The Texas Rangers Still Aren’t Very Good by Craig Edwards January 22, 2020 As the Rangers look to open 2020 in a new ballpark, they set out to build on a surprisingly competent 2019 season by making significant additions. The team was aggressive on the pitching side, quickly adding Kyle Gibson on a potential bargain of a three-year deal for $28 million, then they added Jordan Lyles as a potential starter for reliever money. Next, they traded for a potential ace in Corey Kluber without giving up much in return. Adding that trio to Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, two of the better pitchers in baseball a year ago, means the Rangers should have one of the top 10 rotations in the game with the potential to land in the top five at season’s end. Unfortunately, the Rangers still look to be one of the 10 worst teams in baseball because they’ve done little to address the position-player side of their team. To illustrate the Rangers’ issues, the table below shows projections by position as well as team rank at that position. Rangers Depth Chart Projections Position 2020 Starter Projected Team WAR Projected MLB Rank 2019 MLB Rank C Robinson Chirinos 0.2 30 30 1B Ronald Guzmán 0.1 30 29 2B Rougned Odor 1.3 25 18 SS Elvis Andrus 1.3 29 24 3B Todd Frazier 2.0 22 26 LF Willie Calhoun 1.3 21 9 CF Danny Santana 1.4 22 9 RF Joey Gallo 2.2 10 18 DH Shin-Soo Choo 1.1 11 4 That’s really bad, and as the 2019 column shows, it was really bad a year ago as well. The 2020 projections have the Rangers getting about 11 wins from their entire position player group. That would actually be an improvement over last season when they put up 9.2 WAR the entire season. The Rangers made it into the top 10 last year in two position player groups outside of designated hitter, but in both left field and center field, the team was adequate because Joey Gallo put up good numbers at both positions. Since the season ended, the team has brought in Robinson Chirinos, whose okay projection gets canceled out by Jeff Mathis. The team traded away Nomar Mazara and Delino DeShields, who aren’t big losses from their 2019 production, but expectations for Danny Santana and Willie Calhoun are not high. Todd Frazier was signed in a nice deal to add some production at either first or third base, but even then, the position still ends up below average. All together, this is where Rangers position players rank in our Depth Chart projections. Sitting ahead of only Miami and Baltimore and just behind Detroit is not where a potentially contending team wants or needs to be. But everything isn’t all bad for the Rangers. Their work on the pitching side is a positive. Here’s where the Rangers rank among pitching staffs. That’s really good for Texas, but when you combine them… Unless Texas wins a bunch of close games, the team is only ready to replicate last season’s 78 wins. Even if we wanted to look at the Rangers’ projections and see them as low, adding one win to each position player projection would still put the Rangers five games behind the Angels and A’s and in the fourth spot in the division. Organizationally, there is good news and bad news for the club’s future. On the good-news side of the ledger is the team’s financial situation. The Rangers have been cutting costs the last two years and saw their payroll drop to 20th in the sport, with their Opening Day payroll under $120 million and nearly $50 million less than what it was just a few seasons ago. The Rangers were consistently in the top 10 in the early part of the decade and should have the capability to get back up in that area. Right now, we have their payroll at $154 million, which is still about $10 million below what it was in 2017. The team doesn’t have a single salary commitment above $15 million in 2021 and has no long-term deal extending past 2022. In addition, Shin-Soo Choo’s $21 million comes off the books at the end of this season as does the remaining $9 million commitment for Prince Fielder. Even if the team picks up Kluber’s $18 million option and Gallo gets a big raise in arbitration, the team will have under $100 million committed to payroll in 2021. With additional revenue and increased attendance coming from a new stadium, the Rangers might have $100 million to spend on 2021 payroll. If the right opportunity comes along, they could get a head start. The bad news for the Rangers is that they don’t have much at the high end of their farm system right now. There is considerable depth, but we don’t yet know how that will shake out. Kris Bryant might be a good fit, but the team probably doesn’t have the resources to swing a deal. The same goes for Mookie Betts in Boston unless the Red Sox are willing to dump other salaries and just take prospect depth in exchange for one of the best players in baseball. They don’t have close to what it would take to get Francisco Lindor. There are also very few free agents still available. Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson would have fit very well on the team and taken them into the low-80s in terms of projected wins, but those opportunities have passed them by. Even Marcell Ozuna is now gone on a bargain one-year deal to the Braves. Nicholas Castellanos is a logical fit, but he won’t be a difference-maker. Perhaps the latest storm brewing in Denver will get a Nolan Arenado trade moving. The Rangers might be the one team willing to take on the risk of Arenado financially without pretending like he is signed to a very difficult contract. The Rangers could take on Arenado’s $35 million yearly obligation and get the team a lot closer to the playoffs. Absent a major move, the Rangers don’t find themselves in a vastly improved position from a year ago. The team is better, and with some luck could find itself in the playoff race, but it would be a generous characterization to call them a contender considering the current group of position players.