Sam Huff and Yonny Hernandez took batting practice on the back fields and recent 40-man roster addition Ricky Vanasco threw a bullpen session. In the coming days, the Rangers will welcome the rest of the big league roster, including big-name newcomers Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, following the conclusion of the MLB lockout.
“I think that the day before the lockout was one of the most exciting days, outside of any on-field success or playoffs, that I've been part of with the Rangers,” president of baseball operations Jon Daniels said. “The buzz in the Metroplex, the energy amongst our fans in Arlington was palpable, and then it was cut off. Today is a chance to continue to obviously build on it.”
Daniels, general manager Chris Young and manager Chris Woodward all met with the media on Friday morning at the Rangers' Surprise complex to evaluate the club’s pre-lockout moves and where they hope to go from there.
The Rangers are looking to pick up where they left off after December’s pre-lockout free agency frenzy. In the days before the sport shut down, the club spent half a billion dollars on four free agents: shortstop Seager, second baseman Semien, outfielder Kole Calhoun and right-hander Gray.
The two biggest needs: pitching and a corner outfielder.
“I think as we assess the roster, those are the two biggest needs we would like to continue to address,” Young said. “We're just evaluating the market right now and having preliminary conversations and seeing where those lead, but I think those are probably the two biggest areas.”
Dallas-area native Clayton Kershaw is still at the top of the Rangers’ list of pitching targets, though the club is also expected to explore the trade market for starting pitchers.
And though top hitting prospect Josh Jung will not make the Opening Day roster due to a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder, the Rangers are confident in Isiah Kiner-Falefa to hold down the position and return to compete for a Gold Glove. Woodward said he called Kiner-Falefa immediately after the lockout was over to discuss the situation.
Daniels emphasized that Rangers owner Ray Davis is committed to giving the club the resources it needs to succeed, and the parameters for free-agent spending remain similar to the pre-lockout moves.
“It evolved over the winter, but with the four additions beforehand, I think we did most of our heavy lifting at that point,” Daniels said. “We obviously still have some areas on the roster that we want to upgrade, and what those ultimately look like will depend on what the market is and the acquisition cost.”
With the expanded 12-team playoffs coming together as part of the new CBA, the Rangers’ upgraded roster now has an increased chance of making it to the postseason for the first time since 2016.
And while Young said the playoff expansion won’t change how the front office operates leading up to the season, there are no limitations on how far the team will go.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs and to win the division independent of how many teams or how many opportunities there are,” Young said. “I think that one of our main goals for this season is that we take the field expecting to win every single day and I think we have the right players in that clubhouse to do that.
“Certainly we're not a complete roster yet. I don't think we feel like we're a championship team yet. Jumping from 60 wins to 100 wins is probably unrealistic, but with what the playoffs look like, we're not ruling anything out.”