The Texas Rangers are shifting their focus from 2020 to 2021, as a bad start to this truncated season has eroded hopes of grabbing a spot in this year’s expanded playoffs. With the end of the season exactly month away, its a good time to look at the Rangers’ 40 man roster situation, and the decisions they will need to make this offseason.
There are currently a total of 45 players on the 40 man roster, counting those who are on the injured list who don’t count towards the 40 man limit, and Juan Nicasio, who is on the restricted list.
Of those, the following players will be free agents after the season:
That drops the Rangers’ 40 man roster down to 38 as of the end of the season.
The Rangers also have three players who have club options for 2021 — Corey Kluber, Todd Frazier and Robinson Chirinos. My guess at this point is that all three are more likely than not to be picked up, but it wouldn’t shock me if none of the three were picked up, or if Frazier or Chirinos were dealt by the trade deadline on Monday. So depending on what happens with those three, that could leave the Rangers with anywhere from 35-38 players on the 40 man roster.
Luis Garcia and Yadiel Rivera are not free agents, but both players are guys who came into camp on minor league deals as depth and have been pressed into duty, but aren’t going to stay on the 40 man this offseason. Subtracting them puts us at 33-36 players.
Then we have the bubble guys — guys who the Rangers could keep on the 40 man roster, but who are going to be expendable if the Rangers need 40 man roster space. In that category I would put Luke Farrell, Ian Gibaut, Nick Goody, Jimmy Herget, and Adolis Garcia. I don’t expect all five of those guys to make it to February, 2021, on the 40 man roster, and wouldn’t be shocked if none of them did.
Danny Santana is in his final year of arbitration-eligibility this offseason, before being eligible for free agency after 2021. He’s someone who it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Rangers opt to non-tender this offseason, particularly if he continues to struggle.
Rougned Odor is under contract for two more years, with an option for a third year, but has regressed in 2020, and the team is signalling his running out of chances. He could be traded* or released, which would open up a roster spot.
* I know that no one will take on his full salary, so please don’t feel the need to point that out. If he’s traded, it would either be in a swap of guys with bad contracts who need fresh starts, or else would involve the Rangers paying most of his salary.
And the biggest unknown at this point is what will happen in the next four days. The Rangers appear likely to be sellers, if there’s a viable market for the players they have to deal. Rafael Montero, Lance Lynn and Joey Gallo are all under team control beyond this season, and are the types of players the Rangers could move if they bring a significant return. Whether or not those guys are here or not, and how many players on the 40 man roster (or who will need to be added to the 40 man roster) they bring in return, creates a level of uncertainty that could change this calculus dramatically. For now, we are going to assume that they will be back, for 40 man calculation purposes.
Depending on the decisions they make on the above, the Rangers likely will have anywhere from 8 to 12 spots on the 40 man roster available this offseason, though that number could be higher or lower.
While we can reasonably assume the Rangers will add major league free agents this offseason, who those might be, and at what positions, will depend in large part on decisions discussed above — if Lance Lynn is traded and Corey Kluber’s option declined, they will be looking for a starting pitcher or two, while Robinson Chirinos’s option being declined likely means a veteran catcher being signed.
We do know, however, who is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this year, and can look at who the Rangers will, or might, add to protect them from being selected. Every player on a minor league contract received a year’s worth of service time this year, despite MiLB being canceled, so the COVID-19 changes for 2020 don’t impact who is eligible for the Rule 5 this offseason. Any player who was drafted or signed at age 19 or older in 2017 or earlier, or drafted or signed at age 18 or younger in 2016 or earlier, will be Rule 5 eligible.
There are three players who I think are pretty much locks to be added to the 40 man roster this offseason, all of whom are at the Alternate Training Site. Eli White was Rule 5 eligible last year, but was not selected, and had a strong spring training and summer camp that had him in the mix for a spot on the Opening Day roster before an injury sidelined him. Given his versatility and how advanced he is, I don’t think the Rangers will risk exposing him again.
Sam Huff is arguably the Rangers’ top position prospect after his breakout 2019, which he split between Hickory and Down East. As a catcher with big-time power, he’ll be protected.
Alex Speas turned heads late last year when he was hitting triple digits after coming back from Tommy John surgery. A full time reliever, Speas has been at the Alternate Team Site, and seems likely to be added to the active roster before the year is up. If he doesn’t, he’ll be added to the 40 man this offseason.
Two college pitchers at the Alternate Team Site, who were 2017 draft picks and thus Rule 5 eligible for the first time, would also seem to be strong candidates to be added. Jason Bahr was the Rangers’ reward for absorbing Austin Jackson’s bad contract from San Francisco in 2018, and reached AA in 2019. John King is a lefthander taken out of the University of Houston who missed 2017 and 2018 due to Tommy John surgery, but who had an impressive 2019 campaign between low-A and high-A.
Other first-time-eligible college players from the 2017 draft who some consideration might be given to protecting include pitcher Jake Latz, first baseman Tyreque Reed and catcher Matt Whatley. I wouldn’t expect any of the three to be added to the 40 man roster, though Latz would probably have the best shot.
The most notable high school player drafted in 2016 who isn’t a lock to be protected is Cole Ragans. The first rounder has now missed three full seasons after undergoing two Tommy John surgeries, and I can’t see the Rangers using a spot on him, or a team trying to carry him for all of 2021.
Joe Barlow was Rule 5 eligible last season and not selected. He could be added this year, though if he went undrafted last season, I’d be surprised if anyone picked him this year.
Catcher David Garcia is potentially Rule 5 eligible*, and presents a potentially tough call for the Rangers. He’s a switch-hitting catcher with quality defensive skills, and those guys are always attractive. He also, however, hasn’t played full season ball, and isn’t part of the group at the Alternate Training Site. I would think that Garcia will not be protected (though he would have four options if Texas did add him to the 40 man roster this offseason), given his lack of experience and the fact that no one has seen him play since spring training. But it wouldn’t be completely out of left field for Texas to opt to play it safe and add him to the 40 man roster.
* Garcia was signed as part of the team’s 2016 J-2 class, and if he signed a 2016 contract, he would be Rule 5 eligible this year. However, teams have started signing J-2 players to contracts for the following year, which potentially delays their Rule 5 eligibility by a year. If the Rangers did that and Garcia isn’t Rule 5 eligible, then the above paragraph is moot.
At this point I would say that the Rangers are likely to add just five players — White, Huff, Speas, Bahr, and King — to the 40 man roster this offseason. Given the lost 2020 season, and the inability of teams to have scouted players for most of 2020, I would expect fewer players to be on teams’ potential Rule 5 boards this offseason, which will likely mean fewer players being protected.
Obviously, if the Rangers make deals in the next few days, that would open up spots currently occupied by veterans, and potentially add players who will be on the 40 man roster, or will have to be added to the 40 man roster this offseason. Thus, we may have to re-do this exercise next week. But in the meantime, this is where things appear to stand.