The Rangers' 5 biggest offseason questions
ARLINGTON -- Here are the five most pressing questions facing the Rangers this offseason:
1) What is the Rangers biggest need this offseason?
Offense. The Rangers had the lowest team batting average (.217), on-base percentage (.285), slugging percentage (.364) and runs scored (224) in the American League. They need a No. 3 hitter. Their No. 3 hitters combined to hit .145/.206/.225. Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Nick Solak were not ready to hit in the three-hole in the lineup this season, but even veteran Todd Frazier struggled mightily in that spot compared to other places he hit in the lineup.
2) Which players are most likely to be in the starting lineup next season?
Rangers general manger Jon Daniels said last week that nobody is guaranteed a spot next season. So let’s go from most likely to least likely
- RF Joey Gallo -- Unless the Rangers are able to make a blockbuster deal that wasn’t there ahead of the Aug. 31 Trade Deadline, he will be in right field.
- 3B Isiah Kiner-Falefa -- He is a premium defensive third baseman, but it's still to be determined if he will hit enough for a regular spot. Shortstop remains an option if the Rangers elect to push aside Elvis Andrus.
- C Jose Trevino -- Sam Huff was the flavor of the month for September, but Trevino earned that recognition in August when Robinson Chirinos was traded to the Mets on Aug. 31. Trevino is further along than Huff and will get the first shot.
- LF Nick Solak -- He should be in the lineup somewhere. Second base is a strong possibility if the Rangers decide to move on from Rougned Odor. Left field could be the spot unless the Rangers deem it necessary to find a power bat for that spot.
- CF Leody Taveras -- The Rangers love Taveras' speed and defense, but the bat is a work in progress. It'd be nice if he could work on it at the bottom of the lineup rather than the top.
- SS Elvis Andrus -- Anderson Tejeda may be the Rangers' shortstop of the future, but now may not be the time. Andrus, under contract through 2022, allows the Rangers to give Tejeda more time in the Minor Leagues.
- DH Willie Calhoun -- The guy deserves a break, but the baseball gods have never been known for fairness.
- 2B Rougned Odor -- When was the last time a player who led his team in RBIs two years in a row was in such danger of losing his job?
- 1B Ronald Guzmán -- He is out of Minor League options. He can play defense, but the Rangers need offense at this position -- a lot of offense.
3) Who is most likely to be in the rotation next season?
Again, let’s start at the top and work our way down.
- RH Kyle Gibson -- He has two years left on his contract, his long-term track record suggests he should be better and the Rangers desperately need a pitcher to eat innings.
- RH Lance Lynn -- He is one of the best pitchers in the American League and is a true team leader. He is 33 years old and will become a free agent after the 2021 season. There are compelling reasons to keep him and/or extend him and equal justification to seek the trade that eluded the Rangers ahead of the Deadline.
- LH Wes Benjamin -- The Rangers figure to give him a real chance in Spring Training.
- RH Jordan Lyles -- One spot in the rotation is his to lose. Another 7.02 ERA season will definitely lose it.
- RH Corey Kluber -- The Rangers won't pick up his $18 million option for 2021, but they will try to re-sign him to a more economical contract.
- LH Kolby Allard -- The Rangers won two AL pennants in 2010-11 partly because C.J. Wilson had the self-confidence, unswerving motivation and sheer determination to will himself into an excellent Major League pitcher. Can anybody introduce Allard to Wilson?
- RH Jerad Eickhoff -- He can fill a spot in the rotation until the younger pitchers build the necessary innings, durability and experience in the Minor Leagues.
- RH Kyle Cody -- He would be at the top of the list, except he missed two seasons while recovering from surgery and he pitched just 22 innings. The best thing that could happen to the Rangers next season would be Cody, Taylor Hearn, Joe Palumbo, John King, Jason Bahr and Tyler Phillips pitching Triple-A Nashville to the Pacific Coast League title, and Cole Winn, Hans Crouse, Alex Speas and A.J. Alexy doing so for Double-A Frisco in the Texas League.
4) What will happen at closer?
Rafael Montero took the job after José Leclerc went down with a torn muscle in the back of his right shoulder. Leclerc should be ready to go in Spring Training, but the Rangers will consider putting him together with right-hander Jonathan Hernandez and left-hander Joely Rodríguez to form a formidable setup squad in front of Montero. Add young right-handers Jimmy Herget, Demarcus Evans and Ian Gibaut and left-hander Brett Martin, and the Rangers have the makings of a dominant bullpen next season.
5) When will be the Rangers be serious contenders again?
Probably 2023. By then, the Rangers current batch of young position players will be proven Major Leaguers and will be reinforced by infielders Sherten Apostel, Josh Jung, Davis Wendzel and Justin Foscue, and outfielders Steele Walker, Bayron Lora and Bubba Thompson. In addition, their young pitchers should have made up for lost time and be ready to let it loose in the big leagues. At that point, the Rangers could start getting aggressive again in the free-agent market.