The Texas Rangers will have several player contracts to evaluate in 2017. With multiple free agents and arbitration eligible players on the docket, the organization has to determine who to extend qualifying offers to, who to re-sign and who to cut. There are several needs that the club has, with the starting pitching rotation being the most notable. Whether the club decides to focus on pitchers or hitters, the money they shell out in the 2017 offseason will almost certainly define where this club will stand for the season to come. There are a few key players that the Rangers will need to think about truly.
Colby Lewis, SP
This 37-year-old pitcher is what I would call “old reliable” for the Rangers. Lewis isn’t the greatest pitcher in the game of baseball, and he never will be. However, he has come through for the club at pivotal times. In 2016, the righty went 6-5 in just 19 starts. His 3.71 ERA is misleading, compared to the amount of time he spent on the hill. Spending time on the disabled list during the season didn’t help his stats or his image. Only being able to go into the third inning of Game 3 in the ALDS could have left a bad taste in the mouths of the Rangers front office.
Lewis cost the Texas Rangers $6 million for 2016, when they picked him up as a free agent, shortly after letting him go to free agency in 2015. He could net about that same amount of money for 2017. If the Rangers show interest, they could probably get him for a little less than that. Depending on other starting pitching additions, Texas could go either way on bringing back Lewis. The best move for the Rangers is to let him go. Do not sign Colby Lewis now or at any other point in 2017. If they can manage to do this, it will force the club to go after serious pitching improvements.
Derek Holland, SP
Derek Holland almost single-handedly won a World Series for the Texas Rangers. Writers, analysts, and scouts everywhere thought that he was going to be the next big thing. Unfortunately, he didn’t turn out that way. Like other starting pitchers for the Rangers, Holland spent time on the disabled list in 2016. He was yet another addition to the team’s pitching woes. When he did play in 2016, the 29-year-old went 7-9 with a 4.95 ERA. He only started 20 games, with 107.1 total innings pitched. Statistics aside, Holland didn’t look good. The lefty had trouble with speed and struggled with pitch placement.
It cost the Texas Rangers $10 million to have Holland on the roster in 2016. They currently hold a club option for 2017, which would cost $11 million. Regardless of any other pitching moves the Texas Rangers may make, Derek Holland should not be a part of the Rangers organization moving forward. The club should not be complacent, content or simply “used” to having him on the roster. With this past season blowing up in the postseason, the organization needs to bring in talent that is more reliable.
Jonathan Lucroy, C
The Rangers were quick to exercise their 2017 club option for this star catcher. Since acquiring Lucroy, he has made one deep impact on the organization. His total season average was just shy of the coveted .300, coming in at .292. He slammed 11 homers and totaled 31 RBIs for the Rangers alone. He provided consistent offensive production for the Rangers. In addition to swinging the bat well, he gave the club something that was severely needed: veteran catching control. Previously using a platoon at catcher, Lucroy was able to be the concrete, everyday catcher.
The best part about the Rangers picking up the option for Lucroy is the price. It only cost Texas $5.25 million to retain the 30-year-old right-hander. If 2017 goes anything like it did in 2016 for Lucroy, the team should look at extending him beyond next season. He is worth looking into re-signing.
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Mitch Moreland needs to go. He cost the club $5.7 million in 2016. For his production and quality, that was a high price. Moreland hit .233 this past season, still managing to hit 22 homers. The 31-year-old is average at best. Leaving him off the roster in 2017 can pave the way for one of the Rangers top prospects, Joey Gallo. While Gallo is a third baseman by trade, Beltre isn’t going anywhere soon.
First base could be the ticket to Joey Gallo getting his Major League Baseball career under full swing. I do fear another Michael Young type incident in moving the youngster, but I believe first base could be the future for him. For that to happen, the Texas Rangers need to let Mitch Moreland go.
Ian Desmond, OF
Ian Desmond has been outstanding for the Texas Rangers, so excellent, that he may be looking for one monster payday. With his performance in 2016, there will be a club out there that is willing to pay top dollar for the 31-year-old outfielder. This past season, Desmond hit .285 with 22 shots that left the park. He racked up 86 RBIs and 21 stolen bases. More importantly, he was a defensive presence that the Rangers outfield put to work.
Excluding his misplay that ultimately cost the Rangers Game 1 of the ALDS, Desmond has been spot on with his glove. The 2016 season was an All-Star year for the right-handed outfielder. He held a .966 fielding percentage, covering both left field and center field, and only committed eight errors. With Shin-Soo Choo costing the Texas Rangers a ton of money, the team may not be willing to deal the big bucks for Desmond. If the organization can find a way to dump part of Choo’s contract, spending big on Desmond should be considered.
Carlos Beltran, OF/DH
Carlos Beltran is going to turn 40 years old next season. He has already publicly stated that he has no plans to retire and would like to stay a Texas Ranger. The switch-hitter did have one solid season. Beltran hit an impressive .295, with an even more impressive .850 OPS. He raked in 29 homers and 93 RBIs. Beltran started the majority of his games at the DH position, filling a gap left by the retiring of Prince Fielder.
While his season was highly productive, he’s going to turn 40. That age hasn’t stopped David Ortiz from giving the Boston Red Sox one stellar season, but can Beltran be as good as Ortiz? Can the Texas Rangers bank on him having a repeat of the 2016 season? If the club can get him for much less than the $15 million he earned in 2016, it may be worth a shot. This should also be contingent on the fate of Shin-Soo Choo. If the club can’t get rid of Choo’s hefty contract, he should take the DH position. That would leave Beltran looking for another club. If another home for Choo can be found, Beltran could sit nicely at the designated hitter position.
Carlos Gomez, OF
For the right price, Carlos Gomez should stay a Texas Ranger. The club was essentially a fresh start for the 30-year-old outfielder. He had a rough season, starting out with the Houston Astros, but was rejuvenated when he joined the Rangers. He hit .284 with eight home runs, in just 33 games with Texas. After joining the club late in the season, he showed off some spectacular defensive plays. Even in the short postseason run that the Rangers had, Gomez looked impressive in the outfield.
He cost $507,500 in 2016, and it would be reasonable to give him around that for 2017. If the club can net him for less than the $507,500, then it’s worth the signing. With Nomar Mazara and Shin-Soo Choo likely to lock down outfield positions, Gomez could be an inexpensive way to finish out the deep field.