Rangers Tender Deadline Moves

The Texas Rangers did not tender contracts to RHP Matt Bush and LHP Brett Martin, making them free agents. Both were arbitration-eligible.

Bush was a given. Texas signed him to a minor deal after the Brewers released him earlier this season, and he was added to the 40 and active rosters late in the season. Bush was also active, albeit in name only, during the Wild Card and Division Series. He’ll turn 38 in February but was quite effective for Frisco and Round Rock, particularly with the fastball, and would be a solid depth signing assuming mutual interest.

Martin wasn’t as certain to be non-tendered but is hardly a surprise. He missed the entire season after shoulder surgery. Like Bush, Martin would be worth signing again.

Texas’s 40-man roster has 35 players.

Rangers 40-Man Roster Additions

The Texas Rangers have added:
Pitchers Marc Church, Jose Corniell, and Antoine Kelly
Infielder Justin Foscue

Available in the Rule 5 draft will be IFs Blaine Crim and Davis Wendzel, SP prospect Dane Acker, and numerous relievers including Justin Slaten, Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa.

At present, the Rangers have roster space to participate in the Rule 5 draft.

Rangers 40-Man Roster Preview

The Texas 40-man roster currently lists 34 players, and that includes Austin Hedges, who is or should be a free agent, plus reliever Matt Bush (arbitration-eligible but surely not receiving an MLB contract) and a small handful of others whose holds on their spots are tenuous. There is no roster crunch. Within reason, the Rangers can add whom they like. The deadline is Tuesday at 5pm CST.

At the same time, 2023 is the first Rule 5 period incorporating the covid-shortened five-round 2020 draft. College and JuCo picks from that draft are eligible. Texas picked only one of that type in 2020: IF Justin Foscue. Comparatively, Texas has eight 2021 picks who’ll be eligible in 2024. By my count, Texas has only 18 first-time eligibles, a plurality of them 2019 high-school picks, plus five international free agents and some trade acquisitions. The Rangers also have another roughly 30 players still under control who were previously eligible. My unofficial list is here under the ‘Rule 5’ tab.

So Texas has an unusually large number of available spots but a relatively small pool. The Rangers added six last year: pitchers Zak Kent, Owen White, and Cole Winn, infielder Luisangel Acuna, and IF/OFs Dustin Harris and Jonathan Ornelas. I would be surprised to see six this time. An especially thrifty approach might include only two.

I’ve had a tough time with several players, even though I’ve seen a few of them frequently. Some are close calls, some have no path to a role with the Rangers, and some are relievers, a group always loaded with potential additions depending on your mood. Also, as you might have heard, the Texas Rangers won the World Series. Ordinarily, I’ve pondered offseason moves intermittently for weeks, letting my thoughts coalesce, such that my annual 40-man preview largely writes itself at deadline. This time, I didn’t give any serious thought 40/R5 issues until Saturday morning, so I’m more wishy-washy than usual and more willing to just watch the results than set down a marker.

2B/3B/1B Justin Foscue
Yes. Foscue walked more than he struck out and banged 18 homers and 35 other extra-base hits. His plate appearances are as consistent and composed as any you’ll see. In a way, he resembles Marcus Semien, who actually doesn’t possess great exit velo but generates a huge number of reasonably well-hit balls. (I am not claiming he will match Semien’s production, although I suppose that is the hope.) Foscue does not resemble Semien in the field, however, and any club employing him at second or third is going to have to avert its collective eyes occasionally.

RHP Jose Corniell
Good enough to pitch in MLB now? No. Good enough to require protection anyway? Yes.

LHP Antoine Kelly
The gap between MLB ad AAA isn’t shrinking, but at the same time, the number of AAA relievers who look MLB-worthy sometimes has never been higher. Protecting every reliever you can dream on a little would result in a bevy of prospects clogging the 40 and a panic any time a non-reliever on the big-league club required replacement. A potential relief addition should either be extremely close MLB-readiness or have closer potential. Kelly’s progression toward the Majors has been unusually deliberate given his role. I wouldn’t say he’s ready this minute, and I wouldn’t necessarily pin “future closer” on him, but I think there’s enough going on to add him.

RHP Marc Church
I saw Church in person in high-A 18 months ago. He looked like he’d be in the bigs by now. Unfortunately, his once-terrific control was frankly terrible in AAA, and he veered wildly between having the most dominating stuff on the squad to struggling mightily to complete an inning. The slider is an absolute beast and makes a resounding case for addition by itself, but his fastball was alarmingly hittable. In September, when the Rangers badly needed another trustworthy reliever, they re-rostered Ian Kennedy and Jake Latz and Matt Bush rather than take a chance on Church. Still, he could be an above-average MLB reliever, and a competing club would be very tempted to take a look. 

