The Texas Rangers should trade for Kris Bryant.
One of the prevalent rumors across Major League Baseball over the last two months has been that high-profile position players such as Bryant, Mookie Betts, and Francisco Lindor could be traded this offseason. Now, all three players are under team control though 2021, at the latest. On the other hand, their skill sets could help steer a franchise in the right direction or make a contender formidable.
Acquiring Bryant takes the Rangers offense to the next level.
After a shaky 2018 campaign and a bumpy start to the 2019 regular season, Bryant put together an encouraging bounce-back season.
The homegrown Cub finished the regular season with a .282 batting average, a .903 OPS, and 31 home runs across 147 games. Bryant has always been prone to strikeouts, but he’s still a dangerous hitter. He finishes swings, ropes line drives and home runs, and has been an integral source of offense for the Chicago Cubs.
Meanwhile, Bryant is a great defender. He has a great arm, makes dividing plays on his back hand with ease, and has good awareness. He also brings the precious element of versatility to the table. While Bryant has taken the bulk of his reps at the hot corner, he also has extensive playing time in left and right field under his belt.
His versatility would bode well for manager Chris Woodward‘s offense, as the Rangers have a surplus of power-hitting outfielders. Bryant’s presence would give Woodward the option of utilizing one of his outfielders as a designated hitter and starting Bryant in their place, whether that be Joey Gallo or Nomar Mazara.
Before injuries crippled him midseason, Gallo was hitting at an elite level, as he recorded a .986 OPS and totaled 22 home runs and 49 RBIs across just 70 games; Danny Santana was quietly one of the most efficient hitters in the American League last season, hitting .283, posting an .857 OPS, and totaling 28 home runs and 81 RBIs.
Elvis Andrus is a proven contact hitter who’s an exceptional fielder; Shin-Soo Choo is a well-rounded hitter; albeit he hits for an extremely low batting average, Rougned Odor, when healthy, is a 30-home run a year hitter; Mazara and Ronald Guzman have towering swings.
Plug Bryant into that lineup card, and the Rangers have one of the better and more proven offenses in the sport. Now, one could argue that they should instead sign Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson. However, Rendon could demand a contract in excess of $30 million a year, and Donaldson could replicate his $23 million 2019 salary over the next few seasons.
While he’s scheduled to make $18.5 million in 2020, acquiring Bryant rather than signing Rendon or Donaldson gives president Jon Daniels more leeway to back up the truck for a couple starting pitchers — which is this team’s biggest need.
Mike Minor put together a superb season, recording a 3.59 ERA and 199 true strikeouts in 2019 (we’re not counting the popup that the Rangers deliberately let hit the ground in Minor’s last start so he could get to 200); Lance Lynn had a strong second half. But, overall, this is a subpar starting rotation in need of a lift, and the two veterans could potentially take a step back in 2020.
Plus, Choo is entering the final year of his seven-year deal, which gives the Rangers even more flexibility to add payroll past 2020.
Daniels could give Gerrit Cole and/or Stephen Strasburg 30-plus million reasons a year to call Arlington, Texas home or offer Hyun-Jin Ryu a hefty short-term deal. Maybe he takes a chance on Zack Wheeler or Madison Bumgarner. Adding two of those hurlers changes the game for the Rangers.
Sure, their division, the AL West, could be a hassle next season. For now at least, the Houston Astros remain a World Series contender with their relentless offense and elite starting rotation; the Oakland Athletics have won 97 games in each of the last two seasons and have a budding pitching staff; the Los Angeles Angels have a competitive roster and look poised to pursue top-tier players on the open market this offseason — like the Rangers.
Meanwhile, the Astros and A’s were two of six AL teams to win 93-plus games in 2019 (Astros, A’s, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, and Cleveland Indians), and most of them don’t appear to be going anywhere next season.
Since they last made the playoffs (2016), the Rangers have logged three consecutive losing seasons. That’s discouraging for a fan base whose team was a playoff fixture or playoff threat on a yearly basis for the bulk of the current decade.
They can’t be afraid. They have to build a team that has the makings of a playoff roster and then let the chips fall where they may. Acquiring Bryant gets them back on the MLB map, so to speak, as he’s a big name whose arrival could signify to the public eye that the Rangers are trying to right the ship and make more big moves.
Acquiring Bryant will cost a premium. Given their outfield depth at the big-league level and the likelihood that they pursue some of the offseason’s top starting pitchers, the Rangers can afford to surrender top outfield prospect Leody Taveras and one of top pitching prospects Hans Crouse and Cole Winn.
Hey, the Cubs aren’t trading one of their hallmark figures for a discount, especially since Bryant is under team control for two more seasons.
Those who take chances are rewarded. The Rangers need to take a chance.