ARLINGTON -- After finishing 2020 with an American League-worst 22-38 record, the Rangers are in a rebuilding mode, marked by the organization’s total commitment to its core of young players.
Everything Texas does this winter will be based on how it impacts its driving philosophy of building around the foundation established this past season. The Rangers will investigate the free-agent market, but they will not sign anybody who has the potential to stand in the way of a young player.
“This season is ultimately going to be marked by us moving into a youth movement,” said Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels. “Everything we do moving forward is going to revolve around that. Our winter additions are going to look to fit into the roster we are putting together and also fit into the development-minded culture we need to have.”
What the Rangers need to do -- especially with their starting rotation -- is add veteran players who can fill roles until their young prospects are ready contribute regularly at the Major League level.
Texas must be judicious in how it develops its young players and puts them in position to succeed.
The Rangers hit 27 home runs in 30 games at Globe Life Field. The Dodgers and Braves combined for 25 homers over seven games in the National League Championship Series at the ballpark. The Dodgers and Rays combined for 21 homers in six games during the World Series, which was also held there.
The idea that Texas lacked power this past season because of Globe Life Field was decisively refuted during the postseason. In other words, it may have been the Rangers' offense, not the new ballpark.
Texas entered the offseason with three spots where it could add offensive help: designated hitter, first base and left field.
The Rangers acquired Nate Lowe from the Rays to take over for Ronald Guzmán at first base. Lowe, 25, made his Major League debut with the Rays in 2019 after entering the season as the No. 8 prospect in their system, according to MLB Pipeline. He has played in 71 games for the Rays the past two seasons, hitting .251/.322/.447 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs in 245 plate appearances.
Guzmán, has hit .230/.308/.417 with 30 home runs in 721 at-bats over the past three seasons. He's been perceived to be Texas' first baseman of the future for the past three years, but he has yet to seize the job. He is now 26 years old and will be out of options next season.
Third base, left field, second base
The Rangers are moving Isiah Kiner-Falefa to shortstop, the first of several moves that will identify several key spots in the lineup.
• Kiner-Falefa won a Gold Glove at third base, but that position is now open. Elvis Andrus, who is being switched to a utility role, could see the majority of time at third, or the Rangers could fill the spot through free agency.
• Left field is slated for David Dahl, who signed as a free agent after being non-tendered by Colorado this offseason. But he is coming off shoulder surgery and will need to prove he is healthy in Spring Training. Willie Calhoun has the offensive potential, but the Rangers need to see him play better defensively. Eli White has outstanding defensive skills but is unproven offensively.
The Rangers took a step toward addressing a big need by signing Japanese right-hander Kohei Arihara to a two-year contract. He joins right-handers Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles at the top of the rotation. Their importance to the Rangers is magnified after right-hander Lance Lynn was traded to the White Sox.
There are also plenty of reasons -- lack of innings, experience, success, health -- why it could be unwise to go into Spring Training without at least one or two proven veterans in case the young arms aren’t ready. That’s why Arihara was a crucial signing.
The Rangers added some catching depth by agreeing to a one-year deal with veteran backstop Drew Butera and pitching depth by signing right-hander Justin Anderson to a two-year contract. Both are Minor League deals with an invitation to Spring Training.
Jan. 6: RHP Art Warren dealt to Reds
An Ohio native with Cincinnati ties, right-handed pitcher Art Warren was traded to the Reds in exchange for cash considerations.
The Rangers completed their December deal with the Rays by acquiring Minor League outfielder Carl Chester as the player to be named in the Nate Lowe trade and also signed right-handed pitcher Drew Anderson to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League camp.
Veteran Charlie Culberson, outfielder Elier Hernandez, right-handed pitchers Tim Dillard, Jesus Linarez and Collin Wiles and left-hander Sal Mendez were signed to Minor League contracts. Culberson is the only one of the six who has been invited to big league camp.
Arihara agreed to a two-year, $6.2 million contract to join the Rangers' starting rotation. He threw 132 2/3 innings for the the Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan this past season, and the Rangers were attracted by his potential durability -- an attractive asset given the number of unproven young pitchers who could be in their rotation next season.
Dahl, 26, became a free agent when the Rockies did not offer him a contract at the Dec. 2 non-tender deadline. He agreed to a one-year deal, but with just three-plus years of service time, Dahl is under club control for three more seasons. That’s why the Rangers see him possibly being part of their long-term building program rather than just a one-year stopgap.
In a rebuilding move, the Rangers dealt Montero to Seattle for right-hander José Corniell and a player to be named. Corniell, 17, is ranked by MLB Pipeline as Texas' 28th-best prospect. Montero had eight saves this year after taking over for José Leclerc as the closer. The Rangers expect Leclerc to return to the closer’s role next season.
de Geus was dominant in Class A and the Arizona Fall League as a reliever and will come to camp with a chance to win a spot in the Rangers' bullpen.
Dec. 10: 1B Nate Lowe acquired from Rays
The Rangers also acquired Minor League first baseman Jake Guenther and a player to be named later for three low-level prospects. Lowe becomes the leading candidate to be the Rangers' first baseman ahead of Ronald Guzmán but will still have to seize the job in Spring Training.
Dunning made seven starts for the White Sox in 2020 and was 2-0 with a 3.97 ERA. He will go to Spring Training as a candidate for the Rangers' rotation. Weems was a sixth-round pick out of the University of Arizona who did not pitch this past season.
Joe Gatto, who has not pitched above Double-A, signed a Major League deal and will compete for a spot in the bullpen. Scott Heineman, who was non-tendered by Texas one day prior (along with utility man Danny Santana and right-hander Jimmy Herget), played in 49 games for the Rangers over the past two seasons, hitting .189/.259/.331. He will compete for a spot in the outfield in Spring Training.
Garcia is a candidate to be a No. 2 catcher on the Rangers' roster next season. He missed all of 2020 after undergoing right hip surgery.
The moves protect all three from the Rule 5 Draft, though they are not expected to compete for a spot on the big league club in Spring Training.
The Rangers declined to pick up an $18 million option on the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner. Texas has expressed interest in re-signing him to a lesser contract.
Mathis was the bullpen coach last season, while Sagara helped oversee the alternate training site. They will share the pitching-coach duties.
Oct. 21: RHP Art Warren claimed off waivers
Warren pitched in six games for the Mariners in 2019, and was at their alternate training site this past summer.