After latest spree, Rangers know: 'It's time to win'

With boost to rotation, Texas expects to compete in increasingly challenging AL West

February 20th, 2023

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- “It’s time to compete and it’s time to win.”

Rangers first baseman didn’t mince words Monday, which marked the second key date on the club’s Spring Training calendar: the first full-squad workout.

The process of revamping and overhauling the Rangers’ roster began to take shape more than a year ago when , and all inked prominent free-agent deals. By February 2023, , and had joined by the same route, blending the team’s financial commitment with a burgeoning young core.

Lowe, who came over in December 2020, is a member of that youthful nucleus. On the heels of winning his first American League Silver Slugger Award last season amidst a breakout campaign (27 homers, 143 wRC+), the club’s veritable ironman at first base is exuberant about the new-look group.

“If there aren’t changes going on,” Lowe said, “then it seems like we’d be OK with mediocrity.

“Shown by the people in this clubhouse and the people that are new coming in here, it seems like they’re done with it.”

Whereas young Rangers players are unaccustomed to the rigors of a full Major League season that could culminate in a postseason appearance, new manager Bruce Bochy boasts a wealth of experience around winning baseball. With 2,003 wins and three World Series victories as a big league skipper on his resume, Bochy is no stranger to entering camp with his club at the center of national attention.

“We should have high expectations right now when you look at the improvements that have been made with this club,” Bochy said. “I certainly want them to feel that -- you should embrace that.”

Adding the amount of talent -- particularly on the pitching side -- that Texas has this offseason is a surefire way to improve winning projections. The club finished with the third-highest starters' ERA in the AL (4.63) last season, and its rotation walked more batters than any other on the Junior Circuit. If healthy, the deGrom/Eovaldi/Heaney triumvirate should go a long way toward rectifying that.

Offensively, the quartet of Lowe, Semien, Seager and returns to serve as the heart of a lineup that will be looking to add some dynamism to the remainder of the order. Each of the four hit at least 26 homers last season, and they were the only Rangers to finish at better than league average when adjusted to ballparks (OPS+). Much of that offensive help will come from within, with many key members of the organization’s prospect pipeline -- and among them -- having gained reps during 2022.

“I think the young guys that were here last year are going to be better,” Semien said. “Everybody gets better with experience in this league.”

With the caveat of the team “looking” better, it remains to be seen how it will all gel in a hyper-competitive AL West that features the reigning World Series champions in Houston, two of the game’s best players (Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani) in Los Angeles and an upstart group in Seattle that is coming off 90 wins and a playoff berth.

“I think the offseason, sometimes it makes me mad how much we talk about what’s on paper and then we forget about the actual baseball that needs to be played,” Semien said.

That actual baseball is set to get underway Friday, when the Rangers kick off Cactus League play against the Royals at Surprise Stadium. But the games that count toward where the club aspires to be are still a ways off, which leaves a runway of time to develop and further hone camaraderie.

“In terms of the experience in the room, the talent in the room -- veteran or young -- we’re a lot better than we were last year,” Semien said.

It’s not just computer models and metrics projecting more success for the Rangers in 2023, it’s the ballclub as well.