In the last few days, the Rangers have traded for pitcher Matt Moore and Rule 5 outfielder Carlos Tocci, and have signed reliever Chris Martin. As a result of these moves, which filled the Texas Rangers’ 40 man roster, the team has theoretically addressed all of its “needs” heading into the 2018 season, while leaving them with a fair amount of money available to spend on “wants” the rest of the offseason.
With Moore — acquired in what was effectively a salary dump from the Giants, coming over to Texas with international bonus pool money for Sam Wolff and Israel Cruz — and Martin — signed to a two year, $4 million contract after spending the past few years in Japan — the Rangers appear to be close to having their anticipated Opening Day pitching staff set.
Rotation: Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Mike Minor, Matt Moore, Doug Fister
Bullpen: Matt Bush, Keone Kela, Jake Diekman, Alex Claudio, Tony Barnette, Chris Martin
That’s eleven pitchers for an anticipated twelve or thirteen man pitching staff. Yes, Matt Bush is working out on a starter’s workload this offseason and could be in the rotation, and Mike Minor was a reliever last season and could end up in the bullpen, but this appears to be how you would expect these pitchers to be utilized going into the season.
Meanwhile, on the position player side, the addition of Carlos Tocci gives the Rangers someone who is a legitimate plus defensive center fielder, and a potential fourth outfielder who can back up Delino DeShields in center field. As things stand right now, the Rangers seem to have a lineup that looks something like this:
OF -- Willie Calhoun, Delino DeShields, Nomar Mazara
IF — Joey Gallo, Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre
C -- Robinson Chirinos
DH — Shin-Soo Choo
You’ve got Tocci, Ryan Rua, Drew Robinson, Hanser Alberto, and (if he isn’t traded) Jurickson Profar as potential bench pieces, and Brett Nicholas and Juan Centeno as backup catcher options.
This isn’t to say that the Rangers are done for the offseason...but what it does mean is that the Rangers have, relatively cheaply, and with barely any depletion of the farm system, have filled all their needs for the 2018 season, giving them a great deal of flexibility in regards to how they want to proceed for the rest of the offseason.
Have the opportunity to sign Yu Darvish at a discount, or pick up another veteran starter on a one year deal (say, Brandon McCarthy) for a reasonable price? You can roll with a six man rotation, or slide Fister or Minor (both of whom pitched in the bullpen last season) into the pen, or do like the Dodgers did in 2017 and rotate guys with durability concerns on and off the 10 day disabled list to use six pitchers in a five man rotation.
Get the opportunity to trade for a Kelvin Herrera or sign a top flight reliever for below market? Great -- you can plug that pitcher into the bullpen, and be more aggressive in looking at Matt Bush in the rotation and going with a six man rotation.
Carlos Gomez or Jarrod Dyson appear to be available on cheap, short-term deals? Great — you could add one of them and slide DeShields to left field. You even have enough to splurge on someone like Lorenzo Cain, should his market not develop as expected.
See a first baseman or a corner outfielder who can be had for a song? No problem — Joey Gallo can move to the outfield, with Calhoun or Mazara getting at bats at DH.
Texas is in a place where they can now focus on their “wants” — finding a deal that could offload Shin-Soo Choo, jumping on a bargain outfielder, finding a reclamation project starting pitcher who could be blended into the mix — because they aren’t in a position where they absolutely have to fill a spot on the roster. They can even get creative if they’d like, and, say, do a Matt Kemp for Choo swap while paying some of Choo’s salary in 2018, getting Choo off the books for 2020 while replacing him with a similar, though righthanded, bat. Or they could take on a heavily subsidized Jacoby Ellsbury, should the Yankees choose to move him. They could take on short-term money on someone else’s bad deal with prospects sent to Texas as part of the deal.
But by checking off the “must do” boxes early on in the offseason, and with a lot of players still on the board, the Rangers now have the flexibility to be creative and take advantage of buy-low opportunities, should they arise.
Now we just have to see what the front office does with that flexibility.