A lot has changed since then.
Spring training is nigh, pitchers and catchers report next week, and the first Cactus League game against another team (the Kansas City Royals, natch) takes place in Surprise in 19 days.
So its a good time to revisit the state of the roster, and what the Opening Day roster will/could look like, no?
C — Jose Trevino
1B — Nate Lowe
2B — Nick Solak
3B — Mystery Veteran
SS — Isiah Kiner-Falefa
LF — David Dahl
CF — Leody Taveras
RF — Joey Gallo
DH — Willie Calhoun
Bench — Ronald Guzman, Jonah Heim, Rougned Odor, Eli White
Optioned — David Garcia, Sam Huff, Sherten Apostel, Anderson Tejeda, Adolis Garcia
Traded/Released/Maybe on the Team? — Khris Davis
In early December, the bench I listed was Aramis Garcia, Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor and Scott Heineman. Only one of those guys is still in the organization today (and its the one everyone most wanted to see leave, ironically enough).
All the guys I have as “optioned” are still in the organization, although the 40 man roster is currently full and Mike Foltynewicz is reportedly in agreement on a major league deal and so Adolis Garcia could end up being designated for assignment soon, as he would seem to be the most likely guy to be dropped from the 40 man based on what we know right now.
Nate Lowe replaces Ronald Guzman at first base, David Dahl replaces Eli White in left field, and Mystery Veteran replaces ________________ (that blank is what I had last time) at third base. Guzman and White have both moved to the bench for now, and are joined by Jonah Heim, the prize of the Elvis Andrus trade, a switch-hitting catcher who is expected to back up/share time with Jose Trevino.
Barring injury, I think we have a decent handle on what the lineup and bench are going to look like on Opening Day. The biggest unknown is that we still don’t know who will be playing third base on Opening Day — Brock Holt and Jake Lamb have been mentioned as possibilities, Charlie Culberson is here on a minor league deal, Rougned Odor could theoretically get a look over there, the Rangers could sign some other veteran. The long-term plan is for Josh Jung to be at third base, and I think the Rangers are hoping that he’s the starter at third base at the end of the season, but someone has to play there until he is ready, and the Rangers are making noise like they are committed to starting Jung in the minors, so we have the Mystery Veteran.
Signing a Mystery Veteran to play third base is complicated by the fact that whoever is being signed knows they are just a placeholder — that from the organization’s standpoint, they are hoping to be able to cut ties with the Mystery Veteran sometime around the All Star Break so the Great Tech Hope can take over at the hot corner. So its not exactly a real appealing gig at this point...that said, when its time for players to report and guys still don’t have anything better on the table, someone will settle for the Texas temp gig.
I tend to think that there are three players — Eli White, Delino DeShields and Leody Taveras — vying for two spots. DeShields, recently signed to a minor league deal, isn’t listed on above because he doesn’t have a 40 man roster spot and I was just listing guys on the 40. That said, I kind of think he’s the most likely of the three to make the Opening Day roster — either the team will decide that Leody should start the season in the majors and Delino will make the team as the fourth outfielder, with Eli White going to the minors, or Leody will get some more time in Round Rock, and Delino and White will handle starting center field/fourth outfielder responsibilities.
Trevino and Heim seem likely to be the catchers on Opening Day, though Trevino gets hurt a lot, and Heim has very limited major league experience, so we could see Drew Butera, here on a minor league deal, or some other veteran on the roster to start the year. Sam Huff will be in AA or AAA and David Garcia will be at one of the North Carolina affiliates.
I have Rougned Odor on the bench, though I’m skeptical he makes the team. Think of the Odor spot as “UIF,” which could be Culberson, or could be Odor (if he shows he can play third base and shortstop acceptably), or could be some other veteran on a minor league deal.
The final spot right now would seem to come down to Ronald Guzman, who is out of options, and Khris Davis, who the Rangers took on as contract ballast in the Elvis Andrus trade versus actually wanting him on the roster, though the Rangers could also look at Andy Ibanez, or some random out-of-options end-of-spring-training waiver claim. This is going to depend, I suspect, on how people look this spring — I’m sure the ideal situation for the Rangers would be Davis to show enough in Arizona that a team is willing to absorb some small portion of his salary, and maybe give up a fringe prospect, to give him a shot as a platoon DH, while Guzman performs well enough that the team can justify keeping him on the active roster. It wouldn’t be surprising, though, if both Davis and Guzman get DFA’d at the end of camp.
