5 questions facing Rangers in 2021

December 31st, 2020

Here are five questions surrounding the Rangers and how manager Chris Woodward has assessed the issues at this point in the offseason.

Do the Rangers need to find another third baseman, or can Elvis Andrus win that job?

Where it stands: Andrus has been the Rangers' starting shortstop for 11 years. Now Texas is committed to moving Isiah Kiner-Falefa from third to shortstop. That means Andrus would seem to be the leading candidate to play third, but the Rangers are concerned about his decline in offensive production the past few years. They could still acquire another third-base candidate.

Woodward: “I love competition. I don’t think we need to, but I would be open. I think Elvis will transition pretty nicely to that position. He is super calm. On the defensive side, I don’t think any plays will rattle him. He’s used to it.

“I want him to have the mentality of having to win that job. It drives him to prove things. He’s not old, but there has been some decline in his play and I want him to tick back up. And he wants that. He wants to prove he’s still a really good player in this league.”

What is going to happen to Rougned Odor?

Where it stands: Odor has been the Rangers' second baseman for the past six seasons, but there is a good chance he could get pushed aside by Nick Solak. Texas is going to give Solak a chance to be the everyday second baseman, but unlike Kiner-Falefa, he still must earn the job in Spring Training.

Woodward: "Rougned is in a little more competition with Solak. I want Solak to focus on second base. I want to see what he can do and how it looks. I think his best place is second base. Obviously, Rougned has to earn his playing time. He hasn’t been as consistent the past few years. I want him consistent on both sides of the ball. He’s got a lot of power, he gets big hits for us, but the consistency hasn’t been there.”

Does Ronald Guzmán still have a chance to win the first-base job?

Where it stands: The Rangers acquired Nate Lowe from the Rays with the intention of him being the starting first baseman. Guzmán has had that chance the past three years, but he has not been able to seize the job.

Woodward: “Obviously, we were excited to get Nate Lowe. What you want as an organization, to have a bunch of really good players that they can battle it out and compete. Guzie has had some ups and downs the last couple of years. I hope he comes in ready to go, he's playing winter ball right now and doing pretty well there. I'm not saying he's going to push away Nate Lowe. There's a way we can get both of them in there if they are both performing at a really high level."

How will the Rangers fill out a rotation with so many candidates coming off injury or not having pitched many innings over the past 1-2 years?

Where it stands: The Rangers, after trading Lance Lynn to the White Sox, have right-handers Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles at the head of the rotation. After that, they have much to choose from, but they have to be careful how they handle their talented young arms.

Left-handers Wes Benjamin and Kolby Allard and right-handers Dane Dunning and Kyle Cody are leading candidates. Lefties Joe Palumbo and Brock Burke are coming back from injury. Taylor Hearn could be brought out of the bullpen.

Woodward: “With Hearn, we would like to build him up and see what it looks like. Jonathan Hernández, we would like to see him in that bullpen role, 2-3 innings at the most. We have some guys who can fill some innings, but we are going to have to be creative in how we use these guys.

“All those guys are not going to be 1-2 inning guys. We are going to build them up in Spring Training as if they were going to head into the season as starters. Their role on the team will be how we see fit. But I would like for all of them to prepare to earn a spot in the rotation.”

What are the Rangers going to get out of Willie Calhoun, and where will he play?

Where it stands: Calhoun was supposed to be the Rangers' starting left fielder this past season, but he suffered a fractured jaw in Spring Training and then missed almost a month of the regular season with a strained left hamstring. With David Dahl signed to play left, Calhoun’s best chance to be in the lineup will be at designated hitter. But he hit just .190/.231/.260 this past season.

Woodward: “I have challenged Willie on that. He is in a much better mindset than this [season]. This was a tough year for him. He had to grow a lot, he had to mature a lot. There were a lot of things he had to handle, internally and externally. I have challenged him on that. I know he can hit. He is working on his swing. He is trying to figure that out.

“I challenged him: ‘You have to be a better athlete to play both sides of the ball, come in and prove [you’re] not a liability in left field.’ He has to be an average left fielder. He is on board, he doesn’t want to be a DH, but at this point, if he doesn’t play the position well, that’s unfortunately what he’ll be relegated to.”