Rangers' focus on Rendon, starters at Meetings

December 5th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers began their offseason by reaching an agreement with right-handed starter to a three-year contract, but they still have more work to do this winter.

The Winter Meetings may not be where they get it done if free-agent third baseman is still undecided about where he is going to play next year. Rendon is the Rangers' top target, and he may not decide his destination until January.

That leaves the Rangers to deliberate if they should wait on Rendon or be more proactive addressing other needs, including more starting pitching. Gibson is just one of at least two starting pitchers the Rangers want to add this winter.

If the Rangers can land Rendon, it may limit what they are able to spend in other areas. If Rendon or Plan B third baseman Josh Donaldson decide to go elsewhere, the Rangers could be more aggressive in adding another starting pitcher.

Before the club heads to the Winter Meetings, here is an outline for where the Rangers stand:

Club needs: Third base and starting pitching are the Rangers' most obvious needs. But they also may look at center field, first base and catcher. The Rangers have Delino DeShields and Danny Santana to play center, Ronald Guzmán at first base and Jeff Mathis and Jose Trevino at catcher. The Rangers have to decide which positions are satisfactory and which ones require more offense.

Guzman is a superb defensive first baseman, but he has yet to reach his perceived offensive potential. The same could be said for DeShields in center. Mathis is solid behind the plate but limited offensively. Trevino showed promise as a rookie last season but counting on him as a No. 1 catcher would require a leap of faith for the Rangers.

Whom might they trade? This remains unresolved. The Rangers have four left-handed hitters for three spots in left field, right and designated hitter. The Rangers could find a spot on the Opening Day roster for Nomar Mazara, Willie Calhoun, Joey Gallo and Shin-Soo Choo but trading one for pitching help would clear up multiple question marks.

Prospects to know: Center fielder Leodys Taveras, the club's No. 5 prospect, will be in big league camp for the first time. He is a premium defensive player but still unknown offensively. So too is infielder Anderson Tejeda (No. 11). The Rangers' pursuit of Rendon belies the fact they have three legitimate third base prospects in Josh Jung, Davis Wendzel and Sherten Apostel. The Rangers will figure that one out if they land Rendon.

Rule 5 Draft: The Rangers are almost always active in the Rule 5 Draft and are showing an increased affinity for hard-throwing relievers. Right-hander Jordan Sheffield, left unprotected by the Dodgers, and Blue Jays right-hander Jackson McClelland could be of interest to any team looking for additional depth for the bullpen.

Payroll summary: The Rangers payroll was approximately $120 million last season. That is going up as they enter Globe Life FIeld. How far the Rangers are willing to go has yet to be determined but there is no doubt with their pursuit of Rendon and the additions of Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles (and potentially others) to the pitching staff, that they are going to have a sizable increase in payroll.

One question: Why are the Rangers prioritizing Rendon over starting pitching?

The Rangers see Rendon as a right-handed bat who can fit in the middle of their order for the next 5-7 years. He would be similar to what Adrian Beltre did during his time in Texas. Rendon’s presence could take some of the pressure off the Rangers' younger hitters. The Rangers need starting pitching but also feel pitchers are more prone to health issues and have a tendency to decline over the course of a long-term contract. The Rangers see Rendon as providing more long-term value for their investment.