The Rangers will likely need to add three position players to the 40 man roster at the end of camp — DeShields, the Mystery Veteran at 3B, and the UIF. The UIF would presumably take Odor’s roster spot (unless Odor is the UIF, in which case a 40 man spot wouldn’t need to be opened up), and with one of Davis and Guzman presumably being dropped, that would open up a second spot. That would still leave a third 40 man spot that would need to be cleared, even if we assume that a Butera or other Fungible Veteran Backup Catcher doesn’t have to be added because Heim needs time in AAA or one of the catcher’s scarlet rubella is acting up at the start of the season.
Moving on to pitchers...
Kyle Gibson, Jordan Lyles, Kohei Arihara, Mike Foltynewicz
Rotation depth/guys vying for rotation spots:
Dane Dunning, Kyle Cody, Kolby Allard, Wes Benjamin, Taylor Hearn, Joe Palumbo
A.J. Alexy, John King, Tyler Phillips, Yerry Rodriguez
Optioned/60 day injured list:
The Rangers have added two pitchers to the rotation since we did this exercise, subtracted Lance Lynn, and added Dane Dunning to the “guys vying” category. My guess is that Dunning has the inside track for the fifth starter spot, but Kyle Cody impressed people last year, Kolby Allard is still hanging around, and Sam Gaviglio is here as an NRI depth option.
In addition, the Rangers could, as we have discussed, do something besides a conventional five man rotation, such as a six man rotation, or using tandem/piggyback/bullpen games for a rotation spot or two.
Foltynewicz is listed here even though he’s not official yet (at least, as I’m typing this on Monday morning...I expect once I hit “publish” and go to Twitter I will see that he’s been added and moves have been made that will make all this moot). I have suggested that the Rangers may be delaying making his signing official until they can put players on the 60 day injured list, at which point they could put Brock Burke on the 60 day. Burke missed all of 2020 due to shoulder surgery and the Rangers could opt to go slow with him this spring, hold him back, and then send him on a 30 day rehab assignment in late April, meaning that a 60 day injured list assignment for Burke could open up a roster spot.
Jose Leclerc, Jonathan Hernandez, Brett Martin, Joely Rodriguez, Brett de Geus
Jimmy Herget, Demarcus Evans, Joe Gatto, the Fifth Starter Candidates
Since the last time I did this, Rafael Montero was traded, Art Warren was waived, Brett de Geus was selected in the Rule 5 draft, and Jimmy Herget was re-signed. I have de Geus in the bullpen on the theory that they’ll stick some Rule 5 guy or out of options waiver claim guy in the bullpen this year, and if it isn’t de Geus, it will be someone they grab on waivers or get for cash considerations.
Leclerc, Hernandez, Martin and Rodriguez will be on the Opening Day roster if they are healthy, and I have identified the Designated R5/Out of Options bullpen spot as being de Geus for now but possibly someone else, leaving three spots available for other guys. I have no idea who those other four guys will be. They could be some combination of Herget, Evans, Gatto and the Fifth Starter Candidates, with Benjamin or Allard as a long man or Palumbo or Hearn as a multi-inning late game option. I’d expect one or two NRIs to make the roster — Spencer Patton was just signed, Nick Vincent is in camp, Gaviglio could stick as a long man/spot starter, Matt Bush could be healthy and electric again. Someone or sometwo or somethree will start the season on the injured list, creating an opening or two or three, and someone we haven’t even mentioned will come out of nowhere to make waves with a great camp and have his slider called “elite” by Chris Woodward and potentially make the roster at the end of camp.
From a 40 man roster perspective, I would guess that the Rangers will need to clear an additional spot or two for pitchers to be added to the Opening Day roster (on top of the one to be cleared for Foltynewicz), and there are no obvious candidates to drop from pitchers currently on the 40 man roster, though it would be a major upset if there isn’t a 60 day injured list candidate or two among current 40 man roster pitchers by Opening Day.