The 2023 season is not yet over for the Texas Rangers (though, based on the early returns from our poll today, it appeared many of you feel like it is).
But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a moment and look forward, to the offseason, and the payroll situation for the Texas Rangers for 2024 — who is under contract, and for how much, what arbitration cases are looming, and what it appears the Rangers may be looking to spend this offseason.
Using the info from Cot’s Contracts, we can see the Rangers’ Opening Day payroll was at around $195 million for 2023. The Rangers also took on approximately $1.9 million in salary by adding Aroldis Chapman at the end of June, approximately $900,000 in salary by adding Chris Stratton at the trade deadline, approximately $3.3 million in salary by adding Jordan Montgomery at the trade deadline, approximately $1.7 million in salary by adding Austin Hedges at the trade deadline, and some portion of Max Scherzer’s salary.
That means that, not including Scherzer, the Rangers are at around $203 million in salary for 2023, factoring in the players added via trade.
The Rangers also have significant player incentives in the Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney contracts. Eovaldi receives $750,000 bonuses for 130, 140, 150 and 160 innings pitched. He has already hit 130 innings and would seem likely to cross the 140 innings barrier, but not 150 innings. That would mean $1.5 million more for Eovaldi. Heaney, currently at 138 innings, has earned $2 million in innings pitched incentives so far, and will receive another $1.5 million if/when he crosses the 140 innings mark.
So with that $5 million in incentives to Eovaldi and Heaney, the Rangers are at $208 million for 2023, not including Scherzer.
The Rangers currently have six players under contract for 2024. They are:
Corey Seager — $35 million
Jacob deGrom — $40 million
Marcus Semien — $26 million
Nathan Eovaldi — $17 million
Jon Gray — $13 million
Max Scherzer —
$22.5 million, maybe? $12.5 million The maybe with Scherzer is that we know that the Rangers are paying $22.5 million for Scherzer, and the New York Mets are paying the remainder of what he is owed. What I have not seen reported, definitively, is whether that $22.5 million Texas is paying is all in 2024 (except for the pro-rated minimum for 2023, which Texas would have to pay) or if it is paid in part for the final two months of 2023 and in part for the remainder of 2024. If we assume that the Rangers are paying the $22.5 million pro-rated between the final two months of 2023 and all of 2024, that would mean that Texas is paying Scherzer $5.625 million for the final two months of 2023 and $16.875M for 2024. If Texas is paying all of the $22.5 million (other than the pro-rated minimum) in 2024, then that is a little over $5 million less in payroll the Rangers are paying this year, and more than the Rangers are paying next year. Let us assume the Rangers are paying $17 million to Scherzer in 2024 for purposes of this exercise. That means that, for those six players, the Rangers currently have $148 million committed for the 2024 season.
UPDATE — Ignore the striked out portion above. Linked in the comments is an AP article that says the Rangers are paying Scherzer $12.5 million in 2024. That means that for those six players, it is $143.5 million for 2024. I’ve corrected the rest of the numbers going forward to reflect that.
In addition to those players, there is Jose Leclerc and Andrew Heaney. Leclerc has a team option for 2024 at $6.25 million, with a $500,000 buyout. It seems likely that the Rangers will decline the option and save the $5.75 million.
Then there is Andrew Heaney. Andrew Heaney has a $13 million player option for 2024, with a $500,000 buyout. The $13 million option increases to $20 million if Heaney reaches 150 innings pitches on the season. With 13 games to go and 12 innings needed, it would seem unlikely Heaney reaches that benchmark.
The question then becomes, does Heaney exercise his player option?
I’ve been assuming the answer is “yes,” though at this point I’m not quite so sure. It depends in part on whether Heaney thinks he can get a multi-year deal this offseason if he opts out, rather than having to settle for a one year deal. It depends on whether he’s comfortable with the role the Rangers would indicate he would be expected to have in 2024 — if Texas indicates that they see him as a reliever or swingman, and that he won’t be penciled in as a starter for 2024, he may be more inclined to opt out and find a team he can start for.
Assuming that Heaney exercises his player option at $13 million, that puts the Rangers at $157 million for 2024 (including the buyout on the Jose Leclerc option).
Looking at arbitration cases, Nathaniel Lowe will be arb-eligible for a second time this offseason. He is at $4.05 million for 2023. My guess is that for 2024 he’d be looking at around $8-10 million coming off the last two seasons. Let’s put it at $8.5 million, and that gets payroll to $165.5 million.
You have three significant first time arbitration eligible players to address in Adolis Garcia, Jonah Heim and Dane Dunning. I’d say Garcia and Heim are probably around $5 million apiece, while Dunning is, I’m guessing, about $2.5 million. That puts Texas at $178 million.
Also arbitration eligible are Brett Martin, Jonathan Hernandez, Brock Burke, and Josh Sborz, though I don’t think its a given all of them will stick around through the offseason, and I don’t think their numbers will be so much higher than league minimum that we need to get into the details there.
Add in roughly $8-10 million for your cheap arb cases and your roughly league minimum guys, and that puts Texas at about $187-188 million for 2024, before making any additional moves.
And there will be moves. Texas will look to add at least one starting pitcher, I’d wager, this offseason. They’ll likely pursue a bat that could handle DH or possibly left field. There’s that whole situation out in the bullpen, where upgrades are needed.
How those needs are addressed is going to depend, in part, on what payroll ownership is willing to go to for 2024, as well as the category of player that the Rangers are looking at in regards to their upgrades. For example, one can reasonably say that Evan Carter is making a solid case for a spot in the Opening Day lineup in 2024, and Wyatt Langford doesn’t look like he’s too far behind him, and so for a bat you’d be looking for a short-term solution who would slot in at DH. Or if you decide not to deal Ezequiel Duran this offseason, maybe he’s going to be your primary DH, in which case the bat you are looking for is maybe a righthanded hitter who can spell Evan Carter against tough lefties.
You know, someone like Robbie Grossman.
Or maybe you decide that you aren’t going to make Duran a DH, you’re going to move him this offseason for a controllable starting pitcher. That would mean you’re spending less than you would if you went out into what is a rather deep starting pitching free agent pool this offseason, and maybe you can splurge more on a DH or on relievers.
II would think that, given the state of things, a payroll in the $210-220 range for the 2024 season would be reasonable. If that is the case, that doesn’t give you oceans of money to spend, but there is enough that you should be able to go out and address your needs, between a combination of free agency and the trade market.
Now, one thing that would free the Rangers up somewhat would be not having Andrew Heaney on the payroll. If Heaney were to opt out, that would mean you’re at something like $175 million committed for 2024, which would allow you to, say, offer $18-20 million per year to one of the various good free agent starting pitchers on a medium terms deal, and still have money in your pocket to spend on relievers or a bat or whathaveyou.
And even if Heaney doesn’t opt out, you may decide that you would rather pay $3-4 million of his salary for him to go pitch for another team that is willing to put him in the rotation, in order to have more funds available to use elsewhere for 2024.
Its an interesting situation, and will be an interesting offseason. Now let’s just hope the offseason doesn’t start too soon.