ARLINGTON -- The Rangers figure to be one of the most active clubs on both the trade and free agent markets this offseason, and MLB’s annual Winter Meetings could be the perfect time for deals to be made.
Texas has made a couple moves already, as Bruce Bochy’s big league coaching staff came together, and the dominoes should continue to fall across the league in the coming weeks. The Rangers started their offseason by re-signing Martín Pérez on a qualifying offer and trading for Jake Odorizzi, but they still have a number of needs that need to be addressed before the start of Spring Training.
Here’s everything you need to know heading into the Winter Meetings, which begin Sunday.
• Sunday, Dec. 4: HOF Contemporary Era Ballot results released (Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling)
• Monday, Dec. 5: All-MLB Team announced
• Tuesday, Dec. 6: Inaugural Draft Lottery, AL/NL Relievers of Year announced
• Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rule 5 Draft
Even after re-signing Martín Pérez and trading for Jake Odorizzi, the Rangers’ most prominent need still stands in high-end starting pitching and depth in the rotation. As it stands, Gray joins Pérez and Odorizzi in the rotation, while young starters Dane Dunning, Glenn Otto and Cole Ragans look to battle it out for the final two spots. That’s a serviceable rotation, but not at all what the Rangers would like to have in order to be truly competitive across a full 162 games.
Potential trade candidates
The Rangers are expected to explore the trade market thoroughly this offseason, and the club’s biggest asset may be its prospect depth. With Corey Seager and Marcus Semien holding down the middle of the infield for the foreseeable future, prospects at those positions are more than likely on the trade block, including young big leaguers Josh Smith and Ezequiel Duran, both of whom just completed their rookie seasons. Other middle-infield Top 30 prospects include Justin Foscue (No. 5), Luisangel Acuña (No. 7), Maximo Acosta (No. 18),Thomas Saggese (No. 19) and Jonathan Ornelas (No. 21).
Catcher depth is always important, but the Rangers also have three backstops that they believe to be quality big leaguers in Mitch Garver, Jonah Heim and Sam Huff. Garver is expected to be fully healthy for a starting role in 2023 after flexor tendon surgery halted his season in mid-July. In his absence, Heim and Huff held it down, but neither had the pop at the plate that Garver provides. All three are useful for Texas at this point, but it wouldn’t be surprising if one wasn’t a Ranger come Opening Day.
Prospects to know
Minor League pitching development continues to be a point of emphasis for the front office, and the next wave of pitching prospects will be key for the future of the club. In 2023, Jack Leiter (MLB No. 45, Texas No. 2), Owen White (MLB No. 59, Texas No. 4) and Cole Winn (Texas No. 10) are all expected to play their way onto the big league roster.
White and Winn were both added to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 Draft, while Leiter pitched to a 5.54 ERA with Double-A Frisco this season in his professional debut. Winn spent all of 2022 with Triple-A Round Rock, while White finished off his season in Frisco with Leiter.
Rule 5 Draft
The Rangers added six eligible players to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 Draft, including MLB Pipeline Top 100 prospect Owen White. A number of other eligible prospects were left unprotected, but the biggest names include Top 30 pitchers Antoine Kelly (No. 13), Avery Weems (No. 23) Mason Englert (No. 29).
The Rangers have been relatively active in the Rule 5 Draft in the last 10 years or so -- including picking up Delino DeShields in 2014 -- but this is the first time general manager Chris Young will handle it on his own, so it will be interesting to watch. If Texas does make a selection, expect bullpen depth to be the main target.
Can the Rangers truly turn into contenders this offseason?
After the big spending week of December 2022, the Rangers' front office worked to temper expectations. Then-president of baseball operations Jon Daniels said -- multiple times -- that they didn’t expect to go from worst to first in one offseason. But the intentions have been clear at this point. Young has the reins and wants to build a contender in Arlington, with last winter’s acquisitions of Seager, Semien and Gray just the starting point. And truth be told, Bochy didn’t return to a big league dugout for an extended rebuild project. Now is the time for the Rangers to go full throttle. Can they accomplish that?