Offseason Tracker and Analysis: Texas Rangers

After being very competitive next season, the Rangers, per reports, are ready to go all-in to build a playoff contender as they move into a new stadium. It’s a risky approach for lead decision-maker Jon Daniels, but then again, they have a lot of financial flexibility, and are great fits for some of the premier free agents available. They’ll be an intriguing team to keep an eye on this offseason- they’ve been linked to practically every “big name”.

Expected Direction: Making Splashy Moves As They Move Into a New Ballpark

Rangers Sign SP Kyle Gibson

gibson
Photo Cred: ESPN

Contract Details: Three Years, $28 Million ($3 Incentives)

Grade: 8.5/10

In what is likely to be their first of several moves, the Rangers have signed starting pitcher Kyle Gibson to a three-year contract worth $28 million, with another $3 million in incentives. This may seem like a large deal on the surface for Gibson- the 32-year-old had a 4.84 ERA. Yet, based on his peripheral stats (3.80 xFIP, 9 K/9, 3.15 BB/9, 4.25 SIERA), he was right on par with his career numbers, which label him as a very consistent middle of the rotation starter. After all, he produces ground balls at a high rate (51.4%), had a satisfactory K-BB ratio (2.86), and had he not dealt with weight loss due to ulcerative colitis, may have gotten close to 200 innings pitched last season. A three-year deal for a 32-year-old is definitely a risk, but Gibson has been as consistent as it gets, and fills a major hole in Texas’ previously thin rotation- this is extremely similar to the contract signed by Lance Lynn last offseason.

Rangers Sign SP Jordan Lyles 

lyles
Photo Cred: Yahoo! Sports

Contract Details: Two Years, $16 Million

Grade: 6.5/10

Continuing to bolster their rotation, the Rangers have made another interesting signing. This time, it’s starting pitcher Jordan Lyles, who agreed to a two-year contract worth $16 million. Overall, that may seem like quite the commitment for a pitcher who had a 4.61 xFIP, but as many teams have done this offseason, they’re betting on Lyles performance in a small sample. After being traded to the Brewers, the 29-year-old was a pivotal part of their playoff push, posting a 2.45 K/9. However, that ERA comes with a 4.91 xFIP and poor strikeout and walk numbers- his success certainly wasn’t sustainable. Plus, last season was Lyles’ first season back as a full-time starting pitcher, and even then, he only had 141 innings pitched. This isn’t the type of contract that’ll hamper Texas, but with so many rotation options, available, perhaps this wasn’t the best way to spend $8 million per year for the next two seasons.

Rangers Sign RP Joely Rodriguez

rodriguez
Photo Cred: MLB-NBC Sports

Contract Details: Two Years, $5.5 Million

Grade: 8.5/10

In an intriguing move, the Rangers have signed left-handed pitcher Joely Rodriguez to a two-year contract worth $5.5 million, with a club option for a third-year. Rodriguez, 2, has had quite the journey in recent years. After pitching in minimal innings for the Phillies in 2016 and 2017, he was traded to the Rangers, where he was stuck in Triple-A, before having the same fate with the Orioles in 2018. Then, he signed with the Chunichi Dragons of Japan, where in two seasons, he was fabulous with a 1.87 ERA and 10.6 K/9. Now, he’ll be back with Texas, though this time, he’ll finally have a spot in their major-league bullpen. Obviously, there’s not a lot to go off of, but given the need for lefty relievers, it’s definitely worth a shot by the Rangers to see if he can at least much-needed depth to their bullpen; he wouldn’t be the first success story from Japan, as they had success in signing Chris Martin, who had a very similar journey to Rodriguez.

Rangers Trade OF Nomar Mazara To White Sox

mazara
Photo Cred: NBC Chicago

Full Trade: Rangers Trade OF Nomar Mazara To White Sox For OF Steele Walker 

Grade: 7.5/10

Finally parting ways with a former top prospect, the Rangers have traded outfielder Nomar Mazara, acquiring outfield prospect Steele Walker in the process. Walker, 23, is actually just one year younger than Mazara, and reached High-A last season. In 441 plate appearances there, he posted a solid 124 weighted-runs-created-plus (wrc+), while demonstrating some decent plate discipline numbers and power. He’ll slot in as Texas’ 11th ranked prospect, per FanGraphs; it’s a decent return for a player with no track record for major-league success.

Rangers Acquire SP Corey Kluber From Indians

kluber
Photo Cred: CBS Sports

Full Trade: Rangers Acquire SP Corey Kluber From Indians In Exchange For RP Emmanuel Clase and OF Delino DeShields Jr.

Grade: 9/10

After missing out on superstar third baseman Anthony Rendon, the Rangers have decided to fortify their rotation, acquiring two-time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber from the Rangers. In exchange for Kluber, they’ll send young reliever Emmanuel Clase and speedy outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. After eclipsing 200 innings in each of the previous five seasons, last season went as poorly as it could for the 33-year-old Kluber, who pitched just 35.2 innings and had a 4.88 xFIP. On the bright side, the injury that sidelined him, a broken forearm, was a fluky injury from a line drive, so there’s no reason to be concerned about his health. On the contrary, he had already shown signs of declining with age in 2018, as he allowed much more hard contact and saw his average fastball velocity decrease to 92.4. Texas is gambling that Kluber, after having essentially a year off, can either be the front-line starting pitcher he was prior to the injury, or more realistically, a high-end middle-of-the-rotation starter. If he makes good on that, his $17.5 million salary and $18.5 million club option for the following season will be worth it; he could be the finishing piece of what figures to be one of the better rotations in baseball. And if he’s not? Losing Clase, a high-upside young reliever, will hurt, but relievers aren’t extremely valuable anyways; they’re trading a low-end prospect (even if he makes good on his potential) and a fourth outfielder to take on a solid starting pitcher on a pretty reasonable contract, which makes a lot of sense.

Rangers Sign C Robinson Chirinos

chirinos
Photo Cred: UPI.com

Contract Details: One Year, $6.75 Million ($6.5 Million Club Option 2021)

Grade: 8/10

Bringing back a familiar face, the Rangers have signed catcher Robinson Chirinos to a one-year contract worth just under $7 million. This comes just one offseason after the Rangers chose to non-tender the 35-year-old, so general manager Jon Daniels is clearly admitting his mistake by bringing him back. Perhaps that was the best for Chirinos, however, as in his one season with the Astros, he not only posted a 113 wrc+, but also improved defensively, especially with his framing. Now, one look at his Baseball Savant page would come with great reason for concern, but considering that he has outperformed his expected statistics in every season of the Statcast era, there’s no reason he can’t do so again. No matter what, though, he represents a major upgrade over the previous catching situation, which produce a negative WAR last season; since Chirinos was the last starting-caliber catcher available, this was move Texas had to make.

Rangers Sign 3B Todd Frazier

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at New York Mets
Photo Cred: The Athletic

Contract Details: One Year, $5 Million ($5.75 Million Club Option 2021)

Grade: 7.5/10

He’s not quite Rendon (obviously), but the Rangers have found their new starting third baseman, bringing in veteran Todd Frazier on a one-year deal. Frazier, 33, had a decent season last year, posting a 106 wrc+ and 1.9 WAR in 133 games for the Mets. Still, he generally doesn’t hit the ball hard (33.4% hard contact rate), has subpar expected statistics, and overall, is just an average player all-around. There’s nothing wrong with that, but considering that the Rangers had the option to roll with young infielder Nick Solak, I’m not sure what this necessarily accomplishes for him, though at $5 million, they need Frazier to just be a 1 WAR-type of player.

*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Rangers Make

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