As the quiet MLB offseason continues to lull everyone to sleep, the Texas Rangers have continued to cast their numerous nets when it comes to building their 2018 roster.
Colon, a 44 year-old probably better known for his weight than on-field performance these days, and Barney, a solid veteran infielder who isn’t going to get anyone to buy a ticket to a game, are just two of the collection of players the Rangers have signed or traded for this offseason without much certainty in regards to what they have left to offer.
Earlier this offseason, Texas signed Doug Fister and traded for Matt Moore to compete for spots in their questionable starting rotation. The pair had 4.88 and 5,52 ERA’s in 2017, so the club didn’t have to exactly give up the world to acquire either.
One thing all of these acquisitions have in common: high rates of success within the last year or two at the Major League level. Colon was an All-Star for the Mets in 2016. Doug Fister had over 30 starts and over 180 innings as a starter for the up and coming Houston Astros in 2016. Matt Moore logged 198 innings in 33 starts for the San Francisco Giants and Tampa Bay Rays in 2016.
Yes, 2017 wasn’t really pretty for any of them, but it wasn’t exactly a poster year for too many Rangers players either. Despite Adrian Beltre only appearing in 94 games, Cole Hamels missing two months and pitching below his standards, Rougned Odor hitting close to the Mendoza Line, and depending on the deceiving home run/RBI totals of Mike Napoli for 124 games, the Rangers only finished 78-84. A painfully mediocre finish for a team just one year removed from a 95 win campaign.
Texas had a lot of guys with down years in 2017 and it proved too much to overcome as they were plagued by inconsistent play all season long. Instead of investing major money into a big name free agent this offseason, they’ve cautiously taken fliers on players looking for rebound campaigns or tried to see if a bullpen arm could pay off as a starter like they are with Mike Minor.
There are several reasons it’s justifiable for the front office to take this approach:
- They had the major’s 7th highest Opening Day payroll in 2017. There’s only so much the fans can reasonably expect ownership to do when they’re shelling out almost as much as any other team in baseball.
- A large chunk of this team’s core from the 2015 and 2016 AL West Division title teams are still in place. They still have something left to offer if all are playing and clicking at the same time.
- The franchise does not have the best track record of spending big money on starting pitching.
The popular narrative among local media members and fans alike this winter is that this team will be lucky to finish any higher than fourth in the AL West this year. It’s easy to see why with the Astros only getting stronger this winter and the Angels landing Shohei Ohtani and adding to their lineup. It’s not all bad for the Rangers, though.
Even though the face of the franchise is the 38 year-old Beltre, the lineup will likely rest on the shoulders of guys like 22 year-old Nomar Mazara and 24 year-olds Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo. These are young, developing bats under team control for years to come and they’re only going to get better. Add in a performance anywhere close to what the world saw of Elvis Andrus in 2017 or a return to the relative norm for Cole Hamels and this thing could be right in the thick of hunting for one of those two Wild Card spots assuming the Astros are running away with the division.
While it’s fun to act like the sky is falling and there is no hope, taking a deep breath often helps you to realize a brighter reality. While it would be crazy to call this team a favorite for any level of postseason success, it would be just as crazy to pin them for the bottom of the standings with the amount of veteran/developing talent on the roster.
One would have to assume the Rangers marketing team will come up with an underdog mantra for this bunch in 2o18, and it will be a fun challenge for the guys in the clubhouse to defy low expectations. Don’t count them out already, though.
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