It is early December, players to be protected from the Rule 5 draft have been added to 40 man rosters, non-tenders have been made, the Texas Rangers 40 man roster stands at 38, and so its a good time to do an update on the state of the Texas Rangers’ roster.
Specifically, I want to take a look at what the Opening Day roster would/could look like, based on who is currently here.
C — Jose Trevino
1B — Ronald Guzman
2B — Nick Solak
SS — Isiah Kiner-Falefa
LF — Eli White
CF — Leody Taveras
RF — Joey Gallo
DH — Willie Calhoun
Bench — Aramis Garcia, Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor, Scott Heineman
Optioned — David Garcia, Sam Huff, Sherten Apostel, Anderson Tejeda, Adolis Garcia
The optioned decisions are all pretty easy — David Garcia hasn’t played full season ball yet, and will probably start the year in either Hickory or Down East. The other four players all got major league time in 2020, but they are also all guys expected to need more time in the minors. Adolis could be an up-and-down depth guy, and Huff could be ready to be in the big leagues in the middle to later part of the year, but Apostel and Tejeda probably both need a full season in the minors at this point.
Ronald Guzman and Eli White are basically the best available options at those positions right now. Each of them could end up in AAA, or as a starter, or in a platoon role. White, long-term, seems like a role player, while Guzman has no value if he isn’t able to, at a minimum, give you solid performance as the big part of a platoon. White also has three options remaining, while Guzman, I believe, is out of options. The option situation and their future roles could result in Guzman being made to sink or swim, while White could end up sticking in the majors as a bench guy.
Solak is supposedly being looked at as an infielder right now and will be working there this spring, and while it is possible he could end up in left field, or at DH (with Calhoun going to left), I will be surprised if he isn’t the starting second baseman for 2021. Whether Odor is on the bench or released is an open question.
The third base situation has been the topic of much discussion of late, due to the news of IKF moving to shortstop, and that’s probably the biggest question mark as of right now. If I had to pick the one person I thought was most likely to be the Opening Day third baseman, I would pick Josh Jung. That said, if I were given a choice between Jung and the field, I would take the field. Elvis Andrus is going to be asked to work at multiple positions in anticipation of him taking on a utility role, and he could end up at third base. The team will probably bring in a Todd Frazier-esque righthanded hitter who can play third base and first base, since Jung is, I think, expected to be up at some point in 2021, and someone who could move to first base if need be would also allow for a backup plan or platoon partner for Guzman at first.
Of course, Jung could end up moving to first base, particularly if there are questions about his defense at third base and whether he will stick there.
Given the state of the roster, my guess is that the Rangers add a couple of position players, one who is a viable left field option and one who is a viable third base/first base option.
Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, Jordan Lyles, Kyle Cody
Fifth starter candidates:
Kolby Allard, Wes Benjamin, Taylor Hearn, Joe Palumbo
A.J. Alexy, Brock Burke, John King, Tyler Phillips, Yerry Rodriguez
The Rangers are almost certainly going to add a veteran starting pitcher or two, because...well, just look at where things stand now. And keep in mind that Lance Lynn has a good chance of being dealt before Opening Day.
We all know that you need a bunch of starting pitchers. The Rangers have three veterans penciled into the rotation currently — and of those three, two were terrible last year and one could be gone. I’ve got Kyle Cody listed as being in the rotation, but in an ideal world, he’d either be in the fifth starter mix or among the group that starts the year at AAA as depth.
My guess is that the Rangers sign someone to a Mike Minor/Lance Lynn/Kyle Gibson like three year deal, and add someone else on a one or two year deal — basically, what they’ve done each of the past few offseasons.
That said, if the Rangers want to get creative and crazy, they could go the piggyback/bullpen game route with one or two of their rotation spots, the way Tampa has done the last couple of years. The Rangers essentially did that in the final month of 2020 with Cody and John King, having the two of them paired and asking them each to give them a few innings. You could pair Cody and, say, Joe Palumbo, who has not been able to accrue innings because of various physical setbacks the last few years, and ask them to combine for seven innings. You could shuffle guys like King and Hearn and some of the other pitchers on the 40 man who can go multiple innings, or add Jake Latz and/or Jason Bahr (both of whom are not on the 40 man currently) in the mix.
Jon Daniels and Chris Woodward have discussed exploring this path, given they have a lot of guys in the organization who can give them multiple innings, but who can’t necessarily handle a starter’s load right now, either because of workload issues or stuff issues. I don’t think that they are just going to punt adding starting pitchers this offseason in order to do that...I do think, however, that we could see Texas utilize that option at some point in the season.
Rafael Montero, Jose Leclerc, Jonathan Hernandez, Brett Martin, Joely Rodriguez
Demarcus Evans, Joe Gatto, Art Warren, the Fifth Starter Candidates
The Rangers have claimed Art Warren and signed Joe Gatto so far this offseason, and I expect to see one or two more relievers added to the mix before Opening Day. There’s also a number of guys not on the 40 man roster who could factor into the bullpen mix — Alex Speas and Joe Barlow most notably, but also names like Cole Uvila, Kelvin Gonzalez, Dylan Bice, and Daniel Robert, as well as the inevitable guys we have never heard of who will pop up this spring or over the course of the 2021 minor league season.
Oh, and Matt Bush is still in the organization. Remember him? He had Tommy John surgery in July, 2019, and signed a two year minor league deal with the Rangers after the 2019 season. So assuming he’s recovered, he should be around this spring. Though I haven’t heard anything about him, so it may be that the assumption that he’s recovered isn’t accurate.
The upshot of all of this is...it looks like the team’s defense should be very good. The bullpen should be good, but who knows with bullpens. The rotation and the offense both look bad right now.