During his year-end press conference, Rangers GM Chris Young told Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News that team owner Ray Davis, who Young described as “frustrated,” had committed to increasing the team’s payroll this offseason, with the goal of improving the team’s pitching staff. Grant also notes that Davis may want to see another bat added to the lineup as well.
The Rangers 2022 payroll clocked in at over $142M, an increase over 2021 of roughly $48M. For 2023, Texas has about $85M committed in payroll, though this does not include arbitration-eligible players such as Mitch Garver. Still, this should leave the Rangers with over $50M available even before factoring in any increases in payroll, allowing the team plenty of flexibility when searching for additions this offseason.
The Rangers will need every additional resource they can get if they want to compete in 2023. The team lost 94 games in 2022 even after making a major splash in free agency this past offseason by adding both Marcus Semien and Corey Seager to their infield. While Texas committed significant dollars to that duo, their other additions were far less impactful, with Kole Calhoun struggling mightily in 125 games this season, Garver missing most of the year with forearm issues, and their big pitching acquisition, Jon Gray, pitching to an ERA+ of just 99. Martin Perez was a revelation this season, but the Rangers will have to re-sign him this offseason for that to matter for them in 2023, and Young says the team expects to meet with Perez’s agents next week.
Also on the docket for the Rangers next week is a continuation of their managerial search. While the Rangers have already interviewed interim manager Tony Beasley, Young said they would begin interviewing external candidates next week. While Young did not specify any names, he did speak highly of former Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who he played under with the Padres in 2006. Bochy, who won the 2010, 2012, and 2014 World Series with San Francisco, would provide the Rangers with a more experienced manager as they move on from Chris Woodward, who had no managerial experience prior to his stint with Texas, which began in 2019. In addition to Woodward, president of baseball operations Jon Daniels was fired earlier this season, though it is unclear if the Rangers will look to add another GM to their front office to assist Young.
It’s no surprise that improving the team’s pitching is a priority for Young this offseason, as the starting rotation in Texas was a disaster in 2022. Of the nine players to start more than two games for the Rangers this season, just two of them had a season better than league average by ERA+: Perez and Matt Bush. Bush was traded to the Brewers at the trade deadline in exchange for Mark Mathias and Antoine Kelly. As previously mentioned, Perez is a pending free agent, leaving the Rangers with no players under contract for the rotation next year who had a better than average season in 2022. Gray can still be counted on as a member of the rotation, and the Rangers are likely to allow youngsters Dane Dunning, Spencer Howard, and Glenn Otto compete for the final spot in the rotation. That still leaves 3 spots in the rotation vacant, however, so they’ll need to make multiple additions even if they re-sign Perez.
Both Clayton Kershaw and Jacob deGrom are expected to hit the free agent market this offseason, and have been rumored previously to have interest in playing in Texas. While the Rangers certainly have the payroll space available to acquire one of them, it’s an open question whether either ace would want to move from a club already contending for a championship to a much more uncertain situation with the Rangers. Looking down the market at less flashy options, Chris Bassitt, Jose Quintana, Tyler Anderson, and Nathan Eovaldi are among the mid-rotation options who clubs have counted on to start playoff games in the past. While an ideal offseason would surely involve signing an ace, even the acquisition of a pair of solid, playoff-caliber mid-rotation starters to pair with a re-signed Perez would represent a substantial improvement in the rotation for Texas.
While the Rangers offense is not as desperate for an overhaul as the rotation, there’s still clear room for improvement. The infield is largely in good shape, with Seager, Semien, and Nathaniel Lowe all capable of all star caliber production and top prospect Josh Jung having made his MLB debut this season. Behind the plate, the Rangers are also likely set, with some combination of Garver, Jonah Heim, and Sam Huff likely to handle the catcher position next year. The outfield, however, is in desperate need of improvement. While Adolis Garcia has proven himself to be a quality regular and Leody Taveras has looked acceptable in 99 games this season, the Rangers have little else in the way of outfield help currently on the roster.
Outside of a surprise bid for the services of Aaron Judge, Brandon Nimmo represents the top of the outfield market for Texas. That being said, Nimmo will likely receive a great deal of interest due to the lack of quality two-way center field options available, so the Rangers may need to explore other options. Andrew Benintendi, Joc Pederson, and Mitch Haniger are among the quality regulars available on the free agent market this offseason. The Rangers could also explore the trade market, where Ian Happ, Ramon Laureano, and Bryan Reynolds are among those who could be made available this offseason.
Another potential solution in the outfield could be a reunion with Joey Gallo. Gallo struggled mightily after the Rangers traded him at last year’s deadline, posting an 84 OPS+ in 184 games between the Yankees and the Dodgers since the trade. Gallo has had great success with the Rangers in the past, however, earning all star appearances in both 2019 and 2021. Prior to being traded, Gallo spoke very highly of the Rangers and indicated he would like to stay in town long term. With the Rangers in desperate need of outfield help, and Gallo looking for a comfortable place to bounce back this offseason, a reunion could make a great deal of sense for both sides.