How does a front office convince potential free agents to come to a club coming off a 102-loss season?
Rangers general manager Chris Young embraces the challenge, he said on Tuesday at the GM Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif.
“You have the opportunity to be part of something that's never been done in Texas Ranger baseball history,” Young said when asked about his pitch to free agents. “And that is to be part of a world championship team that has been built from the ground up, and you get in early.
“Now's the time to buy stock in the Rangers. That's how I feel. And that's as a player, that's what you want to hear. You see the good things that are happening. And I think to get in early and be part of that makes it even more special.”
Young, in just his second offseason as the Rangers’ GM, was tasked with bringing the club out of the back end of its rebuild. It started with tearing everything down, including the trade of Elvis Andrus to the A’s last offseason and Joey Gallo to the Yankees at the Trade Deadline.
Now, Young and the Rangers are building back up. He and president of baseball operations Jon Daniels pledged to be active in free agency this winter, and Young added that Texas also will navigate the trade market.
Daniels said the Rangers’ payroll for the future should be consistent with a market the size of Dallas-Fort Worth.
“I think that there's a number of ways that we can look to improve our club, and we're exploring all avenues,” Young said. “We have some financial flexibility that allows us to be creative, and we're looking at this as a multiyear approach. This is what impacts us for the next several years, and how we can build a championship team. What decisions we make right now, those impact not only 2022, but beyond.”
Young emphasized at the end of the season that the Rangers are looking to improve everywhere and that no position will be handed to anybody. All eyes will be on the active shortstop market this winter, but the Rangers were one of many teams to watch former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander throw at a showcase this week.
Young said he would rather not comment on specific players, but Dallas-Fort Worth natives Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard could be free-agent targets. Trevor Story, a native of Irving, Texas, is one of many shortstops on the market.
“I don't think we expect to just come out and be World Series contenders next season,” Young said. “That said, we expect to take major steps from where we were this year and continue to build this so that by 2023, we're in a very good position and competing for the division and have the opportunity to make the playoffs and potentially win a World Series.”
No. 5 prospect Huff shut down
Rangers catching prospect Sam Huff made his MLB debut in 2020 and appeared in 10 games. He seemed poised for a breakout, but he’s had a rough go of it ever since.
Huff, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the organization's No. 5 prospect, had knee surgery after a Spring Training injury and got a late start to the Minor League season this year. He didn’t catch at all in 2021. Then Huff experienced a setback with the same knee at the Arizona Fall League.
The Rangers shut him down after he tweaked his knee in warmups. Huff should be ready to return to catching by Spring Training, though it’s unlikely he’ll be on the Opening Day roster.
“Surgery takes time, no matter how big or small the procedure is,” Young said. “Certainly, you can't predict how the recovery is going to go, and Sam has really matured in the way he's handled all of these challenges this year. I'm very confident that he's going to have a great 2022.”