These quiet acquisitions could boost Rangers

January 20th, 2020

ARLINGTON -- Utility player Danny Santana was the Rangers' Player of the Year in 2019, while right-hander Rafael Montero finished the season as their top setup reliever.

A year ago, they were two Rangers offseason acquisitions that few people paid attention to going into Spring Training. That’s hardly surprising. The Rangers have a curious way of unobtrusively slipping many lesser offseason acquisitions under the door with little or no elaboration.

But their pro scouts have a good track record of finding those types and having them make meaningful -- large or small -- contributions to the ballclub. Shawn Tolleson, Robinson Chirinos and Austin Bibens-Dirkx are just a few other examples of that through the years.

Here are 10 players acquired this offseason by the Rangers who deserve more than a casual mention.

Acquired: Purchased from Cardinals

Possibly the Rangers' most intriguing offseason acquisition. Garcia, 26, was a star in Cuba and signed by the Cardinals in 2017 for $2.5 million. He was touted as a player with speed, power and a strong throwing arm. He hit 32 home runs with 96 RBIs and 14 stolen bases at Triple-A Memphis last season, but also had just 22 walks against 159 strikeouts. That is the red flag that made him available for purchase. But the Rangers are screaming for a right-handed bat and Garcia has played all three outfield positions.

Acquired: Minor League free agent

Swihart was Boston's No. 1 Draft pick in 2011 and at one time was considered their future catcher. Then he had some injuries. After that, the Red Sox got the big idea of turning him into a utility player. Last spring, his adopted brother Romell, 23, passed away and Blake was traded to Arizona. The Rangers offer a fresh start and another chance to catch, hoping he can turn his career around the way Santana did last year in Texas.

Acquired: Free agent from Japan

He has a big arm, but Rodriguez had erratic command in the United States. He has been lights out the past two seasons for Chunichi in Japan, with a combined 2.26 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Rodriguez can hit 94-96 mph on the radar gun with his fastball and has a plus swing-and-miss slider. His command was much better in Japan, and the Rangers expect him to be a late-inning weapon.

4. RHP Nick Goody

Acquired: Waiver claim from Indians

Relievers can go up-and-down from overuse. Goody was excellent for the Indians in 2017 with a 2.80 ERA, 1.08WHIP and 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings. He then dealt with elbow inflammation in 2018 and had an off year. Last season he finished with a 3.54 ERA, 1.28 ERA and 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Goody is not overpowering, but he has a plus slider that gets swings and misses. There's a good chance for him to be in the bullpen.

5. LHP James Jones

Acquired: Re-signed as Minor League free agent

Watch out, this guy may be getting to the finish line after being switched from an outfielder to a pitcher in 2016 and then undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. Jones is 31, but had a combined 3.52 ERA and 1.16 WHIP between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Nashville last year. The scouting report said he had a more consistent breaking ball at the end of last season with a fastball at 92-94 mph. He’ll get a look as a setup reliever

6. RHP

Acquired: Minor League free agent

Nicasio, 33, is a hard-throwing right-hander whose career has had some extreme up-and-downs. He came up with the Rockies as a highly-regarded starting prospect before being one of many pitchers devoured by Coors Field. He has had some injuries but as a reliever, he had a 2.76 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP and 8.96 strikeouts per nine innings in 2017 for three different teams. He could be Spring Training insurance if some of the younger arms don’t come around.

7. RHP Luis García

Acquired: Minor League free agent

This right-hander signed with the Dodgers in 2004 at the age of 17. In 2011, he was out of baseball learning to become a barber in New Jersey. The Phillies rescued him from an independent league. Now, he has seven years and 315 games of Major League experience. He turns 33 at the end of the month, but can throw 97 mph with a decent slider when he is not hurt. Garcia had back problems last year with the Angels and his command can be erratic.

Acquired: Minor League free agent

Rivera fills a big need for the Rangers. He is an excellent defensive shortstop. Rivera’s offense has never really come around, but the Rangers need a reliable defensive shortstop as a critical component of their overall depth.

9. IF-OF

Acquired: Minor League free agent

Refsnyder has four years of big league experience with the Yankees, Blue Jays and Rays. His primary value is as a player with great makeup who can be used both in the infield and outfield. At some point that may prove useful for the Rangers, although Nick Solak and Isiah Kiner-Falefa are more likely choices for that role.

10. LHP

Acquired: Minor League free agent

Flynn is a 6-foot-7 lefty who had a 2.60 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP in 36 games for the Royals in 2016. The following spring, just before reporting to camp, he suffered serious injuries falling through the barn roof while doing some work at his home in MacAlester, Okla. It has been a struggle since then, but never underestimate a left-hander who can hit 90 mph..

There are reasons why guys end up on waivers or come to camp as non-roster players. There are also reasons why clubs try to stockpile as many as possible. There are hidden gems in every camp.