Texas has re-signed pitchers Reid Birlingmair and Tyler Zombro, catcher Matt Whatley, infielder Ryan Dorow, and outfielders Sandro Fabian and Elier Hernandez to minor league deals. All had become free agents after the season.
During last season, I wondered if Hernandez might be able to secure a contract in Asia for 2024. He’s pretty much an ideal AAA player. While I’m glad he’s back, I’m a little surprised, as I think he’d have a better chance at returning to MLB in a different organization. The Rangers have Garcia, Taveras, Carter, JP Martinez, and infielder/outfielders Zeke Duran and Dustin Harris on the 40 at present, plus a guy named Langford.
Fabian is still just 25, another strong AAA player. In 2023, he slugged .523 and clubbed 23 homers with only a 15% strikeout rate. He’s swing-happy but manages to put the ball in play.
Whatley is well-regarded, a strong defender, and, while not a good hitter, I think he can improve on last year’s .203/.290/.322. (Prospect status aside, I strongly prefer glove-over-bat at catcher and short in AAA. Keep the game moving, keep pitchers from having to get “extra” outs.)
Dorow missed 2023 with a separated shoulder. The 2017 30th-rounder ably defends any infield position.
Texas signed Birlingmair out of the indy American Association last summer, and he pitched well for Hickory and Frisco.
New additions on minor deals so far are righties Gerardo Carrillo, Diego Castillo, and Jesus Tinoco, catcher Andrew Knapp, and OFs Derek Hill and Michael Reed.
The 29-year-old Castillo has 268 mostly solid MLB innings with the Rays and M’s to his credit. 2023 was a mess: lower velocity, worse control, such a poor start that Seattle designated him for assignment in April despite his $2.95 million salary. He went unclaimed and spent the remainder of the season in AAA Tacoma without any improvement until the final six weeks. Castillo would be a worthy addition to the beleaguered Texas pen if he can recapture the magic. He could also pitch himself entirely out of the organization in March.
Tinoco pitched two stints for the Rangers in 2022, once as a covid-rules replacement in June and then throughout September. He’s a trivia answer for surrendering Aaron Judge’s 62nd homer, but as depth additions go, he’s fine. Tinoco spent 2023 in Japan.
Carrillo was an important piece of the Max Scherzer trade between the Dodgers and Nats in 2021, but injuries to his shoulder and leg (I think) robbed some of his elite velocity and keep him off the field much of the past two years. Carrillo was outrighted after 2022 and became a free agent last month. He’s 25.
Maybe Knapp is next year’s Sandy Leon. Now 32, last season was the first in seven that he didn’t spend any time in the bigs, instead serving exclusively for the AAA squads of Detroit and Houston, where he compiled a .233/.328/.377 line.
Drafted 23rd overall in 2014 out of high school by the Tigers, Hill spent a large chunk of his developmental years on the injured list. He made his MLB debut in 2020 and has a .229/.279/.314 line in 108 games, including 13 last year for the Nats. He impressed in AAA (albeit as a 27-year-old), hitting .317/.373/.509 while reducing his strikeout rate.
Reed was drafted in 2016’s second round out of Florida and the player to be named in the trade for Jurickson Profar between the A’s and Pads in 2019. Reed has speed and skills for center and displayed burgeoning power at the lower levels, but he hasn’t hit much in AA/AAA and had been out of contract since mid-July.
Obviously, much can change between now and March, but by my count the Rangers have something like nine outfielders who could conceivably begin 2024 in AAA. That’s a crowd.
I’ve been maintaining various organizational rosters for a long, long time. For fun, I compiled a table of how many players appeared on the Texas 40 each year, how many were on the entire year, etc.:
In the past ten years, Texas’s most chaotic roster situation occurred in 2014. You might recall. 31 players added and deleted during the calendar year! On more than one occasion, I half-joked about a seemingly nondescript AAA player getting a call-up if he maintained his hot streak for another couple of weeks, only for that very thing to occur.
Given the playoff-push trades and incessant effort to construct a capable bullpen, you might be surprised to learn the most stable 40-man roster in the last years occurred in 2023. But on offense, the Rangers had seven hitters qualify for the batting title. Left field was the only unsettled position. Also, the top five rotation members combined for 128 starts, and additions Jordan Montgomery and Max Scherzer delivered 19 of the other 34.
Small Bookeeping Note
I had some blog issues last month, now resolved, and I am intending to email using a different server henceforth. So hopefully that will resolve the problems some of you had with receiving reports, and if not, at least I’ll have a better idea of what’s going wrong. The existing server, handy though it’s been, is a black box to me.
Cincinnati designated OF Bubba Thompson for assignment to make room for reliever Buck Farmer (who pitched in Round Rock in 2021). Thompson was originally claimed by the Royals off the Rangers in August, then nabbed by the Reds on waivers during the playoffs. He hasn’t been outrighted previously and is under contract, so he’ll remain a Red if unclaimed.
The Texas Rangers won the World Series.
Happy New Year.