Monday, November 7, 2016

Texas Rangers Just a Few Moves From World Series Favorites

The Texas Rangers should remain prime contenders in the 2017 season, and adding a couple of free agents to the current roster could make all the difference.

The Texas Rangers are one of baseball’s best and wealthiest teams, and will enter the 2017 season as a favorite to three-peat as AL West champions.
However, what the Rangers and their fans really want is the big prize that has eluded this franchise since its founding all the way back in 1961 as the Washington Senators.
The Rangers remain one of only eight clubs in Major League Baseball to never win a World Series championship. 
They came maddeningly close back in 2011, twice within a single strike of wearing the crown only to see it pulled away by the St. Louis Cardinals.
A playoff team in five of the last seven years, the Rangers won the AL West with a 95-67 record that had them nine games in front of the Seattle Mariners and 11 games ahead of a young Houston Astros team that many had predicted would give them a run for their money this season.
The Rangers lost once again in the postseason, however, going down in flames in a three-game ALDS sweep at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays. The team and their home fans were forced to look on as the Jays celebrated that victory on the Globe Life Park field.

There will be a $9 million contract albatross hanging around their necks for the next four years, the club’s share of the remaining obligation to Prince Fielder
Still, thanks to insurance ($9 mill) and the share of his deal still paid by the Detroit Tigers ($6 mill) the financial loss of Fielder is not as bad as it could have been.
The Rangers have just over $110 million in salary obligations for the 2017 season already on the books after picking up the club option on catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Picking up that option also signals the obvious – the Rangers plan to again contend next year.
A full, healthy season is anticipated from starting pitcher Yu Darvish, who should team with Cole Hamels to give the Rangers one of the best righty-lefty tandems in the game. 
What the Rangers really need is another starting arm to lengthen that rotation, and to give them at least a third strong option in a postseason series.
They could also use a big arm at the back of the bullpen, and a fix for the hole that is opening up in center field.
This is not a great starting pitching free agent market, but there is a nice arm that would slot in perfectly behind Hamels and Darvish to give the Rangers rotation the depth and quality that it needs to both repeat in the division and compete better in October.
Jeremy Hellickson will turn 30 years old just as the 2017 season opens. He went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA and 1.153 WHIP, surrendering 173 hits over 189 innings while making 32 starts for a bad Philadelphia Phillies team this year.
Hellickson is also very familiar with the American League, having pitched the first five years of his big league career with the Tampa Bay Rays. He would be my choice for the Rangers rotation.
To add excellence to the back of the bullpen there are a pair of great option, two of the best in the game in lefty Aroldis Chapman, who will turn 29 as Spring Training opens, and righty Kenley Jansen, who just turned 29 years of age.
You could make an argument after what we just witnessed in the World Series from Terry Francona‘s use of his bullpen weapons that the Rangers might even be smart to go after both of these arms, depending on the price.
After Hellickson and one of the closers, the third target that I would look at is a return of one of my own to play center field, Carlos Gomez. He turns 31 years old in early December.
The Rangers are likely to lose free agent Ian Desmond, who had a nice season for Texas. Gomez was signed as a free agent after being released by the division rival Astros in mid-August. 
Playing primarily in left field for the Rangers, Gomez hit for a .284/.362/.543 slash line with eight homers, 24 RBI, 18 runs, and five stolen bases over 130 plate appearances with Texas.
I know that simply extrapolating numbers out to a full season is a dangerous game. But do that with Gomez’s numbers and you come up with something like a 30+ homer season with close to 100 RBI and runs scored, and 20-25 steals.
If the Rangers feel that they have the money, perhaps a more sure thing would be Yoenis Cespedes. But he is going to come at a considerable increase in price over Gomez.
A key for the Rangers is also going to be the return to health of right fielder Shin-Soo Choo. If that happens, putting Gomez between him and young left fielder Nomar Mazara could prove dynamic.
Future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre will turn 38 years old at the beginning of the 2017 season. Going all-in with additions such as these could help solidify his and the team’s chances at finally ending their postseason drought.

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