Jon Daniels and the Texas Rangers have had quite the offseason. They were the ones who pushed the first domino by signing Doug Fister to an exceptionally affordable one year contract, and announced the signings of six players on Monday, two of whom will receive major league contracts.
Beginning with the minor moves, the Rangers announced three previously unannounced non-roster invitees today as well as the signing of outfielder/left-handed pitcher Anthony Gose, which had been reported last week. Left-handed pitcher David Hurlbutt, infielder Christian Lopes and the recently non-tendered Chi Chi Gonzalez will be joining the club this March.
The first, Christian Lopes, who had spent his entire career with the Toronto Blue Jays organization. Lopes, 25, is coming off a season in which he slashed .269/.357/.421 over 403 plate appearances, mainly at Triple-A Buffalo. Lopes brings with him a history of strong plate discipline, above average to plus speed and average power.
He will be in camp to compete for a utility infielder role, as he has the versatility to play all throughout the infield, however will likely be on the outside looking in out of camp, seeing as how he has no previous major league experience. He could, however get a chance at some point this season if injuries strike.
David Hurlbutt, 28, has been in the Twins organization throughout his career where he has worked primarily as a starting pitcher. Hurlbutt is a control oriented lefty who doesn’t have great stuff, but is able to get the job done. Based on the current state of the Rangers rotation depth, Hurlbutt has a chance to break camp with the club, albeit an exceptionally small one. He has the potential to be a left-handed swing man in the big leagues.
Gonzalez, nearly 26, is expected to miss a large portion of the 2018 campaign as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. The non-tender was simply a procedural move so that the Rangers could get him off of the 40-man roster without exposing him to waivers. He should be back later in the season, however, the former first round pick has a lot of catching up to do.
The first of the guaranteed contracts went to right-handed pitcher Tony Barnette who just had his 2018 club option worth $4 million bought out. Barnette will be returning to the only team for which he has pitched for at the major league level following a season marred by bad luck, as he posted a 5.49 ERA, despite an FIP of 4.01. Barnette will take home $1.5 million on a one-year deal, representing a slight pay cut from 2017, in which he earned $1.75 million. Barnette figures to serve in a middle relief role for the 2018 season.
The most important deal, however, was the signing of left-handed reliever Mike Minor, as reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, who seems likely to serve in a high leverage relief capacity or in the team’s rotation. While the financial terms have yet to be announced, Minor, arguably the best left-handed relief pitcher on the market seems in line for a healthy increase over his $4 million salary from 2017.
Prior to 2017, Minor had missed the past two seasons due to his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Nevertheless, he looked like a slam dunk bounce back candidate from the beginning as he went on to post a very strong 2.55 ERA with supporting peripherals including a 2.62 FIP, a 10.2 K/9 and a 2.5 BB/9 over 77.2 innings pitched.
Furthermore, Minor managed to pick up six saves over the course of the season. It should also be noted that Minor earned an additional $1.25 million from his decision to buy out his end of the mutual option with the Kansas City Royals. Based on the current state of the Rangers’ pitching depth, it wouldn’t be completely surprising to see Minor return as a starter, however based on his injury history, he should be handled with caution. The Rangers will not have to make a corresponding roster move.