In this Texas Rangers season outlook we preview the 2018 season and ask the question, “should you be scared?”
It’s been a good run for the Texas Rangers and their fans over the better part of the last decade: two World Series appearances, four American League West Pennants, an MVP, a Manager of the Year, a Rookie of the Year, one excellent right hook, and a fair amount of heartbreak that only comes to those in positions of greatness.
Even with Texas coming up short in their World Series appearances, I’m at least comfortable with the terms of 2010. Sometimes you just run into a buzzsaw, and sometimes that buzzsaw is named Edgar Rentaria or Brian Wilson or eight innings of three-hit ball from some dude named Bumgarner. 2011, though…well, hell. I’m still not ready to talk about 2011. All I can say is that I do still hate David Freese, forever and ever, amen.
That said, it’s been a mighty friendly time to be a Rangers fan. For the first time in a long time, Texas had been a force in the American League. (Certainly, down years in Oakland and Houston helped. As did Seattle’s seemingly-constant state of floundering. As did Anaheim maybe-or-maybe-not wasting the greatest talent baseball has perhaps ever seen. Still, Texas has been perhaps the perfect mix of smart, and lucky, both on and off the field.)
any excitement building over this year’s club is almost entirely predicated on who so many of these players used to be, or who they could be, and almost no excitement at all is set upon who these guys actually are, today, in the year 2018, as baseball players.
The truth is, though, that the Texas Rangers have been very good in spite of some glaring issues (see: developing pitching) on a year-to-year basis, and it does feel as if those issues have caught up to them. As optimistic as I’d like to be, 2018 is shaping up to be a rough one in Arlington.
(I should pause here to say that baseball is very, very hard. Every component of baseball is hard — drafting and scouting, developing, trading, signing, cutting, extending, and also of course actually playing — it’s all so incredibly difficult. Jon Daniels has been a truly terrific GM for the Rangers, and deserves a ton of credit for putting them in good positions.)
It sure does seem as if Daniels is grasping at straws right now. The Rangers are in that weird (and potentially crippling) in-between space as a franchise, and rare is it that a team can make a quick turnaround from these depths without a two-, or five-, or ten-year setback.
On one hand, Texas has guys like Hamels, Beltre, Andrus, and Mazara (whom the great Bill James recently touted as a potential MVP candidate) leading the way this season. Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor are still young, and have tremendous upside.
They didn’t break the bank for a high-risk investment in a guy like Jake Arrieta, instead opting to bring in veterans Doug Fister, Matt Moore, and Mike Minor to steady the rotation. Hell, they even signed Bartolo Colon to a minor-league deal, which surely made every jersey shirt-loving Rangers fan ecstatic. There’s a ton of potential in the arms of Matt Bush and Keone Kela, and Alex Claudio and Jose Leclerc might be absolutely dominant arms in MLB for a long, long time.
On the other (firmer, more honest) hand, though, this is a hard team to get excited about re: wins and losses. Don’t get me wrong, even for one second: I love and adore the Texas Rangers, and will sink with them if that’s what happens. I vividly remember pumping myself up for Ryan Drese and Laynce Nix; I remember thinking that Hank Blalock would be Brooks Robinson and Mark Teixeira would be Chipper Jones at the dish, and that we couldn’t possibly screw up on a prospect like Adrian Gonzalez (whoops).
My affinity for this team is not in question, ever, at all, ever, ever. However, any excitement building over this year’s club is almost entirely predicated on who so many of these players used to be, or who they could be, and almost no excitement at all is set upon who these guys actually are, today, in the year 2018, as baseball players. As it stands now, the Rangers Opening Day lineup will likely look something like this:
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C: Robinson Chirinos
1B: Joey Gallo
2B: Rougned Odor
3B: Adrian Beltre
SS: Elvis Andrus
LF: Willie Calhoun
CF: Delino Deshields
RF: Nomar Mazara
DH: Shin-soo Choo
Bench: Drew Robinson, Brett Nicholas, Jurickson Profar
SPs: Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Doug Fister, Matt Moore, Bartolo Colon
RPs: Alex Claudio, Jose Leclerc, Keone Kela, Jake Diekmann, Tony Barnette, Chris Martin, Matt Bush, Mike Minor, Jesse Chavez
If we’re being honest (which, we should be honest), that’s a 25-man roster — technically 26, as one of Chavez/Colon/Barnette/Martin will likely not open the season with the club — that spells trouble in Arlington this season, particularly from the pitching end.
