Do you have a slightly used, not that expensive free agent who might make a positive contribution to a ballclub in the 2019 season? Maybe a backup catcher known for handling pitchers well? A starting pitcher with a recent history of Tommy John surgery? An older reliever with a little success last season? What about an aging utility infielder who can’t seem to get any good offers? If so, the Texas Rangers are interested. In a busy offseason, the Rangers have added Jeff Mathis, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Edinson Volquez, Jesse Chavez, and Asdrubal Cabrera in free agency, and Drew Smyly in a trade with the Cubs, for a combined total under $60 million, with half that total going to Lynn. The team is continuing down the same road with relievers, inking the soon-to-be 35-year-old Shawn Kelley to a one year deal worth $2.5 million, per Jeff Passan.
It’s pretty clear the Rangers aren’t aiming to compete for a division title next season. Even after adding Kelley, the Rangers projected payroll is around $113 million, more than $50 million less than it was just two seasons ago. In what is pretty clearly a transition year, Texas has amassed a cadre of players with very low floors and middle of the road ceilings. The team doesn’t need Smyly, Volquez, and Miller to work out, but if one of them did, they might have a decent player to trade at the deadline in exchange for some prospects that can help in the future. Relievers always have some value at the deadline. In fact, the team just traded the recently signed Jesse Chavez when he was on their club in July, receiving Tyler Thomas in return. The Rangers aren’t likely to get much from Tyler Thomas, but if you can acquire enough similar players, some of them are bound to work out. That brings us to Kelley.
In 2015 and 2016, Kelley was a solid reliever for the Padres and Nationals, putting up a 2.78 FIP, a 2.55 ERA, and striking out a third of the batters he faced while walking just 6% of hitters. The 2017 season didn’t go so well. Kelley missed time with lower back problems, a strained right trapezius, and bone chips in his right elbow. He only pitched 26 innings, but gave up 12 homers and both his ERA and FIP were around eight.
Last season, Kelley gave up three homers in his first eight appearances, but was mostly fine all year. From May through the end of the season, Kelley had a 3.30 FIP and 2.72 ERA. His strikeouts and velocity were down a bit, but he his fastball/slider combination got the job done. The Nationals traded him to the A’s at the deadline for international bonus pool money after Kelley lost his temper during a blowout win in an otherwise lost season. The A’s had little problem with Kelley as the righty posted an ERA and FIP both in the low-twos.
Kelley could be the valuable reliever he’s been for most of his career and net the team a prospect at the deadline. Or he might be the less-good, hurt reliever from 2017. Either way, the Rangers aren’t taking a lot of risk to find out if Kelley can still get outs.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.
What is the Rangers endgame here? They don’t have a good farm system, they don’t have any young talent on the MLB roster except Gallo, and they don’t have a good major league team. All of their prospects of note are either center fielders or pitchers with iffy control, and Willie Calhoun, who went backwards. These stopgaps are fine, but…is there an endgame anywhere in sight? There is something terribly broken with this team, either in the amateur acquisition or MiLB development programs. What is it?
I think the second paragraph is where Craig partially answers your question.
So I think you’re right, and this is probably their plan. But although they might have a few hits out of it, these moves are unlikely to change the course of the franchise. Something is broken, and this is not going to cover it up for very long.
While your points are valid, keep in mind that this is not necessarily the sum total of the organizational plan to improve. It’s just an easy and cheap way to possibly get some mid range prospects at next year’s deadline for retreads that don’t cost anything in a year when competing isn’t really an option. The lack of evidence of a bigger plan for the organization does not negate the value of this particular tactic.
The “endgame” is the new ballpark opening in 2020. Presumably they plan to be active next offseason for that; they’re just treading water this year. Of course, apparently no MLB team has to be good or attract fans anymore, since they make money on the TV deals. MLBAM, and (soon) gambling no matter what.
The end game: Throw a bunch of sh*t at the wall and hope some of it sticks and becomes tradable assets to help rebuild that subpar farm system, while hoping some of the young kids (mazara, odor, gallo, etc..) still have another level of development they can reach…. when you don’t have a good team or farm system, one of the fastest ways to kickstart that farm system is signing bounce back or decent value vets that could end up with trade value (with a non-zero chance that everyone clicks and you’re an above .500 team)
And let’s not forget that it is more entertaining for fans to come to a game where the home club is less bad. To be quasi-philosophical for a moment, the endgame is not everything; there is also the journey.
I actually agree with this point. It’s one of the reasons why I think they should consider hanging onto Gallo, since he’s pretty much the only fun thing about this team.