2023 Rival Preview: The Texas Rangers had another spending spree this winter

Evan Stack
1 year ago
Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at each American League team and discuss their 2022 season, their offseason moves, and their 2023 outlook. 

2022 Season Recap…

Valentine’s Day just passed us, and if there’s one thing we love, it’s belittling the entire Texas Rangers franchise. Another year has gone by that the Rangers have not won a World Series, and still, the best thing they have to their name is “The Punch” from 2016.
Thankfully, although they finished in fourth place in the AL West last season, the Rangers are starting to develop a core of established veteran players that have elevated the team’s competitive status.
After the 2021 season, the Rangers went out and acquired free agents 2B Marcus Semien, SS Corey Seager, and SP Jon Gray, and the contract numbers on them are quite opulent. Semien signed for seven years and $175 million, Seager was 10 for $325 million, and Gray was four for $56 million. Yeah, Texas had some money to play with.
It was an abysmal start for Semien during his first year with the Rangers. Semien had a .157 batting average through the month of April and didn’t hit his first home run until May 28th (keep in mind he hit 45 in 2021 with the Blue Jays).
The hole Semien dug himself was a tough one to emerge from, and he finished the season with a .248 batting average, 26 home runs, and 83 RBIs. He did, however, place fifth in the AL in stolen bases with 25. Admirably enough, Semien played 161 games in 2022, with his 657 plate appearances leading all of baseball.
Seager had a very similar campaign minus the egregious start. Through 151 games, Seager hit .245 with 33 home runs (5th in the AL) and 83 RBls. The home run total was a career-high, but the other stats are inferior once stacked up against his yearly figures with the Dodgers.
The Rangers had a couple of surprising names pay dividends for them in 2022, including SP Martin Perez. Perez, who spent his first seven seasons in Texas, made 32 starts and pitched to a 2.89 ERA in 196.1 innings. Perez had a career-best 7.7 K/9, and he wound up making his first career All-Star game. A big key to Perez’s success was keeping the ball in the yard. He only allowed 11 home runs in 2022, the lowest in a single season for him in which he made at least 15 starts.
1B Nathaniel Lowe and RF Adolis Garcia were other key cogs for the Rangers this season. Lowe spent two seasons with the Rays before being dealt to Texas for a handful of minor leaguers. While the Rays turn their farm system into gold more often than not, this trade may have been a fleece job by the Rangers.
After a solid 2021 in Texas, Lowe won his first career Silver Slugger award last season, finishing fourth in the AL in hits. Several categories were career- and team-highs for Lowe; he hit 27 home runs, 76 RBIs, an .851 OPS and a .302 batting average. While the Rangers MO is spending money, they may have found their first baseman of the future by way of a trade.
Garcia put his name on the map in 2021, earning his first All-Star appearance and hitting 31 home runs. In 2022, he continued his successes with 27 homers, 101 RBIs (4th in AL), and 34 doubles. Garcia hits for average (.246 in his last two seasons), but much like Lowe, the Rangers stole Garcia in a trade; Garcia was dealt by the Cardinals in exchange for cash in 2019.
The biggest issue with the Rangers last season was their pitching (both starters and bullpen). Perez was the only starting pitcher to have over 10 quality starts and win more than 10 games. Gray, one of the rotation’s upgrades from last offseason, battled multiple injuries, but still toughed it out to make 24 starts. The team ranked 22nd in team ERA, giving Texas a clear area of improvement going into 2023.