2018 is going to be a big season for the Rangers, I do believe that. Perhaps even a critical season; one fans can look back on and see as a turning point of sorts for the franchise.
I’m already preparing myself for Hamels and Beltre to be dealt if (when? if?) Texas is out of contention by the All-Star break. Hell, if it can happen to this guy, and this guy, and, more recently, this guy, it can surely happen to our guys.
Beyond Hamels and Beltre, I suppose that everyone is at least on the table — Mazara, Andrus, Kela, Claudio, Bush, the entire rotation, and so on. Obviously, Texas doesn’t want to trade all (or even most) of these players, and certainly they would need to be overwhelmed to even consider parting with guys like Mazara or Claudio, but if it has to happen this season, Texas simply can’t afford to miss on their returns.
Rangers prospects haven’t panned out lately (exception to Mazara, partial and/or still-pending exceptions to Gallo, Profar, and Odor), particularly in the areas of starting pitching (first-rounders Chi Chi Gonzalez, Matt Purke, Luke Jackson, and Tanner Scheppers, come to mind).
Perhaps more frustrating is that those prospects who have found relative success now play for the Philadelphia Phillies (Jared Eickhoff, Jake Thompson, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams), Milwaukee Brewers (Luis Ortiz), and Miami Marlins (Lewis Brinson).
I am hopeful that Yohander Mendez can be a starting pitcher for the club, and the same goes for Ariel Jurado and even Cole Ragans down the line, but the truth is that the Rangers don’t have an excellent track record for developing our young arms.
If the Rangers can’t win pennants this season, let’s hope that they can, at the very least, improve their team for the future. I keep having flashbacks to the Hicks era and its abhorrent mediocrity, and, lord, I just don’t think I can handle that again. Poor drafting, poor trading, and no joy, present or future, to be had. Also, these.
The R-word is creeping up around the Rangers lately. Rebuild. It could be two or three or ten years of painful retooling; years spent deciding whether to let a player waste their prime seasons on mediocre teams, or to ship him away for future fortunes.
I applaud Jon Daniels for not shelling out huge money on one player this offseason. While an Arrieta or a Darvish would surely improve the Rangers, baseball is a long season, and Texas needs more than just one player (one $20m+/season player, I might add) to fix their ailments. Also, you know, the Odor extension and Choo’s albatross of a contract still sting, and maybe JD is trying to avoid more of the same.
The writing on the wall says that the Rangers could contend again in 2020, perhaps even with an outside shot at 2019 (because who knows how that free agency class will end up). I would love nothing more in this big, round world than to be wrong, and for Texas to contend with the Astros this season. What’s scary, though, is that Anaheim has made some power moves this offseason, Seattle has re-upped again and is (supposedly) primed to be a competitive club, and Oakland seems like they are due to be more than just pesky for the next few seasons before surely blowing it up again.
The reality in Arlington is that the Rangers may very well occupy the basement of the American League West this season. I hope that I’m wrong, but, particularly as they pertain to 162 games of baseball, the numbers never lie.
Prediction: 70 wins, 5th in the West.
Author’s Note: Over the next several weeks, I will be rolling out in-depth analyses of the 2018 Texas Rangers, giving a detailed look at each player expected to contribute this season. This includes starters, bench players, and prospects, and should give credence to some of the claims made below. This is simply an overview of the upcoming season, with greater detail to follow. Stay tuned!