Once again, I am adding my two cents worth onto T. R. Sullivan’s mailbag from mlb.com. (Which reminds me of the great joke from Steven Wright: If it’s a penny for your thoughts and you put in your two cents worth, then someone, somewhere is making a penny.)
Please hurry up and arrive, season.
Now that we have picked up a third baseman (Asdrubal Cabrera), and technically have a full pitching staff, are the Rangers done picking up Major League-ready talent for 2019?
— John E., Guthrie, Okla
TRS: Absolutely not. The Rangers aren’t even close to finishing off their bullpen and a club could put together a good one just with the free agents that are still left on the market. Left-hander Jake Diekman and right-hander Tony Barnette are on that list. The Rangers could use more depth at just about every position and even in years where they expected to be contenders, they were still signing players well into Spring Training. That will be the case this spring as well.
KS: What T. R. is saying is, yes, the Rangers will sign more players because they don’t have enough relievers yet. But it’s a refreshing, honest assessment of where the Rangers are when he says they are not expected to contend.
What are the biggest storylines heading into Spring Training for the Rangers? And who are you targeting as some interesting players to watch during Spring Training?
— Carlton R., Austin, Texas
TRS: The single biggest story in Spring Training will be the state of their starting rotation and if Edinson Volquez, Drew Smyly and Shelby Miller are each fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and rehabilitation. There are two corollaries. One is it’s almost impossible to believe that the Rangers are done adding starting pitching. Secondly, two interesting players to watch are left-hander Yohander Mendez and right-hander Ariel Jurado. It will be interesting to see what progress they’ve made and if they are close to being fully ready for the Major Leagues. Another storyline is what young pitchers impress in camp and set off the usual premature Spring Training feeding frenzy.
KS: The rotation will only be of interest to see if they are able to make it to June without their arms falling off. This year is all about one more evaluation of the young core that is supposed to be the future of this team. Are they for real? Are they even close to what they are being hyped? What Rangers fans need to fear most is the answer to those questions.
With Joey Gallo seemingly entrenched in left field, how secure is Ronald Guzman over at first base? How long of a leash will he get and is there anyone who could potentially push him for playing time?
— Alex W., Austin, Texas
TRS: The Rangers are going to give Guzman every chance to lock in at first base, but it would still seem likely they will bring in some veteran depth at the position as they have done in the past with James Loney and Ike Davis. A free agent like Mark Reynolds might be what the Rangers target, but Guzman should have a “long leash.
KS: This is the same philosophy that brought us Will Middlebrooks and Kyle Blanks and J. P. Arencibia and Chris Gimenez and Jim Adduci and Carlos Peña and Mike Carp and Brad Snyder and Jeff Baker and those kind of game-changing players.
With the Cabrera signing, do you believe the club will still be looking to add a utility infielder? Or will Cabrera move around with Patrick Wisdom at third while Cabrera fills in for Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor on their days off?
— Jackson O., Harker Heights, Texas
TRS: You are on to something. The addition of Cabrera could be a great thing for Wisdom. Cabrera is the leading candidate to be the Rangers’ third baseman. But if Wisdom has a great spring, Cabrera’s versatility could prove invaluable. It would give him another role if the Rangers feel Wisdom is ready to be the starting third baseman.
KS: Why does the expression, “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” come to mind?
If you had to predict one significant multiyear free-agent signing for the Rangers after the 2019 season, who would that be?
— Greg McDearmon, Louisville, Ky.
TRS: It would be nice if the Rangers felt they were back in position to be more aggressive in the free-agent market.Madison Bumgarner, Chris Sale and Gerrit Cole are the three starting pitchers who right now appear to be at the top of the free-agent market.
KS: It should be Nolan Arenado. It will most likely be Justin Upton.
I just read the Giants are looking to unload Evan Longoria. Any chance he could solve our third-base dilemma? I’m sure the Giants would throw in some money or maybe swap Shin-Soo Choo in a deal.
— Pat Sweeney, Roselle Park, N.J.
TRS: Longoria is signed for four more years at $68.2 million and has run hot and cold offensively for the past five years. Choo is signed for two more years at $42 million and is a productive American League player who doesn’t seem to be a fit for the Giants. There are circumstances in which a club might be willing to take a chance on getting four more years out of Longoria, but right now that doesn’t seem to be the appropriate move for the Rangers.
KS: The Rangers significantly downgraded their offense already with the loss of Beltre and replacing Chirinos with Mathis. Choo is the best offensive player the Rangers have at this point. Trading him for Longoria would weaken the offense even more.