The Rangers’ window of contention has closed, but the team is in for an interesting offseason. With so many young players on the team, the Rangers need to make a decision. Are these players part of the future or should they be traded away for a package of prospects?
Current State: Rebuilding
Rangers Acquire LHP Drew Smyly and a Player To Be Named Later in Exchange for a Player To Be Named Later
The Rangers have acquired starting pitcher Drew Smyly and a player to be named later from the Cubs in exchange for a player to be named later. Smyly, 29, hasn’t pitched in two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery at the start of the 2017 season. With the Rays in 2016, he posted 4.88 ERA with a 1.27 WHIP and a 4.49 ERA in a down year, but he owns a career 3.74 ERA. His 9.5 K/9 over his past two healthy seasons prove he can be a strikeout pitcher when effective, while he also does a solid job of preventing walks. Still, he’s a fly ball pitcher, which is concerning considering he will now be pitching in one of the most hitter friendly stadiums in Texas. This is essentially a one year, $7 million deal since Texas is doing nothing but eating his salary, and Smyly does have some upside for a team in desperate need of starting pitching. That salary is around the price a team would pay for Smyly if he was a free agent, and it’s hard to disagree with the move, though I’m still not sure he’ll succeed with the Rangers.
Rangers Hire Chris Woodward as Manager
The Rangers have hired Chris Woodward to be their next manager. Woodward, 42, is an interesting hire for Texas. After playing from 1999 to 2011, Woodward was the third base coach of the Dodgers since 2016. He’s been praised for his communication and leadership skills. Previous manager Jeff Banister struggled to communicate and to relate with young players, something that Woodward should be able to do well. As a rebuilding club, the Rangers need someone to help them develop their young players, and Woodward is a sharp baseball mind who should be trusted to put his players in positions to succeed. His resume isn’t as strong as other candidates, and this take is more of a gut feeling than anything else, but he still is a terrific personality coming from a winning franchise.
Rangers Sign RP Jesse Chavez
After trading him in mid-July next season, the Rangers have brought back reliever Jesse Chavez on a two year, $8 million contract. Chavez, 35, had an outstanding season last year. He posted a 2.55 ERA with a 1.06 WHIP and a 3.54 FIP. There was no dramatic changes, but he did walk batters at a career best rate (1.6 BB/9). Despite most pitchers struggling in Texas, Chavez proved he could pitch in a hitters friendly stadium with a 3.51 ERA as a Ranger. His 4.33 FIP with them causes some concern, but his ability to pitch multiple innings effectively for a team with a barren bullpen is important and makes this deal worth it.
Rangers Sign SP Lance Lynn
The Rangers signed starting pitcher Lance Lynn to a three year, $30 million contract. Lynn, 31, had an extremely disappointing year after signing a one year deal with the Twins last offseason. Between Minnesota and the Yankees, he had a 4.77 ERA with a 1.53 WHIP and a 3.84 FIP. In previous years, Lynn was an effective innings eater for the Cardinals who was just what a team could ask for in the middle of their rotation. What changed? Since Lynn signed at the end of the offseason, his spring training was cut short. Therefore, it isn’t much of a surprise that Lynn’s ERA was down from 5.22 to 4.13 and his strikeout to walk ratio doubled. Lynn’s high ground ball rates are encouraging since he has to pitch at the hitters friendly Globe Life Park, but it doesn’t make sense that a career average pitcher coming off an awful season could score a $30 million contract. Lynn’s contract is nearly double what his projected contract was by MLB Trade Rumors, and Texas should’ve focused on acquiring cheaper pitchers on shorter contracts. Lynn’s production could easily be matched by someone at a cheaper price, and he’s now getting paid to be what he isn’t – an above average pitcher. This contract looks like a bust in the making, though Lynn will provide Texas with an innings eater and consistency in their rotation, even if it’s being consistently average.
