Last season the Arizona Diamondbacks went 69-93. The Minnesota Twins went 59-103. The Colorado Rockies went 75-87.
All three teams had worse records in 2016 than the Rangers had in 2017. All three made the post-season as wild cards.
Those three franchises did a lot right over the off-season last year to build playoff contending teams. The Twins with very little money.
So, the big turnaround can be done. And it can be done without spending an arm and a leg. It just takes a head. It takes a great baseball IQ. Time will tell if the Rangers possess the wherewithal to have as dramatic of a turnaround as the Twins, Diamondbacks or Rockies. They certainly have the money.
But there’s only so far a budget can stretch. And since there is no talent waiting in the wings, the Rangers, if they have aspirations to be competitive, are going to have to make some trades. They are going to have to turn a small stack of gold into a huge stack of talent.
The Rangers don’t have a lot of trade chips. Not Rougned Odor anymore. He had one of the worst offensive seasons in years. You’d be selling short. Robinson Chirinos had a fine year, but he’s not that much better than other catchers who would be readily available. DeShields is a possibility, but he probably has more value to the Rangers than to most other teams, mainly because the Rangers don’t value defense.
Do they dare trade Willie Calhoun after they just got him? If they can convert him to a quality pitcher, maybe. Doubtful, though. Choo’s salary and his performance will make him hard to trade for quality unless there’s the eating of some massive salary going on. Elvis Andrus is settling into his career years. His salary is finally palatable with his performance. He could bring in a return, but dealing him would leave an equally crippling hole. Besides, the Rangers need more hitters like him, not fewer. Gallo? I can’t help thinking that the Rangers front office gets stars in their eyes every time he homers. As for trade value, in the year of the home run, the one thing he does well offensively doesn’t hold quite as much value. Lots of guys hit home runs. Heck, Odor hit 30. That will tell you how devalued home runs have become. Beltre would be coveted by many teams. But his legs should be red flag, and his age. And the fact he has just one year left on his contract limits what you’d get in return.
That leaves one player with real potential to be turned into quality pitching, if the front office has the cajones to do it: Nomar Mazara. He is young, has nothing but upside, cheap, is controllable for three more years, and drives in runs. And he’s cheap. Just the kind of player a pitching rich team like Tampa Bay would covet. Plus, the Rangers have a corner outfield backlog in DeShields, Calhoun, Choo and Mazara. It’s a position that’s easy to restock.
It would be a bold trade. But you don’t make the turnaround three of the four wild card teams made not being bold.
As a courtesy to the Rangers front office, below is a chart from MLB.com that shows how the ten post-season teams were built.
Jon Gray (10-4, 3.67) vs. Zack Greinke (17-7, 3.20)
Game time: 7:08 on TBS