ARLINGTON -- The Rangers, like the other 29 teams, are now able to pursue and sign free agents, but don’t look for them to make any immediate deals.
General manager Jon Daniels said his club will not be active in the early part of the free-agent signing period. The Rangers are committed to their young players and will only pursue free agents who can fit within the framework of that plan.
They also have to fit within Texas' financial parameters, and it is clear those will be strict given the club’s youth movement and the general economic conditions that exist within the industry.
The Rangers enter an offseason that will present obvious challenges. Here are some frequently asked questions heading into the offseason:
Which players are free agents?
The Rangers have eight players who became a free agent after the World Series.
• Shin-Soo Choo’s seven-year contract has come to an end, and the Rangers did not make him a qualifying offer. Choo, 38, said he wants to play next season but could change his mind. Texas is focused on its young players and really doesn't have a spot for Choo with Nick Solak, Willie Calhoun, Scott Heineman and Eli White piled up at left field/DH. Still, the Rangers might bring Choo back at a greatly reduced price if they feel they could use the depth.
• Catcher Jeff Mathis also wants to keep playing. The Rangers have a need for a veteran catcher to go with Jose Trevino and Sam Huff, but they will have plenty of options on the market beyond Mathis.
• Derek Dietrich wasn’t Texas' answer to its offensive woes, but his .806 OPS was the highest on the team (minimum 75 plate appearances).
• Right-hander Jesse Chavez is 36 and had a 6.88 ERA.
• Edinson Vólquez is 37 and missed most of the season with a strained right oblique.
• Righty Juan Nicasio finished the season on the restricted list due to personal reasons, and his future is unclear.
Who might be a non-tender candidate, and when does the club have to make that decision?
The non-tender date is Dec. 2. Outfielder Danny Santana, who was supposed to make $3.6 million in 2020, had right elbow surgery in September, and it is doubtful if he’ll be ready for Opening Day. As with Kluber, the Rangers may try to retain Santana on a reduced contract.
Who might the Rangers explore long-term contract extensions with?
Lance Lynn and Joey Gallo are possibilities. Lynn is entering the final year of a three-year, $30 million deal, so the Rangers may weigh their options of trading him, exploring a long-term extension or staying with him for one more year.
Gallo can become a free agent after the 2022 season, and Daniels suggested that the club might be interested in an extension. Gallo’s agent, Scott Boras, might not be as inclined after a down season. Boras may prefer to wait to see if Gallo has a much better season in '21 and improves his bargaining position.
Who needs to be added to the 40-man roster this winter to avoid the Rule 5 Draft, and do they have a crunch for roster spots?
The Rangers have much to talk about before the 40-man roster has to be set on Nov. 20. Pitchers Jason Bahr, Jake Latz and Alex Speas were at the alternate training site, so they are candidates to be added for protection in the Rule 5 Draft.
So are Minor League relievers Joe Barlow, Yerry Rodriguez, Kelvin Gonzalez and Scott Engler. Catcher David Garcia, the Rangers' No. 14 prospect as ranked by MLB Pipeline, and right-hander A.J. Alexy (No. 21) are also eligible. So are infielders Yonny Hernandez, Curtis Terry and Andy Ibáñez. Then there is left-hander Cole Ragans, Texas' No. 1 Draft pick in 2016, who missed two seasons because of Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
That’s a lot of names. Speas and Latz are the only two sure things.
What kind of help do they need, and will they be active in free agency? Who might they target?
The Rangers need offensive help, either in the outfield, at first base or at designated hitter. There is not much in the way of help at first base on the free-agent market. George Springer is the most attractive outfield free agent, but he will most likely be beyond Texas' price range. Marcell Ozuna would be a nice fit at DH.
The Rangers aren’t expected to play at the top of the free-agent market, so don’t look for DJ LeMahieu, a utility guy who would be great at first base. Sign Springer, LeMahieu and Ozuna, and the offensive problems are solved.
If Texas wants to gamble, outfielders Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Yoenis Céspedes are free agents. If the club wants the entire Astros outfield, Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick are all free agents. Nelson Cruz, anyone?