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What’s in store for Rangers’ 'pen next year?

Beat reporter T.R. Sullivan answers questions from fans
@Sullivan_Ranger
October 14, 2019

Thank you for the great questions. Sorry I can’t get to every one of them, but the goal is to have an Inbox every week this offseason. Remember to email [email protected] and include name and hometown **I’ve seen lots of talk about the Rangers' options at third base and starting

Thank you for the great questions. Sorry I can’t get to every one of them, but the goal is to have an Inbox every week this offseason. Remember to email [email protected] and include name and hometown

I’ve seen lots of talk about the Rangers' options at third base and starting pitching, but how serious are they about improving their bullpen which finished 11th in ERA in the American League?
-- Andrew D., Fort Worth

The Rangers seriously like the idea of building around the fabulous young arms of José Leclerc, Emmanuel Clase and Rafael Montero. Jonathan Hernández is another, although the Rangers still like the idea of him remaining a starting pitcher if he can repeat his delivery for five or six innings without getting out of whack. Jesse Chavez and Adrian Sampson will also be back, but the Rangers need some left-handers to emerge from Brett Martin, Jeffrey Springs, Yohander Méndez, Locke St. John and the well-traveled Kyle Bird. Want a sleeper? Right-hander Luke Farrell was throwing the ball as well as anybody in September. Right-handers Ian Gibaut, Joe Barlow and Demarcus Evans will also get a look. The Rangers are loaded with hard-throwing relief candidates.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa struggled offensively this year. However, his versatility and ability to play multiple positions -- especially as a possible third catcher -- is huge. The team also seems to love his attitude, work ethic and baseball smarts. Do you think this is enough for him to make the 2020 roster next year?
-- Shayne F. Honolulu

The Rangers aren’t sure exactly what they have with Kiner-Falefa, because so much time was lost in the catching experiment. He showed in 2018 he could hit, now he has to show he can play shortstop and second base in in the Majors. Kiner-Falefa played those positions in the Minors, so it’s not a big challenge. But it’s a must for any player who is going to fill a utility role.

I have seen Josh Donaldson’s name mentioned a few times as a possible offseason acquisition for third base. Do you think he would be a good fit in the Rangers’ locker room, given the past history with Rougned Odor and Toronto Blue Jays?
-- Mike K., Sachse, Texas

If Donaldson signs with the Rangers, he will be welcomed immediately in the clubhouse and Odor will be among the first to greet him. Play the game long enough, and a guy will have a past history with somebody, but that’s easily forgotten. Players want to win. The Rangers would love getting Donaldson.

I don’t hear anyone really talking about first base. Are we really willing to hand over the job to Ronald Guzman? Or why not go after a Mitch Moreland-type player?
-- Robert C., Arlington

The Rangers’ top priorities are starting pitching and third base. Three areas of interest are first base, center field and catching. The Rangers won’t be able devote significant resources to upgrading all three spots, so it comes down to who do they rate higher: Delino DeShields in center, Jose Trevino at catcher or Guzman at first base.

Why do you not consider Joey Gallo a core part of the team going forward? That response caught me off guard a little. Can you expand on that?
-- Walter G., Southlake, Texas

Gallo is as much of the core as anybody on the Rangers. He was an All-Star last year and deservedly so. The point is, after three straight losing seasons and given all the Rangers' needs, nobody can be considered indispensable. The Rangers have made it clear everything is on the table. It’s hard to imagine a scenario emerging that involves Gallo departing, but the Rangers will consider all options.

What pitchers do you see our Rangers going after, and will it be more than one? How about Zack Wheeler and Dallas Keuchel?
-- Kevin J., Balch Springs, Texas

Both would be welcome additions, but Wheeler should be rated the higher of the two. He is 29, throwing 96.7 mph and struck out 8.98 batters per nine innings in 2019. When you get past the big three of starting-pitching free agents -- Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu -- the next-best group might start with Wheeler. The Rangers need to acquire at least two reliable veteran starters to go with Lance Lynn and Mike Minor and not be overly dependent on too many young pitchers.

I really enjoyed the home run celebration at Globe Life Park with the song from the movie 'The Natural' and fireworks. What is Chuck Morgan planning for the home run celebration at Globe Life Field?
-- Brandon H., Ada, Okla.

Here is Chuck’s response: “A lot of fans have asked me about it. It is one of the best things that we do. We have been working on this all summer, but it will include “The Natural” theme still being a part of it. We are working on something that would go along with the music that still would involve some sort of indoor fireworks with the lights.”

Seeing how the Padres and Blue Jays have some exciting and charismatic talent for the future. do we have any players like that?
-- Mickey D., Grand Island, Neb.

Third baseman Josh Jung and catcher Sam Huff come to mind among the team's Top 30 prospects, but 2020 could be a big year for Leody Taveras, the Rangers’ 21-year-old switch-hitting outfielder who has been highly touted for four years. He is considered a premium defensive player who has yet to break through offensively. Taveras played in 65 games at Double-A Frisco last season, reaching that level at the age of 20. The Rangers have pushed him through their farm system at a young age where he has been among the youngest players in each league that he has played. That may not have been the best plan, so it will be interesting to see how Taveras handles a full year at Frisco.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.