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Checking in on the Rangers roster and payroll

Taking a look at where things stand with the Rangers after the Winter Meetings

Texas Rangers v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

With the Winter Meetings having wrapped up, it seems like a good time to take a look at where things stand as far as the Texas Rangers’ roster for 2023, as well as their payroll.

Currently, Cots has the 2023 payroll for the Rangers at $172,490,000. That includes the MLB Trade Rumors estimates for the Rangers’ arbitration-eligible players and the estimated amounts for guys making the league minimum (or thereabouts).

That number could change a little, depending on the structure of the Andrew Heaney deal, and what the actual arbitration figures come in at, as well as the possibility that an arb-eligibe player or two gets dealt, but the $170-175M range appears to be where the payroll stands as the team is currently constructed.

Meanwhile, there would appear to likely still be some potential moves coming. It remains to be seen whether that would be via trade or via free agency, but either way, it appears the Rangers have plenty of money that they can still spend. If the Rangers are serious about contending in 2023 — and all indications are that they are serious — then you’d figure Texas should be willing to go to around $200 million in payroll, if not more, to get the right pieces in place.

Which isn’t to say that the Rangers will necessarily end up opening the season with a $200 million payroll, or that we should be yelling about cheap ownership if they have a payroll that starts with a 1 instead of a 2 on Opening Day. But the Rangers are still rumored to be in on some guys, like Carlos Rodon and Kodai Senga, who are not going to be cheap. Texas may opt not to sign someone of that ilk, but “we’d like to but can’t afford it” isn’t going to be the excuse.

In regards to Rodon and Senga, I’ve seen folks say that the Rangers still need to sign a starting pitcher. That is, I think, mis-guided, or at least confusing “want” with “need.” In regards to “need,” the Rangers need to sign an OF/DH, someone that they can plug into the middle of the lineup. Joey Gallo is still out there and would make some sense. Michael Brantley, if he’s healthy, would be a nice one-two year option. Bryan Reynolds has asked for a trade, and while expensive, he’d slot well into the left field spot. Nelson Cruz was at the Winter Meetings looking for a job, and he’s still a pretty solid bat, as well as a great clubhouse guy, if you’re fine with just a DH. J.D. Martinez is another DH-only option, if you want to go that route.

Given the bats coming up in the system, the Rangers seem to be more inclined to go the shorter-term route in regards to possible outfield additions. I don’t think they were terribly interested in going eight years for Brandon Nimmo, for example. I expect at some point we’ll see someone signed to a one or two year deal, or acquired with a few years of team control remaining, to solidify the lineup. They could possibly go with two bats, but it seems they’d more likely go that route if they were adding a platoon guy, or a couple of players who have questions or concerns heading into 2023.

In regards to the rotation, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the group the team heads into spring training with. Re-signing Martin Perez while adding Jacob deGrom and Andrew Heaney gives the Rangers a top four of deGrom, Gray, Perez and Heaney, while the trade for Jake Odorizzi means that you can have Odorizzi or Dane Dunning in the fifth spot, with Odorizzi moving to the pen if you opt for Dunning, or Dunning going to Round Rock if Odorizzi is the guy.

Incidentally, given what pitchers have been getting this offseason, the fact that the Braves are paying $10 million of the $12.5 million Jake Odorizzi is owed in 2023 makes me wonder if his right arm fell off and he’s having to pitch lefty now.

The Odorizzi and Dunning as fifth and sixth, in some order, assumes Dunning is 100% after the hip surgery that ended his 2022 season. It also assumes that everyone is healthy, which...well, there’s a reason that the Rangers rotation is being described as high-risk, high-reward now. Jacob deGrom has missed time due to elbow and shoulder blade issues the past two seasons. Andrew Heaney pitched fewer innings than deGrom last year, and has a track record of not staying on the mound. Gray missed time in 2022, though he’s not had the sort of history that would suggest he’s a particularly high risk guy in terms of injury.

But regardless, pitchers tend to get hurt, as we as Rangers fans know all too well. Which is why having both Odorizzi and Dunning as options to round out the rotation, plus Cole Ragans and Glenn Otto in Round Rock, as well as Cole Winn and Owen White hopefully being legitimate starting options in 2023 if need be, and maybe Jack Leiter and Zak Kent, is necessary. The hope in 2022 was that the internal options would prove strong enough to step up as needed, which is why the Rangers went into the season with Dane Dunning as their #3 starter. Things generally went poorly for the internal options in 2022. Hopefully things are better in 2023 — the Rangers will almost certainly have to go eight or nine deep in starting pitchers, because that’s the nature of the best — but going into the year with Dunning as your #5 or #6 rather than your #3, and Taylor Hearn in the bullpen instead of as your #4, and Spencer Howard and Glenn Otto in Round Rock as depth rather than duking it out for the #5 spot, should help.

And as noted above, the Rangers may add another starting pitcher. They could sign Rodon or Senga. They could trade for Pablo Lopez or Corbin Burnes. They aren’t necessarily done on the rotation front, which could make Odorizzi and Dunning 6 and 7 on the depth chart.

But if they do go get another starter, I tend to think it would be a substantial addition, someone they’d feel confident having start two games in a seven game playoff series. It would be someone who would slot second or third in the rotation, not fifth.

And that may not happen. They may roll with the group they have to start the season. Though if that’s the case, then unless the top four 1) stays healthy, and 2) meets or exceeds expectations, I think there’s a good chance the Rangers are looking to add a starter come July.

That said, if the top four stay healthy and meet or exceed expectations, that’s a really good top four.

In regards to upcoming moves, the Rangers have a full 40 man roster currently, and will have to clear a spot for Andrew Heaney once his signing is official. Given the team will probably sign a reliever or two before it is all said and done, we are probably looking at four spots, in all, that will need to be opened up on the 40 for additions.

If the Rangers go the trade route, then they would seem likely to open up a 40 man roster spot or two that way, with players currently occupying spots on the Rangers’ 40 man roster getting sent out in a deal. Absent a trade, the most likely roster casualties would seem to be Mark Mathias and Josh Sborz — Mathias is a 28 year old utility type, while Sborz is out of options and would seem to have an uphill battle to make the Opening Day bullpen.

After that, barring a trade, you start running into more difficult choices. The Rangers have stuck it out with Eli White for a while, have sung his praises and liked his skill set, but he’s also 28, hasn’t hit in the bigs, and can’t stay healthy. He could end up on the waiver wire. Brad Miller could be deemed not worth a roster spot, even with the $4 million the Rangers will have to pay him in 2023 regardless. A.J. Alexy, Yerry Rodriguez, John King or Ricky Vanasco could find themselves flipped to a team with more 40 man wiggle room, in exchange for someone farther away.

We shall see. There are more moves to come. But its nice to be in a place where we can feeling good about the rotation before Christmas.