On the latest edition of #EvanHelpUs…
ME: Expect Ronald Guzman to be a certainty. The Rangers are expected to activate Jeffrey Springs from the IL and will probably recall Locke St. John and/or Kyle Bird. Joe Palumbo will be activated from the IL when his blistered thumb heals. They might add a catcher, though, they really don’t have room on the 40-man roster and Isiah Kiner-Falefa can be an emergency catcher.
The question will be whether the Rangers call up either of two promising relievers: Joe Barlow or Demarcus Evans. Neither is on the 40-man roster at the moment, but both will have to be added after the season. Both began the season at Class A. Evans is currently obliterating hitters at Double-A; Barlow did the same but has since gone on to Triple-A and experienced some adversity there.
The Rangers would like to see them both. But there may not be a ton of opportunities . But with Emmanuel Clase, Jonathan Hernandez, Rafael Montero and Luke Farrell, the Rangers already have a bunch of guys they need to look at also. There might not be a lot of opportunities for Barlow and Evans. Also, both are butting up against previous innings-pitched totals, so the Rangers will be aware of that.
Oh, one other callup is expected: 36-year-old Edinson Volquez, who has worked his way back from an elbow injury in hopes of making one or two more appearances before calling it a career.
ME: Let’s just go with the 25-man roster for the sake of brevity here. The big decision will be on Nomar Mazara. We’ve said for most of the year that the team is too left-handed heavy and it appears that Willie Calhoun may have surpassed Mazara in the Rangers’ pecking order. Mazara would probably still bring some kind of return in a trade because he’s 24 and still has potential. But I don’t think the Rangers are going to simply shed Mazara to be rid of him. He’s too valuable for that. And, I should point out, his OPS at the moment represents a career-high, so it would appear he’s made some, albeit marginal, progress.
The other big question: Hunter Pence. He’s a free agent after the year. He’s been a big addition this season. But will the Rangers have a role for him next year at age 37? Tough to say. I would have said no way early in the season, but the way he’s played sure makes it a question worth asking.
Logan Forsythe is also a free agent after the season. He’s played well for the Rangers, but with Danny Santana, Kiner-Falefa and Nick Solak, the Rangers might be chock full of utility guys.
The club has an option on reliever Shawn Kelley and might find itself in a roster crunch this winter with a ton of young relievers on the roster.
ME: Though it is a nod to Detroit’s Tiger Stadium, the home run porch is such a distinctive feature that I think I’d like to take it in one last time. There will be other distinctive seats in the new park, but they won’t have the same feel as the home run porch. Just think that would be the most “fun.” Well, providing the weather is nice.
ME: Catching is a real conundrum for 2020. The offense the Rangers have gotten from the position is just non-existent. They rank 29th of 30 teams in OPS from the catching position. The Tigers, who will have lost more than 100 games, are last.
I don’t see how Jeff Mathis can be asked to do anything more than be a backup in the second year of his deal, which means the Rangers have to find some combination to catch 110 games.
It’s unlikely Kiner-Falefa is a significant part of the mix; he appears to be an infielder who could occasionally catch. That’s valuable, but it doesn’t solve the issue. Jose Trevino could be a front-line defender, but I’m not sure he can hit enough to be a full-time catcher. Sam Huff has barged on to the scene as a legitimate prospect, but I don’t think he will be ready for the major leagues to start 2020.
I feel like they need to add catching help this winter. Might just be a series of veterans who would take minor league deals and be willing to spend some time at Triple-A. But catching is an issue on the same level with their other major issues.
ME: Matt Blood, who was hired last winter as Director of Player Development, had his role restructured into the newly-created title of Director of Baseball Innovation. But innovation was part of his role when he was hired from USA Baseball. He was to oversee the farm system and help integrate new ways to help evaluate and instruct players. The job responsibilities were huge.
It’ surprising that the Rangers would chop up his role less than a year after he was hired. But give the front office some credit. In trying to change the way they do business, there was going to be some trial and error. They recognized it was a mistake to have Blood oversee both roles and made the change to put him in an area where his strengths could best shine. In short, Blood can help develop “best practice” methods, stay on top of technological advancements and focus on research and development. Somebody else will fill the role of Director of Player Development. Either it will fall to Assistant GM Mike Daly, to whom player development reported, or the club will add a new farm director.
ME: Here is what I’d do to narrow things down. Look at a map of the U.S. Now, with a pencil in your hand, draw a triangle that starts roughly at Charlotte, N.C., and extends down to the panhandle of Florida. The next side of the triangle would go from the Florida panhandle Northwest to the Alabama-Mississippi border and then the final side would go back to Charlotte. All the schools inside that triangle would be your pool.
Now, eliminate all the teams not named Alabama and Clemson. And I say this as a Georgia fan who is bound to get his hopes crushed again either by Alabama in the SEC title game or by Clemson in the playoff.
ME: The Rangers will try to improve during the offseason. I think they will pursue Gerrit Cole and/or Anthony Rendon, but I think even in the best situation, they’d only come away with one. And that’s in the best situation. And the more I watch the game right now, the more I become hesitant about long, long-term contracts for guys in their 30s or approaching them. I think there might be some alternatives that would also allow the Rangers to address multiple needs (because they need more than one pitcher and a third baseman).
Josh Donaldson might be a great fit on a shorter, two-three year deal as a third baseman, for example. Or Mike Moustakas.
On the mound, Cole Hamels might like it a lot better in Texas if the heat wasn’t so, well, hot. And the Rangers have just the fix for that: a climate-controlled, retractable-roof stadium. Another name I’d consider: Jake Odorizzi, though he’s going to become a bit more expensive than he probably would have been.
My point: The Rangers don’t have to get the biggest free agent on the market to call it a successful offseason. I think there are options to allow them to spread money around some so they can address the rotation, third base, catcher and possibly first base. Start there.
ME: Depending on what the Rangers do this offseason for a catcher, I could see Huff being a realistic late 2020 callup. He’s currently at Class A Down East and I expect he will go to Double-A to start next season. If he holds his own there, I see no reason why he wouldn’t be a mid-season option in the event of an injury and a late season callup. That said, I don’t think you can consider him a potential impact/starting catcher before 2021.
ME: The guys providing the information directly to the players, from manager Chris Woodward to his coaching staff and advance scouting report guys like Alex Burg (director of run production), Brett Hayes (director of run prevention) and video coordinator Adam Brenner are all exceptionally approachable, which I think is the most important element in getting guys to buy in to the concepts and understand the language being spoken.
But, let’s face facts: For a lot of these guys it is a whole new language and that takes time. It’s also much heavier on meetings, though these are more geared towards group conversations. Nevertheless, a meeting every day for players can wear on them mentally and it takes some time to adjust. On the major league level, it would be hard for me to find any fault with the way the Rangers have presented this.
Let me give you one example: Take the case of Rougned Odor, who by almost any valuation, should be sitting on the bench right now if it is purely results the team is chasing. But the Rangers are trying to get Odor to change a lot in his swing and his approach and he is making an honest-to-goodness effort, even if it has not had positive results so far. But because of the buy-in and the effort, Woodward and staff continue to reward him with playing time. The idea being: Buy in, trust the process, stick with the process, it’s eventually going to provide results. It won’t provide noticeable results this year, but, it will give Odor and the Rangers a baseline to go off next year. At that point, I think it becomes more focused on results. Even “the process” has an expiration date.