One of the players who, throughout free agency, I thought was a good match for the Texas Rangers is center fielder Jarrod Dyson. The Rangers have indicated that upgrading their defense is a priority, and Dyson has been, during his career, an elite defender in center field. The Rangers are looking for cheap, short-term deals, and Dyson was expected to get a short-term deal on a low average annual value. The Rangers have uncertainty in their backup outfield situation, and in particular a back up center fielder, and Dyson would fit the bill perfectly.
Alas, Jarrod Dyson signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday. And he signed a 2 year, $7.5 million deal, with a $500,000 signing bonus and $3.5 million salaries each of the next two years. And I’m left scratching my head and trying to figure out why, at that price point, Dyson wouldn’t have been of interest to the Rangers.
One of the arguments I’ve seen is that, well, Delino DeShields is your center fielder. And yes, I’m a Delino skeptic, and think he’s better suited to left field. But if we are comparing Dyson to Delino...well, Dyson has a career wRC+ of 86. Delino has a career wRC+ of 86. Dyson is projected by ZiPS to have a wRC+ of 80 in 2018. Delino is projected to have a wRC+ of 79 in 2018. Combine that with Dyson’s elite defense, and I think you’ve got a credible case that Dyson would be a better regular center fielder than Delino. And even if you wanted to play Delino regularly, Dyson would be able to pick up significant playing time as a fourth outfielder or as a late inning defensive replacement, particularly if Shin-Soo Choo continues his Ranger-career trend of having trouble staying healthy, which would allow Willie Calhoun to move to DH, Delino to LF and Dyson to CF.
Theoretically, the Rangers could be confident that Rule 5 pick Carlos Tocci is a viable backup outfielder. The scouting reports on Tocci indicate that he’s a quality defensive center fielder, but he isn’t a blazer on the basepaths, and there are significant questions about whether he’ll ever hit in the majors. But the Rangers could feel he’s shown enough to be worth looking at instead of someone like Dyson.
Or they could feel like between Delino DeShields, Willie Calhoun, Ryan Rua and Drew Robinson, they have enough internal candidates to look at for the LF/CF spots, and they’d rather give the available playing time to those players, rather than go with a veteran outside the organization.
Alternatively, its certainly possible that the Rangers feel Dyson, who turns 34 in August, is an aging speed guy who is not likely to maintain value going forward. Dyson’s defensive numbers did slip in 2017, and Daren Willman notes that Dyson went from being the fastest player in MLB in 2015, to fourth fastest in 2016, to 30th fastest in 2017. One could feel that, while he was still a solid player in 2017, he’s falling off a cliff, and not worth the $7.5 million commitment.
There are all sorts of possible explanations. But for a team that is at least paying lip service to competing this season, we are starting to see a lot of players who could contribute over the next year or two, and who would not require a long term or particularly costly commitment, go off the board. I was cautiously optimistic that the Rangers, by getting three starters and two relievers in place early in the offseason for relatively cheap, were setting themselves up to make a bigger splash later on.
And maybe they will. Maybe a move is still to be made. But right now, the Rangers are sitting with a payroll of around $130 million -- $35 million lower than it was in 2017, $29 million lower than in 2016, and lower than it has been on any Opening Day since 2013 — and seem content to stand pat.