RHP Dane Acker
I just never got a great look at Acker this season and have very little confidence in my evaluation of him. Covid, elbow surgery and a shoulder malady have limited him to 99 professional innings in four seasons. He sports a full repertoire. I’ve heard up to 96 on the fastball, although I saw 90-94 in his final start. A good strikeout rate (26%) but poor swinging strike rate (10%). Hard to hit (.198 average, .329 slugging in AA) but below-average control (15% BB/HBP). In conclusion, Dane Acker is a land of contrasts. I can make an argument either way and am going to cop out by saying the only relevant opinions are in within the organization. My hunch is their opinions are fonder than my description.

IF Davis Wendzel
Wendzel stayed healthy all season and significantly improved his production. The batted-ball data backs him up; the improvement is genuine. Is it enough? Despite tying for the league lead in homers with 30, Wendzel’s exit velocity still doesn’t jump off the page. What he does really well, better than anyone in the Pacific Coast League, is hit the ball skyward. On the down side, he also hits a bunch of flies exceeding 45 degrees, which are almost always caught. He’d hit for more power than Josh Smith in the Majors but wouldn’t defend or run as well and doesn’t play in the outfield. What he needs more than a 40 spot on the Rangers is a trade.

1B Blaine Crim
Crim’s 90th-percentile exit velocity is nearly equal to Nathaniel Lowe and better than Josh Jung, Leody Taveras, and Evan Carter. He’s more liner-oriented than Wendzel, muting his power a bit but creating plenty of firm doubles and singles. He’s moonlighted at third and the outfield corners, but I seriously doubt he’d ever play there in the bigs. Thus, the problem. Unless he really hits, what’s his role? Weak-side platoon mate for Lowe if the latter’s problems against lefties persist? Occasional DH? Bench bat for a team that rarely needs one? Crim would have gotten a shot Texas this season had the team been playing like it was in 2021-2022, but the situation on the parent club has changed drastically.

RHP Justin Slaten
Slaten’s walk and K rates improved substantially in 2023. In the weeks prior to his promotion to AAA, he was fanning 46% of opponents. Results in AAA and the subsequent Arizona Fall League weren’t quite so enthralling. It’s hard to see Texas adding more than two relievers, but with room to spare, maybe the Rangers will. How unusual would keeping three or more be? During the previous ten seasons, Texas has selected a total of four relievers: Demarcus Evans, Wei-Chieh Huang, Lisalverto Bonilla, and Ben Rowen. That does not include folks who were starters when protected but seemed headed to eventual relief duty (Jose Leclerc, Jonathan Hernandez, Luke Jackson, to name a few).

RHP Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa
Limited to 24 regular-season innings by injury, AHT tossed an additional 9.2 in the Arizona Fall League and earned solid reviews (albeit not at the level of the ineligible Emiliano Teodo) with his mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider. He fanned two in a clean inning in the Fall Stars game, but unfortunately he saved his worst appearance of the season for the AFL finals: four batters faced, three walks. I think there’s enough pitchers of his ilk that he’ll slide through this process, but I can’t guarantee it.

RHP Daniel Robert
Robert’s fastball averaged 96 and touched 99, and his sweeper generated twice as many called strikes as whiffs because AAA batters just don’t want to offer at it. Opponents hit a modest .239/.342/.350, but his ERA was 4.40 because the bad days included a flurry of walks and extra-hard contact. Vaguely blaming inconsistency for a pitcher’s lack of progression feels lazy, but with many relievers, that’s truly the issue. Big leaguers have fewer bad days.

LHP Grant Wolfram
So… many… relievers. The bad news is Wolfram was knocked around when promoted to AAA (28 runners and 16 runs in 13.1 innings). The good is he resumed dealing upon return to AA (2.08 ERA, 8 BB, 45 SO in 34.2 IP). Has a shot, but not this time.

1B/OF Trevor Hauver
The one player in the Joey Gallo trade yet to reach the Majors, Hauver had a another decent, walk-filled season at the plate and improved defensively. He should reach AAA next year, but not as a 40-man member.

MIF Max Acosta
Showed some pop and got by as a 20-year-old in high-A (.260/.312/.390), but I don’t think there’s any way he’d last a full MLB season, and better options for MIF-curious clubs will be available. 

