Texas Rangers: 3 low-risk free agents to sign this winter

Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images /

Many free agents remain for the Texas Rangers to improve the team in 2021.

Believe it or not Texas Rangers fans, we are just 34 days away from pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training. And while the free agent market has remained relatively quiet, that is expected to change over the upcoming weeks.

The Texas Rangers have operated like many of us expected they would this offseason; completing low-budget deals while aiming making the team better, especially offensively.  The Rangers have made several free agent deals on minor league contracts, but the big major league free agent acquisitions have been OF David Dahl and P Kohei Arihara from Japan.

Here are 3 low-risk, high-reward players the Rangers should sign before Opening Day:

Chris Archer

Since being traded to Pittsburgh at the 2018 trade deadline (Tampa Bay absolutely fleeced Pittsburgh in this deal), Chris Archer has not been good. In 32 starts, the former Ray has posted an ERA of 4.92. After an underwhelming stretch from the latter half of 2018 through 2019, Archer missed the 2020 season after undergoing thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.

But, let’s not forget the success the righty has found at the big league level. In 7 season with Tampa Bay, he recorded an ERA of 3.69 with 9.7 K/9 (strikeouts per 9 innings). The two-time all-star’s best campaign came in 2015 when he finished 5th in the AL Cy Young vote.

Not all was bad from Archer during his time in a Pirate uniform. The Raleigh-native recorded 10.8 K/9 when we last saw him in 2019, good for 12th in all of MLB. He limited lefties to a respectable .235 BA and his slider quieted opponent’s bats dramatically to the tune of a lowly .379 SLG%. Archer actually compared quite comparably to Lance Lynn in 2019 based on velocity and movement.

The Pirates declined Archer’s club option for 2021, making him a free agent for the first time in his career.

With the recent additions of Arihara and Dane Dunning, the Rangers have brought some clarity to the rotation for the 2021 season. But, questions remain. Archer is an extremely low-risk option for Texas and could be a flexible piece, either serving the team in the rotation or out of the pen as a long reliever.

Texas has found success with reclamation projects Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, and Andrew Cashner in recent years. Archer has never had an issue missing bats. If the coaching staff could work with him to limit the hard-hit contact and walks, Archer could be a steal at a very low dollar.

Corey Kluber

Corey Kluber was a low-risk acquisition last year when the Rangers acquired him from Cleveland in exchange for Delino Deshields and Emmanuel Clase. Kluber pitched just one inning for Texas, but I wouldn’t say they lost the trade.

We all know what Kluber has been – a two-time Cy Young winner with four top-3 finishes in the AL. It was as recently as 2018 when Kluber posted a 2.89 ERA before injuries derailed things the following year.

In light of the past two seasons, Kluber is looking at a one-year, “prove yourself” contract in his current free agency. The question isn’t so much if the former all-star still has the stuff, but more if he can stay healthy.

Kluber held a showcase on Wednesday in Palm Beach Gardens, FL with a couple of fellow FA pitchers. With 25 teams in attendance, Kluber reportedly impressed with his command and velocity.

Texas did not pick up Kluber’s 2021 option. But, this is likely because he would’ve cost the Rangers $18 million under the contract Texas inherited from Cleveland. So, it’s not unlikely the Rangers would attempt to bring him back.

Kluber, 34, is once again a low-risk option with incredibly high upside. Worst case scenario, Texas spends a couple million dollars for a guy that doesn’t work out in a rebuilding season. Best case scenario, Kluber returns to Cy Young-form and the Rangers hold a highly coveted piece at this year’s trade deadline.

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Jurickson Profar

Jurickson Profar was overshadowed by teammates Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, and others in San Diego last year. But he actually put together a solid year. The 27-year-old posted a 113 OPS+ (100 is league average) with a .771 OPS and 7 home runs. It’s worth noting that his OPS was higher than any Texas Ranger in 2020.

Profar is not considered a top free agent on the market. Despite decent, even above average numbers, this is largely due to some less-than-impressive advanced metrics of Profar that front offices are falling increasingly in love with. In 2020, Profar ranked in just the 7th percentile in hard hit rate and just the 10th percentile in barrel %. Low numbers in those categories do not garner much love from front offices these days. Teams are not lining up to pay a player like Profar. This adds up to a perfect scenario for the Texas Rangers.

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Profar could be brought in on-the-cheap to a team-friendly deal. The former Ranger would slot in nicely to a bench role, supplying time at shortstop, second base, and right field. Profar is a hitter who provides offense from both sides of the plate, offers some flexibility defensively, and strikes out at a low-rate. In an offseason in which Texas is operating with a small budget, Profar would be the perfect fit.

  • Published on 01/15/2021 at 12:01 PM
  • Last updated at 01/15/2021 at 10:16 AM