The playoffs are moving into the Division Series, and the Rangers are watching from their couches for the sixth straight October. But if they feel like catching a game, they won’t have any trouble spotting familiar faces. They could watch the Padres (featuring Yu Darvish and Jurickson Profar) take on the Dodgers (Joey Gallo and Chris Martin). They could check out Philadelphia (Kyle Gibson and Corey Knebel) versus Atlanta (Ron Washington and Jesse Chavez). Maybe the Guardians (Emmanuel Clase and Terry Francona) squaring off against the Yankees (Jose Trevino and Isiah Kiner-Falefa). Or how about Seattle (Scott Servais and Erik Swanson) and Houston (Gary Pettis and Rafael Montero)?
The plan is for the Rangers themselves to be in the mix next year instead of only being represented by their alumni. A lot of you have questions on how they get from here to there, and I took a shot at answering a handful of them.
With this now being 100 percent the Chris Young show, what areas might we see a noticeable change in approach?–Jacob Taylor
This would be the first question I’d ask, too. It’s the biggest Rangers question headed into this winter and the foreseeable future. Although we’ve gotten glimpses, we don’t yet really know the ways in which Young will resemble Jon Daniels or how he’ll alter the way the Rangers do business.
Young has already dismissed the organization’s top four day-to-day pitching coaches: co-big league coaches Doug Mathis and Brendan Sagara (the latter of whom could stay in a different role), Triple-A pitching coach Bill Simas, and Double-A pitching coach Jeff Andrews. (Minor league pitching coordinators Danny Clark and Jordan Tiegs will return.)
Would the same moves have been made if Daniels were still around? Maybe. Are there more key changes ahead in scouting and player development? We’ll see. Will the pursuit of pitching this winter look any different with Young calling the shots? Don’t know. How about the short list of candidates to manage the team in 2023? No telling. Are there young major leaguers or prospects Young will be less (or more) reluctant to trade than Daniels was?
Would Young have recommended the signings of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien a year ago?
The answer is there will be significant changes across the board — some readily apparent, others more behind the scenes. What won’t be as evident is which of those changes were being teed up while Daniels was still around. There’s a new voice at the top, even if we won’t know which parts of the message are in step with the direction things were headed anyway.
Where do you rank the Pete Fairbanks for Nick Solak trade, and why was it necessary at the time?–Blessem
Here’s an area where we could conceivably see a philosophy change under Young. In the pennant-race seasons, Daniels frequently targeted bullpen help (Mike Adams, Kohi Uehara, Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman, Jeremy Jeffress). In the others, he was quick to move high-end relievers, even those with years of club control (Fairbanks, Emmanuel Clase, Rafael Montero, Keone Kela).
Trading free-agent-to-be Joakim Soria in 2014 made complete sense, especially given the Corey Knebel/Jake Thompson offer. Even the Clase deal–adding Corey Kluber to the Lance Lynn/Mike Minor/Kyle Gibson/Jordan Lyles rotation going into 2020–seemed well designed. But moving Fairbanks, who was at least six years away from free agency, for Solak, who would need to hit a ton given his defensive limitations, is one they’d surely want back.
In real time, there was a logic to the July 2019 deal. The Rangers were extremely light on pure hitters, not just in the big leagues but also throughout a farm system with too much swing-and-miss. Fairbanks, a ninth-round pick in 2015, had his second Tommy John surgery in 2017, and upon returning to the mound in 2019, had zipped from Class A to Double-A to Triple-A to Arlington before the All-Star break. Meanwhile, Solak was a remarkably consistent hitter in his four farm seasons with the Yankees and Rays (.833 OPS, .835, .834, .838), showing power, patience, and an all-fields approach at every level. He came over to Texas and put up a 1.038 OPS in Triple-A and an .884 OPS over a 33-game debut with the Rangers that summer. Things looked pretty good.
No longer. Solak has had a sub-.700 OPS in each big league season since and is in danger of a DFA next month. Fairbanks has been extraordinary for Tampa Bay. That’s the reliever deal that I bet Daniels regrets, and I wonder how protective Young might be of arms like Marc Church and Chase Lee, not to mention Jonathan Hernandez and Brock Burke, particularly because the immediate plan is to contend.
And for those who think Fairbanks-for-Solak is support for the “Never Trade with Tampa Bay” approach, the Rangers did pretty well getting Nathaniel Lowe in a deal for prospects Heriberto Hernandez (like Solak, a defensively challenged hitter), Osleivis Basabe, and Alexander Ovalles, plus netting Burke from the Rays in the three-team Jurickson Profar deal that also brought Eli White over from Oakland.
