The Texas Rangers continued their busy offseason on Tuesday night, striking a two-year deal with right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to further flesh out their rotation. The Rangers have now signed, re-signed, or traded for five veteran starters this winter: Eovaldi, Jacob deGrom, Martín Pérez, Andrew Heaney, and Jake Odorizzi. (Jon Gray, a free-agent addition last winter, remains in place.)
The Rangers are now certain to turn their attention to improving their lineup, specifically upgrading in left field and/or at designated hitter.
At present, Roster Resource projects them to trot out a starting nine that includes Josh H. Smith in left and Brad Miller at DH. That, as the kids imitating former manager Joe Girardi like to say, isn't what you want. Smith is a converted middle infielder best known for his contact chops and defensive ability; Miller, long a reliable lefty bat, had a rough first year in Texas.
The free-agent market has been picked over, with just five top-50 hitters remaining: infielders Jean Segura and Evan Longoria, first baseman Trey Mancini, and outfielders Jurickson Profar and David Peralta. (There are some other notable names out there: Bruce Bochy's old San Francisco pal Brandon Belt, Luke Voit, and Andrew McCutchen among them.) The Rangers, though, don't have to turn to free agency. They can scour the trade market, possibly gaining a bat by leveraging a surprising amount of rotation depth.
All the Rangers' moving and shaking this winter has displaced several notable pitchers. Odorizzi and Taylor Hearn, who started 24 games for the Rangers over the last two seasons, are both slated to open the year in the bullpen. Meanwhile, the team could send an assortment of youngsters to the minors, including Glenn Otto, Cole Ragans, and Spencer Howard. Those three combined to throw 44 games for the Rangers in 2022, albeit to varying successes.
That's without mentioning Dane Dunning, who will miss significant time following hip surgery, or the assortment of previously well-regarded prospects on Texas' farm. Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker were top-five picks the last two summers, while Cole Winn (15th) and Owen White (55th) were top picks in 2018. Those pitchers, specifically Leiter and Winn, had rough 2022 campaigns. Rocker, meanwhile, has barely pitched since the 2021 amateur draft.
So, the Rangers should have options available to them. Just who might they target? Let's take a look at five possible answers. (Do note this piece, much like a psychic reading in New Jersey, is for entertainment purposes only.)
Where else would we start? Bryan Reynolds has become the belle of the offseason rumor mill since requesting a trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Reynolds, a switch-hitting center fielder (he won't play there for his next team) with a career 127 OPS+, has three seasons of team control remaining. The Pirates are said to be seeking a Juan Soto-like return, one that reportedly includes a top starting pitching prospect. It's unclear if the Pirates regard any of the Rangers' arms as being on that tier. We'd note that while the Pirates passed on both Leiter and Rocker to take Henry Davis No. 1 in 2021, their draft board was shaped by their portfolio approach. Besides, evaluations are like water: they're constantly changing. Unfortunately, both pitchers have since lost luster.
It may be anyone's guess as to how the Pirates view the Rangers' collection of young arms, but we have cold, hard evidence that the Minnesota Twins like some of what the Rangers have cooking. To wit, the Twins obtained toy cannon Ronny Henríquez in the Mitch Garver trade last spring, and recently picked up Seth Nordlin in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. The Twins have an ample amount of outfielders, making Max Kepler (and his $8.5 million salary in '23) expendable. Kepler doesn't have the flashiest profile, but he's a good defender who has steadily hit for a 90 OPS+ or better since breaking into The Show. He also comes with a 2024 option that would pay him $10 million.
Sticking in the AL Central, the Rangers could ring the Detroit Tigers about Austin Meadows' availability. He's just a year removed from receiving downballot Most Valuable Player Award consideration. You can be forgiven if it feels like more time has passed than that. Meadows was limited to 36 games last season because of injury and mental health concerns. The Rangers are believed to have discussed Meadows in the past, when he was a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. He has a career 122 OPS+ and he has two seasons of team control remaining, making him a possible multi-year fit either in left field or at DH.
We're using Tyler O'Neill as the headline name because he's two seasons from free agency and coming off a disappointing season (he was essentially a league-average hitter in 96 games), but what you should take away from this section is that the St. Louis Cardinals have more outfielders than spots. On the big-league roster alone, there's O'Neill, Dylan Carlson, and Lars Nootbaar, plus DH Juan Yepez and reserve Alec Burleson. And then, in the minors, there's Moisés Gómez and Jordan Walker. Gómez, a savvy minor-league free-agent signing from last winter, homered 39 times across two levels in 2022. Walker, meanwhile, is their top prospect and a potential middle-of-the-order thumper. The Cardinals will eventually have to move someone to make room for Walker, at minimum; why not now, and why not to Texas?
As with O'Neill, we're using Sal Frelick's name to represent a group of outfielders. The Milwaukee Brewers too have more players than spots. Some combination of Christian Yelich, Garrett Mitchell, Hunter Renfroe, and Tyrone Taylor (among other options) is expected to staff their Opening Day outfield. On the minor-league side, they'll have Frelick and Joey Wiemer stationed in Triple-A, with Jackson Chourio, one of the top prospects in the game, attempting to force his way onto the big-league roster before his 20th birthday. The Brewers, then, seem as well-positioned as any team to follow in the Arizona Diamondbacks' path by trading a good outfielder for help elsewhere. Might the Rangers have what the Brewers desire in return? We'll find out.