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Why the Rangers waiting in free agency is setting up for something greater

Over the winter of twiddling thumbs and signing shortages, the MLB’s ‘hot stove’ still remains quite cold as we near the start of spring training.

Big time names like Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, J.D. Martinez, and former Ranger Yu Darvish are all still on the market and remain unsigned.

Texas’ General Manager, Jon Daniels, has received an onslaught of negative feedback from fans in the DFW over the lack of roster movement and what seems like apathy from an outside perspective.

However, the front office may just be on to something here.

Over the past three seasons, the questions around the Rangers organization has been to buy or sell. To pursue, or release. To go all in, or to blow it all up. And much of this comes from the abundance of overaged talent, and the lack of current talent to seemingly make a run.

Texas could accurately be classified as interestingly mediocre, to say the least, finishing 78-84 in 2017. But despite finishing six games under .500, the roster has enough future talent to make something happen with just a few big additions.

That’s where free agency comes in right?

Right, but not just yet.

If you look at the top free agents of this year’s pool, there are some intriguing ideas that could make the current Rangers roster better instantly. But at what price?

There are teams that believe they are contenders and will overpay, for example, two 30-plus year-old pitchers (Darvish & Arrieta) who are undoubtedly on the decline, or a designated hitter that’s over 30 as well (Martinez).

But Jon Daniels is a long-term thinker as opposed to looking at the short term.

The Rangers head into 2018 with an estimated cap hit of $144 million which is still $53 million under the luxury tax threshold. This threshold will then rise from $197 million to $206 million between 2018 and into 2019.

This meaning that there will be more room for the Rangers to make a run for big-time free agents in 2019, even if it’s just a few million extra dollars.

Expanding on this though, the Rangers would not be under the contract of Adrian Beltre in 2019 and have club options on Matt Moore, Martin Perez, Doug Fister, and Cole Hamels as well.

Now, I’m not suggesting the Rangers will decline the option of their entire pitching rotation or will let Beltre ride off into the golden Texas sunset. But it is a nice thing to know if Moore, Perez, or Fister don’t work out as planned.

Also, Elvis Andrus has an opt-out clause that he can enact after either the 2018 or 2019 season, or else he is owed $88 million until 2023. Andrus would be the only uncontrollable loss for the Rangers during the next offseason, meaning the core group of players taking the field in 2018 will still be around come 2019.

Why am I putting so much emphasis on 2019?

Because that’s what I believe Jon Daniels is doing as well. And if you see the comparison of the top 10 free agents of 2018 and 2019, you wouldn’t blow up the comment section on Rangers articles anymore.

2018 Top 10 Free Agents (Via CBS Sports)

  1. Shohei Ohtani RHP/DH (23)
  2. J.D. Martinez OF/DH (30)
  3. Yu Darvish RHP (31)
  4. Lorenzo Cain OF (31)
  5. Jake Arrieta RHP (31)
  6. Eric Hosmer 1B (28)
  7. Mike Moustakas 3B (29)
  8. Lance Lynn RHP (30)
  9. Alex Cobb RHP (30)
  10. Zack Cozart SS (32)

2019 Top 10 Free Agents/’19 age (Via ESPN)

  1. Bryce Harper RF (26)
  2. Manny Machado 3B (26)
  3. Clayton Kershaw LHP (31)
  4. Josh Donaldson 3B (33)
  5. Charlie Blackmon CF (32)
  6. Drew Pomeranz LHP (30)
  7. Elvis Andrus SS (30)
  8. Brian Dozier 2B (32)
  9. David Price LHP (33)
  10. Andrew Miller LHP (34)

It’s no secret that the 2019 list is not only better talent wise, but it’s generally younger, healthier, and there is more space between the Rangers’ cap hit to the luxury tax threshold.

This may be the reasoning behind Jon Daniels and the Rangers’ front office staying put this season in order to avoid overspending on personnel. This also allows them to set up for a run at a Clayton Kershaw or Andrew Miller, as opposed to a Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta.

Another positive to not buying or selling this season would be the development of young talent like Willie Calhoun and Delino DeShields Jr. and let other youngsters like Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo get some traction in the majors.

I hate it as much as the next person, but having a season of experimenting and even losing to fine-tune the holes and pinpoint the needs heading into the 2019 offseason could be the best shot at the Rangers competing again in the AL West.

That is however, if everything goes to plan…which it very easily could not. Jon Daniels is putting all his 2018 metaphorical eggs into the 2019 metaphorical basket and no one knows the result of this strategy until the signing of multiple big-name free agents next winter.

Is Daniels rolling the dice on the 2019 offseason and using the 2018 season as a betting chip? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Born and raised in Waco, Texas. Future graduate of the University of North Texas in 2018. Avid Dallas sports fanatic and multimedia journalist.

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