Who’s at the top of your wish list as new manager?–Josh Dack
For the Rangers’ managerial vacancy, there hasn’t been a lot written on Tony Beasley potentially becoming the permanent manager. Any chance of that happening? And if someone like Bruce Bochy is hired instead, what are the odds of Beas staying on the staff?–Clint Barnette
The Rangers could do so much worse than Ron Washington as their next manager. I know very well the history and ramifications. However, I also know a winner. And that’s what he did here, and that’s what he’s done since.–Gary S
Most speculation has the Rangers hiring an experienced manager, which would be another departure from Daniels’ tenure, as his three hires (Washington, Jeff Banister, Chris Woodward) were all first-time major league skippers.
For what it’s worth, I think the focus might have been on hiring a veteran this time no matter who was making the call, and not really any more likely on the heels of Daniels’ dismissal.
I do wonder, however, if the change makes Washington a longer shot, assuming he’s a candidate at all. The inner circle of the front office that was here for the Wash era–Daniels, Twins GM Thad Levine, and Padres GM A.J. Preller–is no longer around. That’s not to say that Young wouldn’t have a proper understanding of Wash’s impact on the best run of baseball in franchise history, but there might not be enough dots to connect to bet on Wash getting a second chance.
Bochy makes all kinds of sense, having won three World Series with the Giants (the first at the Rangers’ expense). Young also played for him (and raves about him), which is not an insignificant factor. As for Beasley, whom Young interviewed for the job last week, if he gets passed over, perhaps the new manager will give him an opportunity, out of respect, to decide if he wants to step back into his previous role on the staff or move on.
With as busy a winter as Young has planned, this is going to be sorted out soon. A safe bet would be before free agency opens, which happens five days after the World Series ends.
I know a lot of fans are looking at the free agent market to upgrade the rotation, but who are some potential trade targets that you see the Rangers pursuing, and what would it take to acquire them?–Bradley Magers
What free agents would the Rangers be looking to sign, if any? I know some of the names will be out of their price range.–Kevin Dayton
You sure, Kevin? While they’ve said they’re not going to spend this winter at the same level they did a year ago, no pitcher will command Seager’s 10 years or Semien’s seven. I’m not convinced that the $57.5 million AAV that those two got would be a no-go for the Rangers on a pair of pitchers, but the competition will be much greater for whichever of the top arms–Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, and Carlos Rodon–make it to free agency than there was for the group of shortstops who hit the market last winter.
Until deGrom and Kershaw sign, Texas will be tied to each. After doing well in recent years with pitchers on the second and third tiers–Jon Gray, Martin Perez, Lynn, Minor, Gibson–you can bet the pro scouting crew has the analytics group looking hard at names like Chris Bassitt, Tyler Anderson, Jameson Taillon, Sean Manaea, Nate Eovaldi, Ross Stripling, Michael Wacha, Noah Syndergaard, and Koudai Senga.
If the Rangers were able to sign deGrom and bring back Perez, maybe they call it a day on the pitching front. Failing that, combining free agent deals with Perez and, say, Bassitt along with a trade for a frontline starter like Corbin Burnes (Brewers) or a young arm with ceiling like Pablo Lopez, Jesus Luzardo, or Trevor Rogers (Marlins) would be another bold way to repair a 2022 rotation that featured Gray, Perez, and a wave of young pitchers who uniformly failed to shed question marks.
In terms of trade capital, should Nathaniel Lowe be a buy-low, sell-high opportunity in the Rangers’ quest to trade for a No. 2 or No. 3 starter candidate?–Billy Marsh
Let me first say that the “buy-low” part of that equation is irrelevant at this point. Whether Lowe had been a first-round pick with a $7 million signing bonus or the trade acquisition for a package of Class-A hitters he was, the only question is whether his breakout 2022 makes him virtually indispensable or presents a tantalizing opportunity to capitalize on and see what he can fetch as a prime trade asset.
In August, Mike Piellucci and I tossed that conundrum around, and I threw out the following idea: Lowe (controllable through 2026), Foscue, Church, and Zak Kent to Miami for Lopez and Garrett Cooper (who could play first base for a year until someone like Dustin Harris is ready). Lowe proceeded to put up an OPS of .888 in the 34 games after we did that story, but I’m not going to get sidetracked by a great five weeks to end his season. I’ll just ask for lefty reliever Steven Okert as a tack-on and point to Kent’s own strong finish after his promotion to Triple-A.
For Burnes, I’d probably have to start the deal with Josh Jung or Evan Carter, and that’s a no for me. If I thought two years of Burnes had the chance to put my team over the top, maybe. But that’s not where Texas is.
