Four American League teams lost more games than the Rangers in 2018. They still lost 95, however, and are a long way from competing in a strong American League West.
Texas have loaded up on pitching this offseason, signing Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn to Major League deals. Miller is a gamble after injuries, but one that could turn into a valuable trade chip in the middle of the season. Lynn got a multi-year deal and could be a good pickup if his improvement with the Yankees was anything to go by.
Edinson Volquez was added to the 40-man after recovering from Tommy John surgery and Drew Smyly arrived in a trade from the Cubs. The Rangers are on a mission to rejuvenate some careers and hopefully get some prospects in return.
Reliever Shawn Kelley signed on a one-year deal to accompany Jose LeClerc at the back of an okayish bullpen. Kelley should get Texas a decent prospect in July.
Asdrubal Cabrera, like Kelley, was handed a one-year contract. Cabrera had a split 2018, performing for the Mets and struggling with the Phillies. A good first half makes him another trade candidate.
Minor leaguers Eli White, Kyle Bird, Brock Burke and Yoel Espinal arrived in a trade with the Rays and Athletics that saw Jurickson Profar and single-A pitcher Rollie Lacy depart. The quartet that joined the Rangers will all feature in Spring Training.
Left-handed starter Luke Farrell was claimed off waivers and provides rotation depth. He was good in AAA last year but has struggled when asked to come out of the bullpen in his Major League career so far.
What to watch
Shin-Soo Choo had a good 2018 and is heading into his age-36 season. Even with $42 million left on his contract, it’s surprising he’s still playing for the Rangers. His poor defence makes it hard to find a trade partner, though, and may leave Texas sitting out the remainder of a contract that has not provided anything near value. Steamer project just a 107 wRC+ in 2019.
Willie Calhoun was the centrepiece of the Yu Darvish trade and was meant to be a starter last season. He was underwhelming in AAA and posted a .602 OPS in 35 Major League games (small sample, admittedly). Calhoun’s power has faded drastically since 2017, he does not walk enough to compensate for it, and there’s a risk he will never be a valuable Major Leaguer.
Under team control until 2023, Rougned Odor’s performances are key. Odor bounced back in 2018, including a monstrous July, after a hideous 2017. He could be a part of the next good Rangers team, but Texas need consistency and an OBP above .320.
Like pretty much every rebuilding team, it’s a case of hunting for players that other teams might value. Joey Gallo and LeClerc are the only players who could get a meaningful return at the moment, and the front office are understandably reluctant to deal them.
Texas are not as bad as several other American League teams. They may still be the worst in their division, but there’s a fair bit of upside on the roster.