The Texas Rangers head into the Winter Meetings (which begin today) with some holes still to fill. Given that they are likely to look to address those holes via free agency, its worth taking a look at what the Rangers’ payroll situation currently looks like.
The Rangers have said that they expect the 2018 payroll to be closer to where it was in 2016 than where it was in 2017. According to Cots Contracts, the 2017 payroll was $165M and change, and the 2016 payroll was just a tad shy of $159M. Thus, if we apply the contract data from Cots for 2018, we should expect that the Rangers are looking at ending up somewhere around $158-160M for their 2018 payroll, using that methodology.
Cots calculates the total current payroll for the Rangers, including estimates for arbitration-eligible players and minimum salaries to round out the 25 man roster, and deducting $3.5 million for Cole Hamels (for money the Phillies are sending to Texas in connection with that trade) and $9 million for Prince Fielder (for the insurance proceeds they are receiving that cover half his contract), at $120,891,600. That would seem to leave $38-40 million available to spend on outside acquisitions.
There are a couple of caveats here. On the higher side, Jurickson Profar’s salary is estimated at around $1 million, and he’s likely not going to be here in 2018, so that’s potentially another $1 million. In addition, for these calculations, you could theoretically deduct $675,000 (the placeholder minimum Cots is using) for each player added, since that’s one less minimum salary player you’d have to carry; however, there will be players on the disabled list, necessitating players called up for around the league minimum, so I don’t know that that really would make a difference.
Meanwhile, on the “reducing available expenditures” side, its not clear whether the Phillies are actually sending $3.5 million this season for Hamels -- that’s just Cots averaging out the cash Philly agreed to send. If they sent more money in previous years, that would lower what would be available to spend this offseason. In addition, when Jon Daniels says he expects payroll to be closer to where it was in 2016, recall that the Rangers didn’t start collecting insurance on Prince Fielder until 2017 -- if the team isn’t counting the Fielder insurance funds as an offset, that reduces payroll, and available funds to spend, by $9 million.
That said, if we assume that there is $38-40 million available to spend, because the Hamels and Prince money is accurate, the team looks to be in pretty good shape. Among pitchers, Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta are expected to get more than $20 million per year, while Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are expected to land in the $15 million per year range. All other starting pitchers are expected to cost less than that. That means the Rangers -- who currently have Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Mike Minor and Doug Fister penciled into their rotation — could spend on one of the expensive starting pitchers, and still have ample funds to pursue, for example, a Lorenzo Cain or a Carlos Santana. Alternatively, they could grab a Lynn or a Cobb, also get a cheaper starting pitcher, and have funds for a reliever or two while preparing to go with a six man rotation.
For all the talk about “the Rangers are broke,” they do have a fair amount of money to spend right now. The issue is going to be whether they want to spend it on players who will command long-term deals, or would they rather stay away from long-term deals in order to be active in next year’s monster free agent class.