Under the new MLB rules, can the Rangers offer Martin Perez a qualifying offer? If it’s allowed, would the Rangers do it? Would Perez accept?–Clayton Lougee
Yes, the qualifying offer system remains in the new CBA, meaning the Rangers can offer Perez a one-year deal (which will probably be set in the $19 million range) just after the World Series, and he’d have 10 days to accept or decline it. If he were to turn it down, it wouldn’t prevent him from striking a deal with the Rangers. My guess is Texas will tender the offer, guaranteeing a 2023 draft pick after the second round in the event that Perez rejected it and signed with a new team. I bet Perez would in fact turn the one-year qualifying offer down, but I also think he’s going to be a Ranger for the next three seasons.
Overall, how do you grade Semien’s and Seager’s first season with Texas?–John Shawe Williams
I’d give both a B while expecting more in 2023.
Seager’s 33 homers were a career best and led all MLB shortstops this year, but he may have lost more base hits to the shift than any player in the game. With the shift banned next year, his numbers should look considerably better.
And I think we all expect there won’t be a repeat of Semien’s disastrous April and May. After that, he put up an OPS of .810 and hit 25 home runs in two-thirds of a season, and he became a bigger threat on the bases than ever before. He was really good for most of the year, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be able to extend that productivity for a much longer stretch in 2023.
What do you hear or know about Seager’s team leadership? It just felt like we didn’t hear from him very often, didn’t see him with the team often, etc. Love watching him play, and I am sure this season was a disappointment, but is he locked in and happy to be a Ranger? Or am I misreading that from afar?–Greg McDearmon
Corey Seager appears to be a highly introverted solitary figure. He’s either shown looking inside his hat or is buried in his tablet. As far as you know, does he demonstrate any interest in his team or his teammates, or show any leadership in the clubhouse? He seems totally self-absorbed.–Mark Schor
When they were brought in, Semien was the player the Rangers expected to embrace a leadership role. Seager, on the other hand, was someone they believed would be an elite hitter with a winner’s pedigree whose focus and routine would set a tone in its own way.
Could Seager have been more engaged with his teammates? Or was he, and we just couldn’t see it?
Believe me, I looked for him after every walk-off win–OK, there were only three–and in all the other victory lines to see if he looked like he was enjoying it. (It was sometimes hard to tell.) He’s a great player, and he was obviously used to something different with the Dodgers, who won an average of 98.5 games in the six 162-game seasons he was part of there and won a World Series (with Seager as MVP) in the other one. Those were also teams on which he was not expected to lead. Maybe that’s a role he’ll grow into in Texas, if he wants that.
The Rangers’ farm system in the last two decades has produced little major league starting pitching for the mother club. Is this a failure of drafting talented pitchers? Even most of the pitchers we traded away haven’t been better than average, with perhaps the exception of Kyle Hendricks. Is this a failure of development? If so, should the minor league pitching coaches and instructors be looking for new organizations?–Wesley Chang
There’s no sugarcoating the Rangers’ inadequacy at developing their major-league pitching. That’s clearly something that Young, who won 79 big league games and was a masterful postseason pitcher despite never being considered an elite prospect, is making a priority to address, starting with the aforementioned removal of the team pitching coaches in Arlington and at the top two levels of the farm system.
The Rangers were hoping for bigger steps forward than what they got from Triple-A starters Cole Winn, A.J. Alexy, and Spencer Howard. In Double-A, Kent and Cody Bradford needed strong finishes to overcome early struggles, while Jack Leiter’s pro debut with Frisco was a little rockier than anyone would have liked. Owen White and Mason Englert reached that level late in the summer and pitched well, and the wave behind them includes Kumar Rocker, Ricky Vanasco, Tekoah Roby, Dane Acker, Mitch Bratt, Larson Kindreich, Ryan Garcia, Emiliano Teodo, Josh Stephan, and Winston Santos.
The depth and upside are there, but the Rangers have to do a better job–as the Astros and Mariners have done, for example–converting that into major league impact. There will be new eyes and voices assigned the task at the upper levels.
Who are the two players (one pitcher, one hitter) yet to reach AA ball that would scare you the most if Texas included them in a trade package this winter?–Dustin Kuczaj
Kumar Rocker and Anthony Gutierrez.
On a scale of 9 to 10, how freaked out should I be about Leiter and Winn?–DHS
Don’t be. But more will absolutely be expected in 2023.
Whatever happened to Bayron Lora? Is he still in the system?–John Bradshaw
If you’re so inclined, hold a good thought for the young man. It’s been a very tough few years.