ARLINGTON -- Rangers general manager Chris Young isn’t anything but truthful when he meets with free agents. He tells them about the potential challenges and hurdles of joining a club coming off a 102-loss season and helping to build a championship culture in Texas.
But Young, president of baseball operations Jon Daniels and manager Chris Woodward identify the players they think are up for that challenge and want to be part of Texas Rangers history.
“In each meeting, we've been authentic,” Young said. “We've been very transparent. We were a 102-loss team. We haven't run from that. But we have a vision, we have a plan and this is how we're going to accomplish it. 'Does this scare you? Do you want to be part of this? Do you want to do something special that's never been done in Texas Ranger history?'
"We knew the answer with these players before we asked the question. And that's part of the process for us identifying the right people to help turn this organization around.”
Wednesday’s press conference showed that the Rangers’ front office and ownership is serious about building a contender in Arlington, and free agents are listening.
Seager said it was most important for him to not be the “lone pillar” when it came to Texas' signings. Once the Semien domino fell, it was a meaningful move for Seager to land with the Rangers.
Semien, who was a career shortstop before sliding over to second base with Toronto last season, said he was more than happy to stay at the position to play up the middle alongside Seager. Seager added that it’s exciting to play next to a player like Semien, who has an All-Star appearance, a Silver Slugger Award and a Gold Glove Award in addition to finishing third in American League MVP Award voting in 2021.
“How can you not be excited about that?” Seager said. “Not only the elite player, but he’s an elite person who carries himself well. He's a great teammate. There's not a bad word that you can say about Marcus. To be able to learn from somebody who's that talented and to take little things that he does in this game that I might not and be able to bounce off each other and to be up the middle here for a long time, it’s all very exciting.”
Woodward, who was the Dodgers' third-base coach during Seager’s NL Rookie of the Year 2016 season, said he was constantly “banging the table” for Seager throughout the entire process. When it came to this year's star-studded class of free-agent shortstops, Seager was always Woodward's No. 1.
“It's hard to believe he's in a Ranger uniform right now,” Woodward said. “I'm pinching myself a little bit. But there's so much that we share. We have a common vision with this organization. ... I believed this was the guy. This is the best player possible. Not just this year, but in any year, to be frank.”
The Rangers' other two acquisitions are veterans who will add leadership and depth to the clubhouse, both on and off the field. Calhoun, a left-handed bat, hit .230/.320/.455 with a 107 OPS+ across 105 games with the D-backs in 2020 and '21, as he was limited to 51 games due to injuries this past season.
Calhoun said the phone conversation he had with Woodward resonated with him and made him immediately want to come to Texas.
“Everybody wants to be part of a championship-caliber club,” Calhoun said. “Talking with Woody and just hearing it straight from him about his vision for this team sat well with me. I wanted to be a part of it, even before that conversation, so it just really made it easy.”
Gray had a 4.59 ERA over his first seven MLB seasons, all of which came with the Rockies, and he figures to slot into the top of the rotation for the Rangers in 2022. His addition on a four-year, $56 million deal provides stability to the staff as Texas waits for top pitching prospects Jack Leiter and Cole Winn to develop and make it to Arlington over the next few seasons.
“We have a lot of young talent, but we need somebody to help them,” Woodward said. “We need somebody to kind of help us have a ton of success. He wants to win. He wants to create a winner here. We're going to need that leadership on the pitching side.”
These moves are the first steps in a long process as the Rangers come out of a rebuild and hope to return to contention. They’re likely not done this winter. Pieces still need to be added across the field, particularly in the rotation and in the outfield. But it's not a one-offseason fix, and the ball is now rolling.
“I think every move is going to be viewed individually,” Daniels said. “We have to continue to make incremental decisions one after another, and the compounding effect of that is going to lead to a championship and lead to multiple championships.
“I'd rather not sit here and say how much ground we feel we've made up. My mindset is that we were not in contention at any point last year. And we let our performance on the field speak to that. But our intention was to take a meaningful step forward this year. And we're not putting limits on that.”