Inbox: Why move Kiner-Falefa to shortstop?

Beat reporter T.R. Sullivan answers questions from fans

December 4th, 2020

Can you explain the decision to move to short? He just won a Gold Glove Award at third base and was hitting well most of the year. It seems like the organization isn't expecting Josh Jung to be ready for the Majors in 2021, so what's the rush to make Kiner-Falefa change positions yet again?
-- Jacob H. Austin, Texas

Kiner-Falefa is the Rangers' best defensive infielder and ideally you want that player to be at shortstop. Kiner-Falefa’s bat is getting better but long-term you would prefer the third baseman to swing with significant power in the middle of the order.

So, if Kiner-Falefa shows the same defense at shortstop that he did at third and the bat keeps getting better, the Rangers are set at the position for several years. Hopefully at some point Jung, Davis Wendzel or Sherten Apostel will be ready to line up next to him at third base.

If Kiner-Falefa isn’t the answer, the Rangers still have for two more years, and they could plunge into next winter’s deep free-agent class of shortstops which potentially includes Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Javier Báez, Trevor Story and Miguel Rojas.

Are there any recent non-tenders that the Rangers might have interest in?
-- Tony A., Dallas

Travis Shaw should be on the Rangers. He is a front-line third baseman who could start there and move to other spots once Jung is ready. Maikel Franco is another proven third baseman. Right now, they may rank as two of the best free-agent third basemen on the market.

There is also former Rangers infielder Hanser Alberto, who was non-tendered by the Orioles. He could also fill in at third base until Jung, Wendzel and Apostel are ready.

There are some intriguing outfielders who became available, including Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall and David Dahl. All could be options in left field for a Texas club that needs more offense. Then there is Kyle Schwarber, who has a chance to be an impact bat at designated hitter in the American League. There are players on that list who will help contending teams this year.

Will Sam Huff be on the 25-man roster to start next season? is the implied starting catcher heading into Spring Training. Could Sam play first base?
-- Justin C. Pratt, Kansas

Huff and Apostel have a chance to be a big part of the Rangers' future because of their offense. Texas has a dire need for more offensive muscle in the middle of its lineup. Huff and Apostel have that potential but have yet to play above Class A beyond their abbreviated visits to Globe Life Field this season. The best-case scenario for the Rangers is that they have big offensive seasons in 2021 at Double-A Frisco and worry later about their defensive spots.

Was there any intention on bringing back Mike Minor?
-- Andres F. Prosper, Texas

General manager Jon Daniels said the Rangers stayed in touch with Minor but did not make an offer before he signed a two-year deal with the Royals. The Rangers aren’t expected to be in the hunt for players commanding multi-year contracts right now.

Will the Rangers be willing to spend money on a couple of one-year contracts with hopes of trading those players at the deadline for more prospects?
-- Bennie T., Fort Worth

That sounds like a great idea in theory but is much more difficult to actually pull off. First of all, if the player is taking a one-year deal, then obviously he is not one of the top free agents on the market. The possibility exists that the player could perform at a much higher level than expected, but clubs are still likely to hold tight to their best prospects in any case.

The Rangers will search for veteran free agents willing to take one-year deals, mainly for depth or to plug holes that can’t be filled by younger players. They did that with Todd Frazier and Robinson Chirinos last winter, and Texas is still waiting for players-to-be-named from the Mets. Those are not expected to be high-level prospects.

If Minor League baseball returns in 2021, how much process can the Rangers carry over to the upper levels from their '20 alternate training site that has led to rave development reviews for Jung and Co.?
-- Kevin T. Sachse, Texas

All of it. The alternate training site was operated by the Rangers' Minor League coaching staff. The only difference between that and 2021 is that the players will now be tested in real games instead of intrasquad scrimmages in empty Major League stadiums.