Last week the Rangers reportedly signed long-time veteran catcher Jeff Mathis to a two-year contract, pending a physical. The move follows the team declining the 2019 team option on the contract of previous starting catcher Robinson Chirinos.
If you’re reading this article, you’re well aware of the rub on Mathis: a terrible hitter but an excellent defensive presence behind the plate. You’d be able to get a better breakdown of his impressive breakdown of his defensive statistics elsewhere, but I can give one firm analysis: Mathis will not log the most games behind the plate for the Rangers in 2019.
Jeff Mathis hasn’t played more than 70 games in a season since 2013. As an aging backstop, it’s unlikely he’s going to suddenly turn some corner right now and turn into some bat that just forces new manager Chris Woodward into putting him in the lineup every single day. He can, however, be a very valuable presence as the organization tries to develop a young catcher in either 23 year-old Isiah Kiner-Falefa or soon-to-be 26 year-old Jose Trevino.
This is probably going to be the trend among all offseason moves for Texas: helping the team in the long-term more than any real influence on 2019 wins and losses.
If the Rangers are going to spend money in free agency, it will likely only be to temporarily plug holes while the organization gives its younger players, both in the major and minor leagues, proper time to develop into players ready to succeed in a year or more.
With the team desperately needing starting pitching, they won’t go out and sign someone like Arizona Diamondbacks ace Patrick Corbin. They’ll add a veteran, like Drew Smyly, who won’t be a long-term solution, but can serve as a stopgap and positive influence on its young, developing pitching staff.
The team has not been able to find a permanent solution in center field since Josh Hamilton left after the 2012 season. Instead of spending big bucks on someone like Bryce Harper or A.J. Pollock, they might go after someone on a one year deal while their plethora of minor league outfielders continue to season in 2019.
This approach may be boring as the day is long, but it’s at least showing that the front office is very self-aware. A mindset like this was not present whenever the team shelled out $130 million over seven seasons to Shin-Soo Choo earlier this decade. This is a mistake the team is still dealing with today and is one that they’re not ready to come even close to making again.
It isn’t an easy pill to swallow for a fan base who just watched a 95 loss season, but one would have to think there is only a few more months of this approach. The interest in this team locally is probably the lowest it has been since the early part of this century. Ownership has to be aware of this but they, and Jon Daniels and his front office, know that the problems here are bigger than ones they can fix by spending like there’s no tomorrow this winter.
2019 will be a year for developing young talent all around the Rangers organization. We’ll know a lot more about the future of this team by June or July 2019 and could see the front office begin to be more aggressive in building this squad back towards being ready to fight for contention in 2020.
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