RHP Winston Santos
Unfortunately, Santos’s season didn’t live up to the buzz generated in Spring Training. Maybe next year.

Elsewhere
I’ve got some Arizona Fall League and free agency news, but it’s not pressing, so I’ll probably have that tomorrow when additions are announced.

Minor League Free Agents With Ties To Texas

Not comprehensive, but here’s a list of fresh free agents who played in the Rangers organization recently and/or were originally signed by the Rangers:

RHP Joe Barlow
LHP Alex Claudio
RHP Kyle Dowdy
RHP Jerad Eickhoff
LHP Robbie Erlin
RHP Luke Ferrell
RHP Brett de Geus
RHP Demarcus Evans
RHP Tyler Ferguson
RHP Wilmer Font
RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez
LHP Taylor Hearn
RHP Ronald Herrera
RHP Wei-Chieh Huang
RHP Drew Hutchinson
LHP James Jones
RHP Spencer Patton
LHP CD Pelham
RHP Ryder Ryan
RHP Tayler Scott
RHP Drew Strotman
RHP Tyree Thompson
RHP Ricky Vanasco

C Jorge Alfaro
IF Charlie Culberson
IF Yonny Hernandez
IF Charles Leblanc
IF Mark Mathias
IF Josh Morgan
IF Nick Solak
IF Tyreque Reed
IF Yoshi Tsutsugo
OF David Dahl
OF Steven Duggar
OF Clint Frazier

Texas Rangers Organization Free Agents

MLB — TEXAS RANGERS
P Aroldis Chapman
P Ian Kennedy
P Jordan Montgomery
P Jake Odorizzi
P Martin Perez
P Will Smith
P Chris Stratton
C Mitch Garver
C Austin Hedges
OF Robbie Grossman
OF Travis Jankowski
OF Brad Miller

AAA – ROUND ROCK EXPRESS
P Kyle Cody
P Edwar Colina
P Robert Dugger
P Josh Dye
P Scott Engler
P Lucas Jacobsen
P Fernery Ozuna
P Nick Snyder
P Tyler Zombro
C Cooper Johnson
C Jordan Procyshen
C Matt Whatley
IF Diosbel Arias
IF Ryan Dorow
OF Sandro Fabian
OF Elier Hernandez

AA – FRISCO ROUGHRIDERS
P Aidan Anderson
P Reid Birlingmair
P Noah Bremer
P Jean Casanova
P Danny Duffy
P Kyle Funkhouser
P Seth Nordlin
C David Garcia
IF Chris Seise

HIGH-A – HICKORY CRAWDADS
P Juan Mejia

UNASSIGNED
P Joshua Javier

Ranger (2008?-2023)

Ranger was the first cat Courtney and I got as a team in 2010, following the five (!) we brought separately to the relationship. My last of two “solo” cats had passed the year before, and we were down to two still in the house. We chose a two-year-old named “Barry,” who won our favor with his ultra-friendly demeanor and how he would flop in our laps. We renamed him Ranger, partly because it’s just a good name, partly because I had the hope that the Texas Rangers would win a championship during his lifetime.

Ranger was both the most precious and annoying cat ever. Ranger was vocal. Oh, he was vocal. Meowing at us, at friends, at repair people, at nothing at all in the middle of the night. He is also the reason I had to completely re-cover our back porch with a heavy, vinyl-coated screen, because he would tear through cheap screening to romp in the back yard. Ah, well.

Ranger was without guile, sincerely adored people and would become the best friend of anyone who would pay him attention. Because I’ve worked out of my house for ages, he was maybe slightly more “my” cat during his earlier years, but when Courtney was pregnant he spent as much time as possible propped on her belly, and when the pandemic sent Courtney home, he decided her home office would be his, too.

Ranger started having problems with arthritis and his kidneys early last year even though he was only 14 by our reckoning. The shelter can only guess the ages of adult cats, of course, and he may have been older when we got him. He hung around just long enough for Texas to win a championship.

No cat was ever sweeter. Goodbye, Ranger.

27 Feb 2010, Austin Animal Shelter

7 Nov 2023

Texas Rangers: World Series Champions

I never recovered from 2011. I came to terms with it, after a fashion, but I wouldn’t call it closure. Yes, it’s just sports, but our lives would be different had Texas prevailed.

Some time in early 2012, one of the D/FW sports-radio hosts decided that re-listening to Eric Nadel’s call of that play would serve as an exorcism. Maybe so for him, but for me the call merely reopened a poorly stitched wound. I’ve never watched highlights of that Series. Any time a clip would appear on the tv, I would avert my eyes.

