=417594 2021-03-25T00:34:39Z 2021-03-25T00:29:42Z The Rangers have informed utilityman Brock Holt he’ll break camp with the team, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News was among those to report. He has been in camp as a non-roster invitee, so the club will need to officially select his contract to the 40-man roster. Holt had the ability to opt out of that deal if not added to the roster this week, Grant notes. Texas has an open 40-man spot after passing right-hander Joe Gatto through outright waivers yesterday.

    Holt, 32, was a valuable utility piece for the Red Sox between 2013-19, even earning a trip to the All-Star game in 2015. He stumbled to a miserable .211/.283/.274 line between the Brewers and Nationals in 2020, though, forcing him to settle for a non-roster deal this winter. Between a productive few weeks in Spring Training and the Rangers’ uncertain third base situation (where Rougned Odor appears the favorite for playing time), Holt will get another opportunity in Arlington. By making the club, he’ll lock in a $1.75MM base salary.

    Among the others who’ll be on the season-opening roster (via Grant and Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram): Dane DunningTaylor HearnWes Benjamin and Jonah Heim. None of that group is particularly surprising. Hearn and Benjamin played important roles in last year’s bullpen, while Dunning and Heim were acquired in offseason trades. All four are already on Texas’ 40-man roster.

    Fellow offseason acquisition Khris Davis won’t be ready for the start of the season. He suffered a Grade 2 strain of his left quadriceps and will be out three to four weeks, per Wilson. Presumably, he’ll start the year on the 10-day injured list.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Rangers Exercise Chris Woodward’s Option For 2022]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=417510 2021-03-24T22:51:00Z 2021-03-24T22:51:00Z The Rangers announced that they have exercised manager Chris Woodward’s option for 2022. The former major league infielder is now in line to spend at least four seasons as the Rangers’ skipper.

    Now 44 years old, Woodward became the Rangers’ manager going into 2019. Before he went to Texas, Woodward worked as the third base coach for the Dodgers.

    The Rangers have gone just 100-122 during Woodward’s reign, though it’s hard to fault him for that subpar record. The team has been in a rebuild, after all, and it looks as if this will be another difficult year in the standings for Texas. Nevertheless, the Rangers appear as if they’ll lean on the power structure of president of baseball operations Jon Daniels, new general manager Chris Young and Woodward for at least the next two years.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 3/22/21]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=415729 2021-03-22T18:16:56Z 2021-03-22T18:16:56Z The latest minor moves from around baseball…

    • The Rangers announced that right-hander Joe Gatto has been outrighted to Triple-A.  The 25-year-old Gatto was a second-round pick for the Angels in the 2014 draft and he spent his entire career in the Halos organization before signing a Major League contract with Texas back in December.  Gatto will receive $570.5K in guaranteed salary though he has yet to pitch in the big leagues, posting a 4.80 ERA and 18.3% strikeout rate over 448 1/3 career innings in the minors.  The move opens up a 40-man roster spot that could be filled by one of many non-roster invitees (i.e. Ian Kennedy, Matt Bush, Charlie Culberson, Hunter Wood) in the Rangers’ camp, and the team may have more 40-man moves in the offing to accommodate several of these players.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Jose Leclerc To Miss “Extended Time” With Elbow Soreness]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=415624 2021-03-22T16:44:49Z 2021-03-22T16:11:05Z Rangers closer Jose Leclerc is suffering from elbow soreness that will cause the righty to miss “extended time,” according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link) and multiple reporters.  Leclerc has already left the Rangers’ Spring Training camp and headed to Texas for further examination.  In more unfortunate injury news, southpaws Joely Rodriguez and Brett Martin will also begin the season on the injured list, though their absences aren’t expected to last as long.

    With Jonathan Hernandez already out through at least the first part of April due to a UCL sprain, Leclerc’s injury represents another long-term hit to the Texas bullpen.  Any mention of an elbow problem naturally raises the concern of Tommy John surgery, which would keep the 27-year-old Leclerc out of action until midway through the 2022 season.

    This is the second significant injury in as many years for Leclerc, who pitched in only two games last season due to a tear of his right teres muscle.  His return to action was marked by a late arrival at camp due to visa issues, and then Leclerc didn’t have his usual velocity over 3 2/3 Cactus League outings, which perhaps isn’t unexpected as he was rebuilding his arm strength.

    Despite it all, Leclerc was the provisional favorite to enter the season as the Texas closer.  He was first promoted to the job back in 2018, during a season that saw Leclerc post a 1.56 ERA/2.60 SIERA and a whopping 38.1K% (eighth-highest of any pitcher in baseball with at least 50 IP) over 57 2/3 frames out of the Rangers’ bullpen.  His performance took a step back in 2019, due in part to both an increase in walks and a big decrease in batted-ball luck (a .306 BABIP in 2019, as opposed to a .211 BABIP in 2018), but it should be noted that most of Leclerc’s struggles that year were contained to the month of April.

    Prior to that 2019 season, Leclerc signed a contract extension that paid him a guaranteed $14.75MM through the 2022 season, with the Rangers holding club options on his services for both 2023 ($6MM, $750K buyout) and 2024 ($6.25MM, $500K buyout).  While not a huge financial investment, this extension will end up looking like something of a bust for Texas should the worst come to pass and Leclerc does require TJ surgery.

    Rodriguez (sprained ankle) and Martin (back) haven’t yet pitched during Spring Training, but both left-handers could end up spending a relatively short time on the IL, perhaps even just a minimal 10-day absence.  Their returns will be greatly welcomed by a Rangers bullpen that is now suddenly thin on arms.  It remains to be seen who will be the first choice for save with both Leclerc and Hernandez out, and the role could fall to minor league signings Ian Kennedy or Matt Bush.

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