Texas Rangers fans are understandably starting to get antsy. The team hasn’t finished above .500 since its 2016 American League West title and subsequent Division series (sweep) elimination.
The team is on its second manager since then, and although never publicly acknowledging a full rebuild, has unquestionably re-tooled. In the three seasons since, there’s been specific on-field issues leading to Texas’ demise. In 2017, it was the back of the bullpen. In 2019, it was a weakened offense in the second half of the year.
Despite this, one thing that has never hampered Texas has been its salary cap situation. Shedding contracts at the 2017 and 2018 trade deadline has helped, along with Adrian Beltre’s retirement in 2018. General manager Jon Daniels and principle owner Ray Davis have teamed up to find great value in several cases.
Texas is accruing $160.9 million in payroll this season according to Baseball Reference, which ranks dead center in the league at 15th. Most of that is going towards players that will see the field in 2020, but it’s also inflated by the more than $26 million in buyouts committed to Prince Fielder, Nate Jones and Shawn Kelley.
Even so, every MLB team has contracts it’d like to take a mulligan on, and the Rangers are no exception. Here’s a look at some of the most valuable and least valuable contracts on the 2020 Texas Rangers salary ledger.
Least valuable: Rougned Odor.
2020 salary: $9.33 million.
2019 stats: .205/.283/.721, 30 HR, 77 RBI.
Odor signed a Tex contract extension after a 30-plus homer season in 2016 that famously included several unique benefits, like netting him two horses as a signing bonus. Since then, his value has plummeted. He had one of the lowest on-base percentage among qualified batters, and finished with a 0.0 WAR. For those not analytically-inclined, that basically means that Odor was exactly average at second base both offensively and defensively.
It’s never too late to turn a corner, however. He had a strong second half highlighted by nine September homers, and piled up a 1.039 OPS in just 12 Spring Training games.
Most valuable: Lance Lynn.
2020 salary: $11.3 million.
2019 stats: 16-11, 3.67 ERA, 246 K
Throw Mike Minor ($9.83 million) in this category, too. Lynn reached a new level in 2019, pitching to an outstanding 7.5 bWAR on the way to a fifth-place finish in American League Cy Young award voting. He thrived with battery mate Jeff Mathis, who Texas shelled out $3 million to pair with in 2020.
Dallas Sports Fanatic recently published an article with more on this pairing and what to expect from Lynn this year. Spoiler alert? It’s a lot of value.
Least valuable: Joely Rodriguez.
2020 salary: $2.5 million.
2019 stats: 3-4, 1.77 ERA, 77 K in 60.1 innings with Chunichi Dragons.
Texas took a leap of faith in signing the Nippon Baseball league product, who made waves by setting the league record for the fastest pitch thrown in 2018. The Rangers have seen returns on overseas pitchers like Colby Lewis and Tony Barnette, but Rodriguez isn’t a sure-thing by any means. In his last major league stint in 2017, the numbers weren’t pretty. He stitched together a 1-2 record with a 6.33 ERA and -1.0 Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement rating in 26 relief appearances with Philadelphia. It’s too early to label it a bust signing- he pitched to a 3.60 ERA in Spring Training before its interruption, and even if it is, it’s not that much of a salary hit.
Other non-household names racking up big bucks for Texas this year include infielder Matt Duffy, who is slated to make $2.9 million in 2020 despite a slim chance to make the Opening Day roster, and hasn’t been a productive player since his runner-up finish in 2015 National League Rookie of the Year voting with San Francisco.
Most valuable: Joey Gallo.
2020 salary: $4.5 million.
2019 stats: .253/.389/.598, 22 HR, 49 RBI in 70 games
Texas management is saying a big thank-you to arbitration for Gallo’s contract. He won’t be eligible for free agency until 2023, and as controversial as the process is, it will give Texas a lot of flexibility relative to its budget for the next two seasons.
Gallo is a rare example of a player that starred enough to earn an All-Star nod before he’s eligible for free agency. He racked up a 3.1 bWAR in less than half of the season, and arguably could’ve been the 2019 All-Star Game MVP had Cleveland and winner Shane Bieber not have been the host. Texas offense was absent in the second without he and Hunter Pence, who was also injured. It will likely be a similar story of carrying the offense for Texas’ young star in 2020, too.
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