While Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association continue to limp to the bargaining table, all big-league business—including free agency, trades and any contact between clubs and 40-man roster players—is put on hold.
In fact, while the owners lock out the players, the only Major League business that can take place is internal. Many teams, like the Texas Rangers, have focused on just that during this time. The Rangers have also taken an opportunity to host some of their top prospects for a leadership seminar at Globe Life Field, but the primary focus during the lockout has been filling out their staff.
However, as much as they are permitted, the Rangers have tried to keep an eye on the chaos that will ensue once the lockout is over.
“We have some ideas on that, but we’ll wait to address that,” said Rangers president of baseball operations Daniels in Arlington last week. “At this point, all of our conversations are internal.”
There is quite a bit on the docket once regular big-league business resumes. Well more than 100 free agents need time to sign with clubs and players from outside the United States will need time to renew their visas. Then there’s the trade market, salary arbitration and potentially the big-league portion of the Rule 5 draft.
Of course, we can’t forget the other enigma that could derail the big league season. The rising cases of COVID-19 will warrant a long and extensive look at establishing protocols to keep players and staff as safe as possible.
For now, the Rangers have to be tight-lipped about what they’ll plan to do once the markets are officially back open for business. However, it’s a pretty safe bet they’ll be plenty busy.
Rangers leadership has not shied away from their desire to add more to the roster, even after dropping $561.2 million on free agents prior to the lockout. The two free agents that are tied the closest to the Rangers are Japanese slugger Seiya Suzuki and future Hall of Famer hurler and Dallas native Clayton Kershaw.
With the way the Rangers were wheeling and dealing in November, we can’t rule out the possibility of adding both Suzuki and Kershaw. Suzuki is projected to make around $12 million and it might take at least $30 million per year to lure Kershaw away from Los Angeles. Even with $42 million added to the payroll, the Rangers would still be sitting at roughly $170 million on the books for 2022, which is just under what the club had dedicated heading into the 2017 season.
Realistically, the Rangers would be happy to add just one of these two. Suzuki would give the Rangers a young bat with potential at a controllable cost while Kershaw would provide immeasurable value with his impression on a young pitching staff.
If the Rangers land neither player, they could look at the rest of the market to address the same positions—outfield and the starting rotation.
The Rangers were also open about making trades this offseason. However, the only one made prior to the lockout was sending cash to the Dodgers for outfielders Zach Reks and Billy McKinney. The latter was designated for assignment just eight days later.
Even so, the Rangers had made some calls prior before business was shut down. Per multiple reports, the Rangers had at least reached out to the Oakland Athletics about star first baseman Matt Olson and the Cincinnati Reds about a trio of starting pitchers—Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle and Sonny Gray.
Even though a trade for Olson seems unlikely, the Rangers now have valuable trade capital in their farm system after the club secured their middle infield with the Corey Seager and Marcus Semien signings. Texas has several middle infielders that could be of interest to other clubs, and it’s not often a player of Olson’s caliber becomes available at a time where the Rangers are looking to add impact talent.
If the Rangers end up missing out on Kershaw, trading for a veteran pitcher is a likely scenario. Sonny Gray would likely cost the Rangers the least amount in terms of a trade package, and he would also come at a much more manageable salary than Kershaw.
Some clubs will have their hands full settling with their arbitration-eligible players. The Rangers have business to attend to there, but not as much as some other clubs.
Texas has only four players eligible for arbitration: Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Willie Calhoun, Brett Martin and Taylor Hearn. All but Kiner-Falefa are qualifying for arbitration for the first time, and Martin and Hearn are both Super Two players. Not only is the class expected to come with minimal expense, the Rangers have an outstanding history of reaching agreements with their arbitration-eligible players under Jon Daniels.
The last Rangers player who had to have their salary decided by a panel of arbitrators was Lee Stevens in 2000.
Rule 5 Draft
In all honesty, it’s not even a guarantee that the big-league portion of the Rule 5 draft will take place before the season starts. If the lockout pushes hard up against the start of the regular season, the league’s ultimate priority will be saving the entire slate of games in 2022. Any games sacrificed will mean lost revenue, which is something neither the league or players want while they are still reeling from financial losses in 2020.
If the remainder of the Rule 5 draft is able to take place, expect the Rangers to be active. It’s not uncommon for Texas to use the Rule 5 draft to supplement the big league roster. Just last year, the Rangers selected Brett de Geus to deepen their bullpen, but parted ways with him in the middle of last season.
Once clubs and players can get back to business, the Rangers will surely outline some of the things they’ll try to accomplish before the season. Either way, with the moves the Rangers have already made, the 2022 season is poised to be more exciting for fans in Arlington.
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