Rangers' 'unsung hero' returns for repeat quest

February 4th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry’s Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ARLINGTON -- If there’s one thing that realized this offseason, it’s that you can’t put a price on happiness and being comfortable in your environment.

So as he entered free agency this offseason, he made it known to his agent that he wanted to reunite with the Rangers. That should be the priority over the other teams. And despite the fact that the speedy outfielder had multiyear deal offers from other teams, he opted to take a one-year, $1.7 million deal to return to Texas for the 2024 season.

Jankowski figures to enter 2024 in the same role he ended ‘23 in: a versatile fourth outfielder.

“Obviously you want to play every day, right? It's your ambition to play every day,” he said. “But to me, winning is more important. I believe in this team, I believe in what this team is about, and if that's being a fourth or fifth outfielder on a winning team, I'll take that 100% of the time. Last year, it was a joy to come to the field every day. I've been on teams where it's not like that. You can't put a price on that.

“You can’t put playing time on that. I will go out and I will make it my best effort to be the best fourth or fifth outfielder in this game. That's my goal. There's things that you just value a little bit more than maybe playing time or future paychecks. It's a really, really good group to be around and I'm excited to be here.”

In his debut season with the Rangers, Jankowski had one of the better years of his nine-year big league career. Even though he was signed to a Minor League deal last Spring Training, he broke camp with the big league club and made the most of the opportunity.

Jankowski hit .263 with a .357 on-base percentage in 107 games for the Rangers last season. His biggest contribution ultimately came when he went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in Game 4 of the World Series after he replaced an injured Adolis García in the starting lineup.

“He's a manager's dream to be honest,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. "He is a guy who gives a lot of flexibility and versatility. When you want him to give a guy a day off, he's gonna give you a quality start and also gives you a different type of look, with the speed and the defense. He finds ways to get on base, can steal a bag for you. He's a good teammate too. Those guys are invaluable in a team. They're kind of the unsung heroes when you look back at the season.”

Jankowski parroted that praise right back to his manager, pointing to Bochy as one of the big reasons for his return to Texas.

Travis Jankowski and Bruce Bochy talk at Spring Training in 2023. (Photo: AP)

“Boch sees us as humans, you know, in a game that's becoming very analytical,” Jankowski said. “I don't want to say [he] blows analytics off. I'm sure he listens to analytics ... but he understands that we're humans with emotions and we go through ups and downs throughout a season.

“When you have a manager that looks at you as a human being and not a stat line or not an analytic, it really makes you want to go out and win for him. He's just a heck of a guy and he knows this game.”