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PECOTA projects mediocrity for the 2018 Texas Rangers

Baseball Prospectus has their PECOTA projections out, and the Rangers are projected at 77 wins

Division Series - Toronto Blue Jays v Texas Rangers - Game Two Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Baseball Prospectus has released their 2018 PECOTA projections, and the standings projections foresee mediocrity for the 2018 Texas Rangers, putting them at 77 wins, tied with the Oakland A’s for last in the American League West.

I don’t know that that should be particularly surprising, given the state of the team and the other projections that are out there. Fangraphs currently has the Rangers projected for 78 wins in 2018. USA Today has their annual prediction of the season out, as well, and they have Texas at 80 wins.

Looking at the team depth chart, the Rangers’ mediocrity stems from perceived mediocrity across the board. PECOTA sees only three Ranger pitchers being worth at least 1.0 WARP -- Cole Hamels, Mike Minor and Keone Kela -- and Kela is the high man of the group, at 1.4. The lineup fares better, but is projected as mostly middling, with Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus the only players projected above 2.0 WARP, and Beltre being the high guy at 2.7 WARP.

I think we all know what the Rangers need in order to be a playoff contender — at least a couple of the question marks in the rotation to exceed expectations, and a couple of the young players to take big steps forward. That’s certainly possible. Its also possible the rotation implodes, young players stagnate or regress, and the Rangers are a 90+ loss team in 2018.

This being a roughly .500 team with a relatively high degree of variability helps explain why the Rangers are reluctant to spend on long-term deals for the likes of Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta in free agency -- if the thinking is that the best years you get from a long-term signing are in the first couple of years, and its questionable as to whether you’ll even be in contention in those years, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to saddle yourself with onerous obligations you’ll want to be out of for several years after that.

So instead what we have seen from Texas this offseason are relatively inexpensive bets on players who could be good, or who could be terrible, or could be somewhere in between, but who aren’t going to hamstring the team long-term regardless of what happens. If Matt Moore or Doug Fister regain their mojo, well, you’ve got a 2019 team option you can exercise to keep them around for relatively cheap. And if they don’t? Then you can move on after 2018.

The 2018 Rangers likely won’t make the playoffs. They may be out of the race by Memorial Day. They could also, like in 2017, stay in the race until September, only to fall short. But the pieces that are in place give reason to think that success is possible, if not likely, and the front office’s direction — don’t give up on 2018, but also don’t hamper your long-term outlook trying to win in 2018 — seems reasonable, under the circumstances.