Off-season Moves…

Per the title of the article, the Rangers did not shy away from opening the chequebook this offseason. In parallel, they also strengthened the topic that I had the most criticism for in the previous section.
Their biggest acquisition, and perhaps one of the biggest in the league, was SP Jacob deGrom. deGrom’s resume speaks for itself; two-time Cy Young winner, four-time All-Star, a former Rookie of the Year, and an ERA that seems to always hover around the 1.00s and 2.00s. deGrom has run into injury issues in recent seasons, forcing him to start only 26 games combined between the last two years. If the Rangers can get at least 30 starts this season from deGrom, then it’s an assumption that they’re getting ace-like numbers from him.
Perez accepted the qualifying offer at one year and $19.6 million. Not that it would’ve mattered to the Rangers, but it shocked me a little that Perez didn’t go searching for more after having a career season. Regardless, nearly $20 million for one year is not too shabby.
Texas continued to add to its rotation, acquiring Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Heaney, and Jake Odorizzi. Eovaldi has been one of the more consistent pitchers in the majors for the last few seasons. His yearly ERAs since 2020 have been 3.72, 3.75, and 3.87 respectively.
Heaney is a name that the Blue Jays had been linked to. In fact, they had even been rumoured to have made him an offer. After a dreadful 2021, Heaney rebounded in a big way the following year with the Dodgers. Although pitching in only 16 games, Heaney tossed a 3.10 ERA with a career-high 13.6 K/9 versus a 2.4 BB/9. Heaney’s deal was only for two years and $25 million, so if the Rangers can get that kind of performance from him in 2023, this contract is a steal.
Odorizzi was acquired in a trade with the Atlanta Braves for Kolby Allard. Odorizzi offers another stable presence in the rotation as he looks to rebound from a tough finish toward the end of last season.
Most “minor league contract with an invite to spring training” deals aren’t noteworthy, but the Rangers made some interesting adds to their spring training list. They’re listed below:
  • Yoshi Tsutsugo – former Japanese All-Star whose game has yet to fully translate to the MLB level.
  • Danny Duffy – did not see any action in 2022 due to injuries, but is coming off a 2021 season in which he owned a 2.51 ERA. Health permitting, this could be an impact arm for this team.
  • Reyes Moronta – former Giants reliever with high-strikeout stuff. The walks are a problem, though.
  • Ian Kennedy – a starter-turned-closer veteran who had 56 combined saves in 2019 & 2021. He had a rough 2022 but could be an option in a bullpen looking for answers.
  • Jackson “Clint” Frazier – yes, this is the Clint Frazier from the Yankees. Former top 50 MLB prospect that couldn’t quite produce consistent, impactful results in the majors.

My take on Texas’ 2023 outlook…

The breakdown of Texas’ roster is pretty simple. They are very top-heavy on talent at the plate with outstanding rotational depth. They do, however, lack effective bullpen and lineup depth. While they made several additions, there are still more to be made for them to be serious contenders. Let’s remember that they play in the AL West with the Astros and Mariners.
A rotation of deGrom-Perez-Eovaldi-Gray-Heaney is strong, with Odorizzi, Dane Dunning, and Glenn Otto as depth pieces in case one or two of them go down because of injury. (On a personal note, this is the kind of rotational depth I was hoping the Blue Jays could obtain.)
The bullpen has some solid pieces – Brock Burke, Jose Leclerc, and Joe Barlow are coming off of solid seasons. Barlow led the team in saves, and Burke owned a 1.97 ERA through 52 games. As I mentioned, though, the depth in this bullpen is not worthy of a team that will be playing deep into October. This close to the spring training, the Rangers may give several of their internal arms a chance to secure their spot in the bullpen. Otherwise, some of those minor-league signings may come into play.
If they find themselves within striking distance at the trade deadline, they should 100% work the reliever market, as many teams look to do at that time of year.
In the batting order, they have some household names with Semien and Seager. Lowe and Garcia have proven to be reliable everyday players that have lots of value. C Jonah Heim showed improvements at the plate and we’ll get to see a full season out of top prospect 3B Josh Jung. Again, the talent is there. But, question marks exist from the next tier of hitters. OFs Bubba Thompson and Josh Smith are a couple of youngsters that could use the experience, but the Rangers are a couple of injuries away from giving Travis Jankowski and Brad Miller starter at-bats regularly.
The Rangers are building something, there’s no question about that. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they sneak into a Wild Card spot. This will, however, require their rotation to stay healthy, and Semien and Seager to play at the All-Star level that their contracts indicate.


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