The Major League Baseball offseason has finally picked up this week with the enormous pair of transactions that had Japanese star Shohei Ohtani spurn the Rangers and several other teams in favor of signing with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the New York Yankees doing Yankee things in trading for reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins.
Meanwhile, the Rangers have had a little less exciting of an offseason so far. They’ve added two pitchers in Mike Minor and Doug Fister whose roles and level of contribution to the team in 2018 are debatable at best. The general feeling is that the organization has a little bit of money to spend in free agency to possibly improve their rotation even more or on a new center fielder, but the likelihood of Texas splurging to bring back star pitcher Yu Darvish or former All-Star Jake Arrieta is slim-to-none. As it should be, because the Rangers should opt to fill multiple holes with their limited funds instead of using all of their resources on one player.
There are a lot of reasons for pessimism among Rangers fans. The team went a lackluster 78-84 in 2017 following two consecutive division titles. They were sellers at the trade deadline and that included trading possibly the most talented pitcher the franchise has ever had (Darvish). They’re in the same division as the World Champion Houston Astros who could conceivably be around for forever with their young talent and the Angels fresh off adding Ohtani. Not to mention, the team that took the Astros to a game seven in the American League Championship Series back in October, the Yankees, just traded for possibly the best slugger in baseball in Stanton when they already had a Rookie of the Year (Aaron Judge) who hit 50+ homers himself.
So the Rangers have taken a step back and a lot of their main competition has taken steps forward. Some think the team needs to tear it all apart. Check out a respected local media member voicing his opinion on the trade and how the Rangers should react.
Also, I'm so down to see Adrian Beltre get himself some jewelry with the Yankees
— Saad Yousuf (@SaadYousuf126) December 9, 2017
Also note my reaction…
— Dylan Duell (@DylanDuell) December 9, 2017
In this day and age of every Twitter-scrolling fan talking about “tanking” and trying to #TrustTheProcess, it’s all about just blowing it up and losing it as many games as possible, because that’s how champions build their teams. Frankly, it’s a ridiculous notion that has not worked FAR more than it ever has worked, and it’s not what the Rangers need to do.
Obviously, the Rangers have some work to do in their starting rotation and their farm system is a bit depleted after nearly a decade of being in “win-now” mode when it came to giving up assets via trade, but they’re not as far off from being back in contention as people seem to think.
This rings especially true because they play baseball. That may seem like a very silly, basic statement but it holds a lot of weight if you think about it. More than in any other sport, ANY team can beat anyone on any given day in baseball and it wouldn’t be surprising. It’s not about being the best team with the best record in the regular season, it’s about getting hot at the right time and your stars stepping up big. By comparison, the best teams in basketball are still leagues better than their early round playoff opponents and can survive struggles by their star players. Every year, there’s always a team that comes out of nowhere and is proclaimed “That (expletive) team” as Mike Rhyner of Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket likes to say.
Another reason for the Rangers fans to not be so down on the team is because they already lean on youth more than most probably think. They think of 38-year-old Adrian Beltre and build a perception the team is built around 30-something-year-old veterans who are on the tail end of their career. There are a few of those, for sure, but for every 35-year-old Shin-Soo Choo or 33-year-old Cole Hamels that the team leans on, there’s a 24-year-old Joey Gallo, 22-year-old Nomar Mazara and a 25-year-old Alex Claudio that are still growing as players and might be a few seasons from being the best versions of themselves. Those young players still have several years of team control under very, very affordable salaries that will allow the team to allocate resources to improving via free agency and adding to the team’s already competitive payroll. They’re also major contributors to the team as everyday players.
It would take years for the Rangers to build a team as talented as what the Astros have right now, but it shouldn’t be about matching that. They need to just build the best team they can and be ready to pounce if an opportunity to snag the division arises if the Astros have a bad season of injuries or lose a vital piece or two in free agency (which is inevitable, it’s just a matter of who it will be). Championship/contention windows are always a lot smaller than people realize. It’s very rare that the team fans think will be set to contend for years and years to come actually stays together and strings together a dynasty in the modern free agency era of professional sports.
No one is trying to make the argument that the Rangers should be favored to win the World Series or even their own division next season, but they’re close to enough to continue having the mindset to “go for it” instead of the tear-it-down mentality. With a new stadium coming in 2020 and just being a season removed from winning 95 games, this team and its fanbase should still be optimistic about the franchise’s near future. It begins this week with the very important Winter Meetings in Orlando, Florida.
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