Of all these pitchers who are with the Rangers now, which ones actually have a chance to be in their bullpen next year?
-- Sandy K., Carrollton, Texas
Right-hander José Leclerc will be there. He didn’t have the greatest season as their closer, but he signed a four-year contract extension in Spring Training and pitched much better at the end than he did at the beginning. Jesse Chavez is signed through next season and should bounce back from elbow surgery.
The Rangers have a $2.5 million option on Shawn Kelley, and that could be an interesting call. He had a 3.09 ERA before the All-Star break and a 7.20 ERA since then, but he would still give Texas a veteran presence in what will otherwise be a young bullpen. If Kelley is healthy, he can still get people out.
After that, guys will have to win jobs. The Rangers are clearly smitten with right-handers Emmanuel Clase and Rafael Montero, pushing them into prominent setup roles in September. But nothing is guaranteed. Same for Brett Martin, Yohander Mendez and Jeffrey Springs, their talented young left-handers. Same goes for right-handers Adrian Sampson, Jonathan Hernandez, Ian Gibault, Taylor Guerrieri and Luke Farrell or anybody still pitching for Texas. The talent is there, but jobs need to be earned.
This is going to be a relatively deep free-agent market for starting pitchers, led by Gerrit Cole, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Madison Bumgarner. The Rangers will look mid-market and maybe take a chance on somebody not at the top of the list. Two guys who might be intriguing are Reds left-hander Alex Wood and Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha. Both are under 30, both have had some success and have also had some injury setbacks. Those are two that kind of fit the Lynn/Minor mold out of this free-agent class.
Will Saturday’s game in Baltimore quiet the Rougned Odor critics?
-- Viki S., Los Angeles
Odor has his detractors, no question about it. That’s going to happen when you hit around .200 and strike out 157 times. But he has one big supporter and that is Chris Woodward. The Rangers' manager loves Odor’s passion, energy and intensity, and that’s why he continues to stand by his second baseman during what clearly has been a trying season. Odor still has much-needed improvement to show, but Woodward continues to express faith in him
Were there any Minor League pitchers who really stood out in the Rangers' farm system this year?
-- Thomas B., Fort Worth, Texas
Right-hander Rick Vanasco, 20, comes to mind. He was the Rangers' 15th-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft out of Williston (Fla.) High, and this season he was a combined 3-1 with a 1.81 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 11 combined starts at Class A Spokane and Hickory. Vanasco struck out 75 in 49 innings. He has a chance to move up high on Texas' prospect list in the next year or two.
Here are two other pitchers to watch: right-handers Alex Speas and Kyle Cody. Both missed the entire season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but they were throwing extremely well on the side at the end of the season. They could be ready to break out next spring.
What do you see happening in the replacements for the Double-A and Triple-A staffs? Are they looking to go more with new-school metrics?
-- Frank K., Longview, Texas
Metrics and analytics are fine, but the most important thing needed from managers and coaches at the highest levels of the Minor Leagues is getting players prepared for performing and surviving under the big-league spotlight. That’s why special advisors like Michael Young, Darren Oliver, Colby Lewis, Brandon McCarthy and Ivan Rodriguez play important roles for the Rangers. Edinson Volquez would be a great addition to that well-versed group of ex-big leaguers. Being able to teach string theory may be important, but so, too, is telling young players what they can expect when playing in the cauldrons of Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.
Robinson Chirinos is a free agent after this season. Do you think the Rangers will admit their mistake and try to re-sign him?
-- Lauren C., Arlington
Robinson Chirinos is having a nice season for the Astros and could end up earning a World Series ring. Anybody who knows Chirinos would say that would be a great thing. It’s also easy to suggest that he had a better season than Jeff Mathis, who did not hit at all, even if that wasn’t his prime directive. Mathis had other qualities the Rangers deemed important and are difficult to quantify.
But the Rangers are getting excited about rookie catcher Jose Trevino. He has played well since he was called up and they will be watching him closely in the next three weeks. If Trevino is the real deal, giving him a shot at the No. 1 spot next year with Mathis as his backup/mentor would not be a bad thing.
Will Hunter Pence, even with his injuries, wear a Rangers uniform next season? And if so, what position?
-- Linda P., Plano, Texas
There are two reasons to re-sign Pence. One is, well, he is Hunter Pence and that has meant a lot to the Rangers this season. Two, the original need still exists: a right-handed outfielder/designated hitter. If Pence is still interested in a part-time role in his hometown, they will at least consider bringing him back.