The Texas Rangers had a great offseason, but it has attracted little attention. Why? So many teams made big moves, too. Bigger than that, the American League is stacked.
Rangers president Jon Daniels improved nearly every aspect of his roster this offseason. In fact, the Rangers had one of the most active offseasons in the sport pertaining to adding new players.
Here’s what Texas has done this offseason:
- Traded outfielder Delino DeShields and reliever Emmanuel Clase to the Cleveland Indians for right-hander Corey Kluber
- Signed right-hander Kyle Gibson (three-year, $28 million deal)
- Signed right-hander Jordan Lyles (two-year, $16 million deal)
- Signed third baseman Todd Frazier (one-year, $5 million deal)
- Signed catcher Robinson Chirinos (one-year, $6.8 million deal)
- Signed third baseman Matt Duffy (minor-league deal)
Last season Kluber made just seven starts due to an elbow injury and posted a 5.80 ERA across those outings. On the other hand, this is a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner. He gets great movement on his off-speed pitches, as well as a low 90s fastball, pitches deep into games, and logs strikeouts at a high rate.
Gibson and Lyles are each coming off mixed seasons. Gibson was unable to build off his successful 2018 campaign, recording a 4.84 ERA and not giving Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli the confidence to send him to the hill for a playoff start. While he turned it around with the Milwaukee Brewers down the stretch of last season, Lyles has been unable to garner consistency on the rubber, whether it be as a starter or reliever.
After not pitching from 2015-16 due to injuries, Minor found success as a reliever with the Kansas City Royals in 2017. This led to him signing a three-year deal with the Rangers, where he has prospered into a top-of-the-rotation starter. Albeit he had a rollercoaster 2018 campaign, Minor recorded a 3.59 ERA and totaled 199 real strikeouts last season.
One year ago the Rangers signed Lynn after a tumultuous 2018 campaign split between the Twins and New York Yankees, low-lighted by a combined 4.77 ERA. The beginning stages of last season was more of the same. Then he got into a groove in June and sustained that performance, recording a 3.20 ERA across his last 22 starts. His offerings were more effective, and he looked like the Lance Lynn who was a force with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Frazier strikes out a lot. On the other hand, the ball explodes off his bat, and he’s an exceptional third baseman. Last season he totaled 21 home runs and 67 RBIs across 133 games with the New York Mets. In the field, he makes barehanded throws, has a strong arm, and makes plays on his backhand with ease.
Chirinos’ offensive production, like every other player on the Houston Astros the last three years, is capable of being called into question given the team’s disgusting sign-stealing practices. With that said, before parting for Houston, he totaled 18 home runs and 65 RBIs in 2018 with the Rangers. Chirinos is also a steady presence behind the plate; he should gel well with the Rangers’ veteran starting rotation.
Duffy is a year removed from being the Tampa Bay Rays starting third baseman and hitting .294; he should be able to crack the Rangers 26-man roster (that’s going to take some getting used to).
A healthy Joey Gallo, who posted a .986 OPS across 70 games last season, is like a free agent signing, and Texas was in the thick of the AL Wild Card race last season when he was on the field; Elvis Andrus is a stellar shortstop; Willie Calhoun posted an impressive .848 OPS across 83 games; Danny Santana has played every position around the diamond except catcher and had a breakout season at the plate, totaling 28 home runs and 81 RBIs while posting an .857 OPS; Shin-Soo Choo is a steady, line-drive hitter; Ronald Guzman is a towering left-handed hitter; Rougned Odor can slug 30 home runs a season.
This is a tantalizing offense, and they’re joined at the hip by a bolstered, well-rounded starting rotation which includes Kluber, Minor, Lynn, Gibson, and Lyles.
The dark reality? The Rangers’ offseason efforts and talent across the board will fall victim to the rest of the AL.
The AL East has two pennant threats and four competitive teams.
The New York Yankees signed Gerrit Cole, are getting back a healthy Luis Severino, and have a stout offense; they’re the favorites to win the AL. The Rays have won 90-plus games in each of the last two seasons, have the best pitching staff in MLB, and beefed up their offense with power hitters this offseason.
Even though they traded Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Boston Red Sox still have a high-octane offense and some proven and/or budding starting pitchers such as Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez. The Toronto Blue Jays have the most compelling young positional core in baseball and added a handful of veteran starting pitchers, most notably 2019 National League Cy Young Award finalist Hyun-Jin Ryu.
The AL Central has three playoff threats: the Twins, Cleveland Indians, and Chicago White Sox.
Minnesota added Josh Donaldson to an offense that was arguably the best in baseball in 2019, and they improved their starting rotation a bit this offseason, adding Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, and Homer Bailey. Many keep waiting for the Indians to enter a rebuild, but they continually resist and managed to win 93 games last season without Kluber and Trevor Bauer for a large chunk of the season; most of their roster at year’s end remains in place.
The White Sox are loaded with lethal young talent both around the diamond and on their pitching staff. This offseason they added Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Nomar Mazara, and Gio Gonzalez with Luis Robert set to make his big-league debut.
The Rangers’ division, the AL West, is four teams deep with talent.
Again, anyone who picked up a bat for the Astros under former manager AJ Hinch should be taken with a grain of salt, but the Astros have a plethora of positional talent and a deep starting rotation. The Oakland Athletics have a lively, power offense and a deep pitching staff; they’ve won 97 games in each of the last two seasons.
While their starting rotation remains a nagging question mark, the Los Angeles Angels added Anthony Rendon to an offense that includes Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Justin Upton, Albert Pujols, and Andrelton Simmons.
It’s safe to say that the Yankees, Rays, Twins, Astros, and A’s are better than the Rangers. The rest you could debate. For now, five teams make the playoffs, and the race for the two Wild Card seeds are going to be a dog fight. Some teams that may look like 90-plus win teams at first glance will finish well below that mark because competitive balance is so strong in the AL.
By no fault of their own, teams like the Rangers, who look like your typical mid 80s win team, are going to hover around .500 and fail to make the leap you’d expect from a record standpoint.
The Texas Rangers are good. The problem is so many teams in the AL are better or just as good.