Rangers Acquire INF Eli White, LHPs Brock Burke and Kyle Bird, RHP Yoel Espinal In Three Team Trade With A’s and Rays
In a three team trade with the A’s and Rays in which they sent utility player Jurickson Profar to Oakland, the Rangers have acquired infield prospect Eli White from the A’s and pitching prospects Brock Burke, Kyle Bird, and Yoel Espinal from the Rays. In addition to trading Profar to the A’s, Texas is also sending minor league pitcher Rollie Lacy to Tampa Bay. White, 24, comes in as the Rangers’ 12th ranked prospect, according to MLB.Com, and is near MLB ready. He had a .838 OPS in Double-A last season, and also stole 18 bases. His ability to play multiple positions to along with his plus hit tool will allow him to be a utility player at worst, ironically similar to what Profar was for them this year. Burke, 22, is the best prospect the Rangers acquired in this deal. He had a 3.08 ERA between High-A and Double-A, and is Texas’ 6th best prospect. His fastball and slider are already plus pitches, and as he develops his changeup as an effective third pitch, he should develop into a middle of the rotation starter. The other two minor league pitchers the Rangers received from Tampa seem to be merely throw ins. Espinal is already 26-years-old and has only reached Double-A, though his high strikeout rates make him an appealing option for Texas’ bullpen. Meanwhile, the 25-year-old Bird has had success in the minors, reaching Triple-A. However, he’ll need to cut down on the amount of walks he’s allowing (4.2 BB/9). Bird and Espinal could turn into solid relief options, but the only two players in this deal with will likely become impact major leaguers are White and Burke. It’s a solid package for someone who has never had an OPS over .800, but considering the demand for young, utility players, they probably could have done better.
Rangers Sign SP Shelby Miller
To increase their pitching depth, the Rangers have signed starting pitcher to a one year, $2 million contract. Miller, 28, was a total failure with the Diamondbacks after being traded to them from the Braves in exchange for a package that included former top pick Dansby Swanson and 2017 All Star Ender Inciarte. In three seasons with Arizona, he posted a 6.98 ERA and only pitched in 139 innings due to injuries. He’s a prime bounce back candidate due to his success prior to being traded to Arizona, which is why Texas is taking a chance on him. Despite posting a 10.69 ERA last season, his xFIP- of 97 actually ranked him as a slightly above average pitcher. His strikeout rates also went up in his limited action the past two seasons, while nothing was significantly different besides a bloated hard contact rate allowed of 57.7%. I don’t think Miller will ever be able to be a front-line starter again, but he definitely has the potential to be a solid back end starter this season. For a team that needs any sort of pitching badly, this is a solid move for them with little risk and a potentially high reward.
Rangers Sign INF Asdrubal Cabrera
The Rangers have signed infielder Asdrubal Cabrera to a one year, $3.5 million deal. Cabrera, 33, was once again solid offensively last season with a .774 OPS and a 111 wrc+. However, he really struggled down the stretch after being traded to the Phillies, with just a .678 OPS and a .286 on base percentage. However, offense is no what is concerning about Cabrera. He’s a defensive liability in the middle infield, with negative 17 defensive runs saved at second base this season. Therefore, Texas will try to play him at third base, where he’s rated as an average to below average defender. While Cabrera should be a solid contributor for the Rangers, especially with the position switch, this move blocks Patrick Wisdom, who was impressive with the Cardinals with a .882 OPS and deserved an opportunity to further showcase his abilities. At 33-years-old and already at his peak, the Rangers also aren’t likely to flip him at the trade deadline for anything special, especially with several teams already set at third base. What the Rangers need is someone who can hit lefties and can play multiple positions, and someone such as Josh Harrison would have been a better fit.
Rangers Sign RP Shawn Kelly
The Rangers have signed reliever Shawn Kelly to a one year, $2.5 million deal. Kelly, 34, had a 2.94 ERA with a 0.90 WHIP an a 3.71 FIP. Following a trade to the A’s, the right-hander was dominant, posting a 2.08 FIP. He certainly benefited from that move to Oakland, as the big ballpark helped cover up his issues giving up home runs (1.3 HR/9, 1.9 with Nationals). Kelly also gives up a fair share of hard contact (35.9%), though that rate was significantly down from 2017 (44%). He also is a fly-ball pitcher, inducing them more than half of the time. For all these reasons, Kelly is an awful fit for the Rangers, who play in a very small stadium at Globe Life Park. Texas needed bullpen help badly though, so getting a veteran arm in Kelly near the back end for just $2.5 million is still solid value. However, he should not be expected to replicate his 2018 success in much worse conditions.
*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Rangers Make