Refresher on Rangers' offseason moves, Q's

March 13th, 2022

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers entered this offseason on the heels of their first 100-loss regular season in 48 years and a fifth straight year without making the playoffs. General manager Chris Young and president of baseball operations Jon Daniels then made good on their promise to be active and aggressive in free agency, committing to half a billion dollars in free agent signings before the lockout began.

Texas was one of the busiest clubs prior to the expiration of the CBA, but there’s still work to do in Arlington before Opening Day.

Here’s an update on all the Rangers’ pre-lockout moves and the most pressing questions that the club faces in the coming weeks.

What deals have already gotten done?
The Rangers had one of, if not the most, active free agency periods before the lockout took effect, most notably by signing the middle-infield duo of the future with Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. Texas also added starting pitching depth with Jon Gray and another outfielder with Kole Calhoun.

What are the biggest remaining needs and who might they target to fill these holes?

Though the Rangers upgraded at two important positions, there are still needs all over the field. The most prominent need: pitching, pitching and more pitching. Jon Gray was a notable addition to the young staff, but the rest of the rotation candidates -- Taylor Hearn, Dane Dunning, Glenn Otto, A.J. Alexy and Spencer Howard -- all have two or fewer years in the big leagues.

Texas could target Sonny Gray or Luis Castillo in a trade with the Reds, as reported by MLB Network’s Jon Morosi before the lockout.

Texas also needs another bat, specifically in the outfield. Calhoun and Adolis García will likely split duties in right and center field, but left field is up for grabs. Japanese free agent Seiya Suzuki, 27, is certainly an appealing option. The right-handed-hitting outfielder slashed .317/.433/.636 with 38 home runs, 88 RBIs and a 1.069 OPS in Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan in 2021.

The Rangers have had success signing Japanese players in the past, most notably when they signed Yu Darvish in 2012, but Suzuki will no doubt have a lot of suitors.

Which of the Rangers’ free agents have already signed elsewhere? Might there be a reunion with any of their remaining free agents?

Right-handed starter Jordan Lyles signed with the Orioles ahead of the lockout. Lyles held down the Rangers’ rotation in 2021 as the sole veteran following the Trade Deadline. He posted a 5.15 ERA last season, but ate 180 innings alongside a young and inexperienced pitching staff.

Texas is unlikely to bring back utility infielders Charlie Culberson or Brock Holt following the Seager and Semien deals, and with a plethora of young infielders on the MLB/Triple-A fringe.

Are there any players the club is looking to trade?

Nick Solak now appears blocked by the middle-infield acquisitions. Solak spent most of last season at second base before getting sent down to Triple-A after struggling at the plate. He could also slot in as an extra outfielder, but as a bat-first player without a true defensive home, he doesn’t have much of a place on the roster as it stands right now.

Any combo of the Rangers’ middle-infield prospects could also be dealt in a package. During the offseason, Daniels said No. 6 prospect Josh H. Smith will definitely be in the club’s future plans, but that leaves six other middle infielders in Texas’ Top 30, per MLB Pipeline: Ezequiel Duran, Justin Foscue, Luisangel Acuña, Maximo Acosta, Trevor Hauver and Cameron Cauley.

For those on the cusp or just a couple of years from the big leagues, the road to the Majors just got harder.

What outstanding arbitration cases are on the docket?

After some roster crunching, the Rangers have only three arbitration-eligible players left on the 40-man roster: Hearn, Brett Martin and Willie Calhoun. None are projected to make more than Calhoun at $1.6 million. The outfielder/DH has a lengthy injury history but lasted through the non-tender deadline and will add depth in 2022.

Hearn and Martin, two left-handed pitchers, are both projected to make $1.1 million after significant contributions to the club in 2021.

How many open spots are there on the 40-man roster?

Texas’ 40-man roster is at 39 players after the four free-agent signings and the additions of Duran and right-handers Ronny Henriquez and Ricky Vanasco to the roster. A number of other eligible prospects -- like outfielders Bubba Thompson and Steele Walker, as well as pitchers Jake Latz and Cole Ragans -- were not added to the 40-man. The Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft took place in December, but Texas did not make any selections.

The Rangers did not tender contracts to catchers David Garcia and Yohel Pozo, or outfielder Billy McKinney. Fellow outfielder DJ Peters was outrighted to Triple-A Round Rock before signing with the Lotte Giants of the KBO League.