Posted on March 16, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
Despite going through a losing season in 2017, the Texas Rangers chose to reload not rebuild for 2018, albeit on a rather strict budget. Did the Rangers do enough this offseason to become a contending team this season or will it be another disappointing year in Arlington?
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The Rangers saw a great amount of turnover in their starting rotation this offseason, especially after they traded Yu Darvish last summer. Cole Hamels remains the ace of the staff. However, he’s coming off one of his worst seasons in nearly a decade, posting a 4.20 ERA while a trip to the DL limited him to 24 starts. At age 34, there’s no guarantee he can return to being the pitcher he’s been in the past. The other pitcher returning to the Texas rotation is Martin Perez, although he’s a mid-rotation starter at best, despite winning a career-high 13 games last year.
Texas is hoping that acquiring three established starters during the offseason will help improve their rotation, even without Darvish. Trading for Matt Moore was their most notable rotation addition. Moore is coming off the worst season of his career, but he’s still young enough to bounce back and potentially perform like the team’s no. 2 starter behind Hamels. Doug Fister should be a steady presence, although he’s merely a backend starter at this point in his career.
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Finally, the Rangers have two wild cards in Mike Minor and Matt Bush. Minor was exceptional as a reliever last year, but the Rangers are going to give him a chance to be a starter this season. He won 13 games as a starter with the Braves in 2013, but that was a long time ago. Bush, meanwhile, will be given the opportunity to be a starter despite serving as the team’s closer for part of last season. Without a lot of minor league depth, there are still questions about how deep of a rotation the Rangers will have in 2018.
Texas had one of the worst bullpens in the American League last year but did little to address that problem this offseason. Bush could return to the closer’s role if he’s not needed in the rotation. If not, Alex Claudio could return to that role or it could go to former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, who’s attempting a comeback in a relief role.
Outside of the trio of Bush, Claudio, and Lincecum, there’s little to get excited about in the Texas bullpen, and not even Lincecum is a sure thing to be a contributor. Keone Kela had a great year in 2017 but he’s been up and down in his career. Tony Barnette and Jake Diekman may not be reliable either after their struggles last year. If everything comes together, the Rangers could have a middle-of-the-pack bullpen, but that could be their ceiling with the personnel they have.
The Rangers had little trouble scoring runs last season, and that’s likely to be the case again in 2018. The key will be keeping aging veteran Adrian Beltre healthy. He produced at a high rate last season but was limited to just 94 games because of injury. If Beltre can stay healthy, the Rangers will have a strong middle of the order, especially if Rougned Odor can bounce back after a somewhat disappointing campaign in 2017. Despite hitting 30 home runs, Odor’s OPS was just .649.
If the Rangers can get the most out of Beltre and Odor alongside Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus, and Nomar Mazara, they should be in good shape. However, there are still a few unknowns in their lineup. Highly-regarded prospect Willie Calhoun could end up being the team’s primary left fielder. If he’s ready for full-time duty in the big leagues, he can be an impact player for the Rangers. Joey Gallo is another potential x-factor. He slugged 41 home runs last year but only managed to hit .209 while striking out nearly 200 times. The Rangers will also need Delino DeShields to take on a full-time role with Carlos Gomez no longer in the mix.
Even without Darvish, the Rangers may have a better rotation than they did a year ago. But that’s not necessarily going to lead to a better record. Unless Lincecum proves to be a gem coming out of the bullpen, the Rangers have done little to improve that part of their team. As it stands, a power-heavy offense will only carry them so far. Look for the Rangers to finish 80-82, only a marginal improvement from last season, perhaps making them regret not going into full-blown rebuild mode this past winter.