Worse still was something I’d mentioned to my wife, that Texas could be better in 2012 and not even reach the World Series, given the vagaries of playoff baseball. That fear became manifest, as the Rangers were indeed better for much of 2012, until they weren’t.

The Rangers weren’t quite done, at least in the regular season, winning two more division titles and even leading the AL in wins in 2016. That edition was essentially a .500 club with incredible one-run luck, but still, 95 wins! Texas even began 2019 with a record of 46-36 and were tied for the wild card at the end of June.

Then, the window slammed shut. Texas began what would become the worst 500-game stretch in franchise history, 204-296, which extended into May of this year. 1 There’s nothing magical about 500 games – it’s three full seasons plus two weeks – but it’s a long time. This period was the worst lengthy spell in franchise history, surpassing the dreaded 1982-1985.

Six months later, the Rangers are champions.

I’ve seen grumbling (mainly from an extremely online subset of Astros fans) about how Texas simply purchased a winner, an affront to the noble, process-oriented methodologies of other clubs. 2 Whatever. The Rangers had a process, too. They just compressed each step into the shortest time possible.

My podcast mates and I stressed for years that Texas would never construct a postseason-worthy squad with the farm alone. Sure, given that I write about the minor leaguers and you read about them, a squad stocked with homegrown talent is arguably more enjoyable. But at the same time, I have no delusions about team-building. Prospects are a means, not an end. Few reach their ceilings. Some are blocked. As such, their value to an organization is often maximized by trades. Holding onto them out of some warped sense of propriety is malfeasance.

This championship club is as genuine as any other. There’s more than one way to build a winner, and that’s very much a good thing. Ownership, management, coaches and players all pulled together and pointed the ship in the right direction, and their hard work paid off in the best way possible. (And Jon Daniels deserves plenty of credit, too.)

There’s something about being a fan. I guess, in a more cynical frame of mind, you could call it hypocrisy, but I prefer duality.

On the one hand, I’m careful to avoid the word “we” when writing about the Rangers. I’ve never worked for them. I can take zero credit for what they’ve accomplished. If I decide to ignore them, they’ll roll on, unimpeded and carefree. There’s no “we.” Plus, sometimes baseball dares you to pay attention. Work stoppages. An increasingly fractured and unnavigable collection of media rights-holders, but no end to blackouts. Eradication of a quarter of the minor leagues, with potentially more to come. The ever-obtuse Rob Manfred. I could go on.

On the other hand: No. We are the Rangers. You and me.

When Josh Sborz caught the corner for that final strike, I barely moved. 3 I just watched while listening to Eric Nadel’s call. 4 55 years of fandom distilled to an instant. A wave of emotions. Memories of attending games with my father as an official member of the Dr. Pepper Junior Rangers Kids Club, evenings at the ballpark after my work shift at Six Flags, get-togethers I organized in the late 90s and early 2000, Newberg Report nights. Happiness that my wife, who accompanied me to so many playoff games in 2010-2011, was with me. Happiness that a cat she and I named Ranger in 2010 lived long enough to claim “his” title. Sadness that my father couldn’t be here. 5

Maybe your parents took you to games as a kid. Maybe you went with friends, with partners, with your kids. Maybe you’ve never set foot in Texas and latched on for other reasons. However you got here, you have a lifetime of memories, some good, some bad, all building up to last night. The “Texas Rangers” are the shared experience. If you’ve been watching, waiting, hurting, you’ve got as much of a claim on that trophy as anyone.

The championship belongs to us. And it’s ours to enjoy for the rest of our lives.

Thanks for reading.

Ranger and me during Game 4

Footnotes
1 I know that sounds weird. How could any portion of 2023 belong to a “worst-ever” stretch since the Rangers started so well?  The explanation is 2023 with a solid 22-14 record, but in the 36 games before the worst-ever 500, they were slightly better: 23-13.

2 Texas’s payroll is $14 million higher than Houston’s. That’s a 6% difference. I tend to think fan bases around baseball are pretty much the same – mostly fine, a few jerks and trolls – but a small but vocal portion of Houston supporters fans are very tightly wound.

3 Admittedly, I spent most of the previous few innings pacing the living room in advance of what was shaping to be an unimaginably tense 9th (or extras!). Once Texas broke open the top of the 9th, I could finally just sit.

4 Not that we need to rank deservedness, but does anyone deserve this more than Nadel?

5 You can forestall Death with a game of chess, but asking him to wait until a Texas Rangers championship is a bridge too far.