The annual Winter Meetings don’t start until this Sunday in beautiful San Diego, California, but there is already a ton of buzz surrounding the biggest free agents in baseball. Even more so than I anticipated, the Rangers are very much involved with a lot of it.
Several executives during the GM meetings insisted that the Texas #Rangers are the favorites to land free-agent third baseman Anthony Rendon, and on Sunday, he met for the first time with the Rangers' contingent in his hometown of Houston, per @Evan_P_Grant
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 3, 2019
As both USA Today’s Bob Nightengale and the DMN’s Evan Grant have reported over the past 24 hours, the Rangers have already laid major groundwork in their pursuit of third baseman Anthony Rendon, the most sought-after position player in free agency this year. The pursuit makes sense, for sure. To paraphrase the great Jared Sandler from his appearance on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday morning, the Rangers have a hole at third base, they need a game-changing right-handed bat in the middle of their lineup and they’re looking to make a big splash this winter. Rendon checks all three of those boxes emphatically and would definitely be something that captures the attention of fans in DFW and all around baseball.
I’ve made it known before that I’d prefer the team allocate their resources to a shorter contract with someone like Josh Donaldson. I would think that a deal with the soon-to-be 34-year-old Donaldson could get done with just two to four (unlikely) years compared to a contract with the 30-year-old Rendon that likely STARTS at seven years, based off the fact that he rejected an extension from the Nationals with that many years earlier this year. Adding in that the organization has highly touted third base prospects like Josh Jung and Sherten Apostel likely ready for a major league role at the hot corner within the next two seasons, the shorter commitment seems to make more sense. However, I’m never going to get in the way of one of the local teams adding the biggest name on the free agent market in a given offseason.
Rumblings have also been that the Rangers could be ramping up their pursuits of improving their starting pitching rotation in a big way. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote Monday that right-handed starter Zack Wheeler has “received at least one $100 million offer” and that is just the baseline for a deal with the 29-year-old who has been a very solid starter the last two seasons with the Mets. According to Rosenthal, the Rangers, Twins, White Sox, Reds and Blue Jays are among the teams who are interested in Wheeler as perhaps an alternative to the mega-stars at the top of the free agent pitching class like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. It has been reported by the likes of MLB Network’s Jon Heyman that a deal for Wheeler could even come to fruition before the Winter Meetings get underway on Sunday.
At 29-years-old, the potential to still grow into an elite starter is still there for Wheeler. Many outlets are writing that all of the advanced pitching metrics suggest that there is ample opportunity to grow off of a good two years with the Mets that were preceded by injury issues. The Rangers have a nice track record the last couple of years of bringing in established pitchers and helping them take their game to the next level with the stories of Mike Minor, who was 29-year-old when he signed with Texas in late 2017, and Lance Lynn, who was 31-years-old when he signed with Texas last winter. Zack Wheeler will not come at the value type of contract that Minor or Lynn each received at around $10 million annually. If reports are true, he’s getting a contract with at least a $20 million AAV and that is something the Rangers have not typically given out to pitchers in free agency. Now, that is just as likely to be caused by pitchers’ reluctance to willingly sign up to come play in Arlington because of poor conditions as much as it is the front office’s unwillingness to spend money in that area. Things should be different now with both Minor and Lynn coming off seasons where they finished in the top 10 of AL Cy Young voting.
While his 2019 stats do not suggest he is an ace pitcher, adding Wheeler to a rotation of Minor, Lynn and now Kyle Gibson following his addition last week would instantly give the Rangers their best rotation since the early stages of this decade where they were contending for championships. While not one single guy is the undoubted, number one, superstar ace that is going to be selected to start the All-Star game, each is going to be above average and consistently give you quality outings. The Rangers only had two of those options in 2019 and it tore their season apart as the year went on.
While there certainly isn’t any award or recognition given out to the team that is seemingly most active heading up to the Winter Meetings, there is a lot to be said for Jon Daniels and rest of the Rangers front office being so out and about at this stage of the winter. There had been indications ownership has given Daniels the keys to the expensive car this winter ahead of the team’s move into Globe Life Field in 2020 and that does not at all seem to have been an overhyped narrative. Whether or not these two players end up in a Rangers uniform over the next week or is iffy, but you definitely can’t knock Texas for simply sitting on their hands this winter.
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