The Rangers are going young next year.
General manager Jon Daniels made it clear Tuesday the Rangers are committed to giving their young players a chance to grow together next season and build something special for the future.
The Rangers' approach to the offseason will include not trading for or signing any free-agent veterans who will block the path of their young players.
“None of us are happy where we are in the standings,” Daniels said. “That part's embarrassing. But that is a huge positive for this year, to be able to give these guys that opportunity and then to see them kind of grow and come together as a team a little bit.
“We need to let them go out and play; they need to compete. I've been around players, but this is a hungry group. And that's exactly what I wanted. That's exactly what, in this organization, we've really placed emphasis on.”
A full-scale youth movement can be a tough sell to fans, but Daniels is taking this as a “great opportunity” to rebuild the ballclub in the right way. The Rangers are headed for their fourth straight losing season after going to back-to-back World Series in 2010-11 and winning back-to-back American League West titles in 2015-16.
“I know that everybody was wanting to have a team full of stable veteran guys, a championship-caliber team,” manager Chris Woodward said. “Listen. These guys are young, they're talented, they're learning, they want to grow, they're hungry. I don't care if they're 25 years old. I just look at it as an opportunity to help guide these guys to becoming consistent Major League performers."
Among the issues addressed by Daniels in Tuesday’s conference call:
Is ownership on board with this even if the Rangers may not have a contending team at the new ballpark next year?
“I think they are excited about seeing the youth and energy on the field,” Daniels said. “I think that’s the quickest path to us playing the kind of baseball our fans expect and deserve. I think sometimes we [front office, media, everybody] make the mistake of looking at free agency as the shortcut. I think it’s the opposite. Committing to these players and giving them the opportunity to develop, I think we are going to see a lot of them are better than what we give them credit for.”
Where do the Rangers stand on veteran shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Rougned Odor?
Both are signed for two more years, and both are in danger of losing their starting jobs. Odor appears more vulnerable because Texas has Nick Solak pushing hard to find a spot on the field.
Andrus, 32, has been bothered by a bad back and has fallen off the past three seasons. But even manager Chris Woodward has admitted rookie shortstop Anderson Tejeda may not be ready next year.
“We've had pretty open discussions with both guys. They're not guaranteed starting spots,” Daniels said. “They're going to have to demonstrate beyond just the last couple of weeks that they’re prepared to produce at a level the team needs. We've been candid with them that they may need to be prepared to learn and work out other positions as well.”
Is this it for outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, 38, who can be a free agent after this season?
Based on what Daniels said, it would be difficult to see the Rangers re-signing Choo. Texas has a group of young outfielders that includes Eli White, Leody Taveras, Joey Gallo, Scott Heineman and Willie Calhoun that need to play. As far as Calhoun, designated hitter may be the best spot for him. That doesn’t leave much room for Choo.
“I haven’t made that determination at this point, and I’m hesitant to speak in those kind of terms about anybody right now, because we haven’t made final decisions and talked to the players,” Daniels said. “Directionally, [we're] trying to be very clear about our expectations and what we’re going to try to do this offseason.
“I do expect that there will be some veteran additions to the club, but it will be specifically areas supplementing spots where we don’t have guys ready to compete and perform at the Major League level.”
What does this mean for the $18 million option on pitcher Corey Kluber for next season?
The Rangers are not going to pick it up, but there is still a possibility Kluber could be back with the Rangers next season.
“We’ve had very cursory discussions with Corey and his agent, B.B. Abbott,” Daniels said. “He is still in the process of rehabbing right now, so I think there is a lot more information that we need. On the surface, there is interest in bringing him back, although it likely will be a different arrangement if we do.”
Has first baseman Ronald Guzmán played his way back into the Rangers' future?
“It's been encouraging," Daniels said. “He's looked a lot better than the first week of the season, when he got sent out. I'm of the mindset where we still need to see a lot more going forward to really be able to say if we've answered that question or not.”