Texas Rangers: Tank to the top or turn and burn?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

There are multiple schools of thought regarding how to convert a losing franchise into a contender. Rebuilding is a simple concept, in theory, and an inevitable stage in nearly every franchise’s life cycle, but how exactly one properly rebuilds is always up for debate. The Texas Rangers face this challenge as they enter the 2021 offseason. Which path they choose will ultimately determine their fate.

The two prevailing philosophies are 1) Add as many quality pieces year over year and strive for incremental improvement along the way. 2) Tank your way to top draft positions and low operating costs and only truly “try” once it appears the pieces are in place.

Clearly there is a lot of gray area in between these two routes but we live in a society that embraces extremes so lets go big or go home in this exercise, shall we?

Should the Texas Rangers embrace the suck and build up their prospect pool, or should they dedicate themselves to winning right now?

Tanking comes with a ton of stigma, and for good reason. Tanking, or losing on purpose, goes against the very integrity of the game. Players have been banned for losing games on purpose, after all. It’s indefensible and cancerous. It alienates fans and makes tickets nearly impossible to sell.

But tanking has other forms that are less abrasive. See also the Texas Rangers recent 2021 season. Just this season we saw the Texas Rangers essentially tank their season for the good of the future. They traded away some of their best, most marketable, players. And they elevated some of their younger, more accident prone, prospects giving them opportunities over safer and more developed options. They did so with an eye to the future and unconcerned about the present.

The way things were going this summer, I’m not sure anyone would argue with how the Texas Rangers handled things, even if it did qualify as a form of tanking.

The most extreme example of tanking is that of the Houston Astros. Before they were banging trashcans they were tanking their way to greatness. Their crappiness over the course of three 100+ loss seasons led to quite the proliferation of talent. Talent that eventually propelled the franchise to the World Series.

The Texas Rangers would never be so brazen. Maybe that’s a good thing or maybe that’s a bad thing. Their rebuild hasn’t been nearly as aggressive…perhaps that is why it’s dragged on for half a decade and counting…

In all fairness, the Texas Rangers didn’t just need to bring in talent to rebuild, but they also needed to shed contracts. Payroll was high so they needed fan support just to make ends meet. This effectively made the rebuild a two stage process that first needed to execute the dreaded multi-year “tear down”.

Despite the 100+ loss season, the Texas Rangers are clearly on the incline. They have rebuilt their farm to acceptable talent levels and that talent is starting the break through in Arlington. Growing pains are ahead but at least we’ve reached the top developmental phases of the process.

Establishing a winning culture sooner rather than later should also be a priority. The Texas Rangers are planning to be big spenders in free agency. Adding veteran star players who are operating at their peak will offset some of the mistakes the greenhorns are sure to make. And depending on the commitments made, those same veterans could be a part of this team when they become contenders again a couple years down the road.

A full Astros-level tank job isn’t really called for. The Rangers appear to be beyond that. In retrospect, that strategy probably would have sped the rebuilding process if it was employed four years ago, but again, given the payroll Texas really didn’t have that option.

If the choice is tank to the top or turn and burn, the Texas Rangers are ready to employ the latter option. It won’t be a sudden rise to contention but they are finally ready to start the incline and that will no-doubt be a welcomed sight.

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How long before you think the Rangers make the playoffs again?