- It doesn’t appear the Rangers’ signing of catcher Robinson Chirinos will put fellow veteran backstop Jeff Mathis’ roster spot in jeopardy. GM Jon Daniels said Wednesday that his expectation is that Chirinos and Mathis will open the season as the Rangers’ catchers, TR Sullivan of MLB.com tweets. If that proves to be the case, Jose Trevino will begin the year at the Triple-A level. But it’s possible Mathis, who’s due a $3MM salary in 2020, may first have to justify his place on the team in spring training. The soon-to-be 37-year-old has been a light-hitting defensive maven throughout his career, but his first season in Texas went poorly on both fronts. Mathis batted .158/.209/.224 en route to an almost unfathomable 2 wRC+ over 244 plate appearances, earned negative defensive marks from Baseball Prospectus and ranked last among position players in fWAR (minus-2.1).
After posting their third straight losing season in 2019, the Rangers have been active in upgrading their roster this winter. They don’t appear to be done, as they continue to be connected to free-agent outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Nicholas Castellanos in the rumor mill. Now that third baseman Josh Donaldson has joined the rest of this offseason’s class of elite free agents in coming off the market, Ozuna and Castellanos stand as the top two players on the board.
In Texas’ case, it seems the 27-year-old Castellanos is preferable to Ozuna, 29. At this point, Castellanos is “a strong option” for the Rangers, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets. TR Sullivan of MLB.com corroborates that, reporting that Castellanos is seemingly the Rangers’ No. 1 target, and he adds that it doesn’t look as if Ozuna is near the top of the club’s list. That could be disappointing news to Ozuna, who indicated last week he was deciding between the Rangers and Cardinals for his next team.
If Castellanos dons a Rangers uniform in 2020, it’s unclear where he’d line up. The former third baseman has been an outfielder for the Tigers and Cubs over the past few seasons, but the Rangers would reportedly want to use him at first base – a position he hasn’t played. Nevertheless, at least offensively, Castellanos would give the Rangers a significant upgrade over Ronald Guzman, who played the majority of games at first for the team from 2018-19 and provided little offense along the way.
Across the diamond, the Rangers have been part of trade rumors centering on superstar Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. However, Sullivan notes that a deal for Arenado “seems unlikely.” The Rangers did just land a viable veteran third baseman in Todd Frazier, though he’s no substitute for Arenado and could end up at first in the improbable event Texas lands the latter in a trade.
The Rangers have acquired first baseman Sam Travis from the Red Sox in exchange for left-hander Jeffrey Springs, the teams announced. Boston has designated left-hander Bobby Poyner to make room on the 40-man roster.
Both Travis and Springs were recently designated for assignment, though Travis had already cleared waivers and been outrighted off Boston’s 40-man roster. Springs, meanwhile, was only designated earlier this afternoon. The Rangers will now pick up Travis’ rights without needing to dedicate a 40-man roster spot to the former prospect. The Red Sox, meanwhile, clearly feel they’re upgrading their left-handed bullpen depth in going with Springs over Poyner.
Travis, 26, was a second-round pick back in 2014 and frequented Red Sox prospect rankings as he rapidly ascended through the lower minors. However, while he hit well up through the Double-A level, Travis saw his bat stall in Triple-A and, despite a series of looks in the Majors, never made good at the game’s top level, either. In all, he’s a .267/.339/.392 hitter in nearly 1200 Triple-A plate appearances and just a .230/.288/.371 hitter in 278 MLB trips to the plate.
That said, the Rangers aren’t exactly teeming with quality first base options. Former top prospect Ronald Guzman hasn’t distinguished himself in his own MLB tryouts to date, and the club is intent on playing Joey Gallo in the outfield. Newly signed Todd Frazier could certainly handle first base if the Texas organization adds a more prominent option at third base, but there’s little harm in stashing Travis as a depth piece in hopes that a change of scenery brings out some of his yet-untapped potential.
The 27-year-old Springs, meanwhile, struggled to a 6.40 ERA with 32 strikeouts against 23 walks in 32 1/3 innings with Texas in 2019. He’s posted huge strikeout numbers in the upper minors and enjoyed better success with the Rangers in 2018 than in 2019, but he’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher with below-average velocity who saw his opponents’ hard-hit rate soar in 2019. Springs does have three minor league option years remaining, so he’ll be an optionable piece of depth for the Sox for the foreseeable future — assuming he sticks on the roster.
Poyner, meanwhile, has a minor league option of his own remaining. Like Springs, he’s a 27-year-old who posted solid numbers in 2018 but struggled in 2019. The similarities don’t stop there, as Poyner saw his hard-hit rate and opponents’ exit velocity both jump in 2019. However, he doesn’t have Springs’ gaudy strikeout totals and averages just 89.8 mph on his heater to Springs’ 91.7 mph. Boston will have a week to trade, outright or release Poyner.
The Rangers have designated lefties Kyle Bird and Jeffrey Springs for assignment. Their roster spots were needed to make way for the now-official signings of catcher Robinson Chirinos and infielder Todd Frazier.
Bird, 26, was hit hard in his MLB debut last year, surrendering five home runs and 15 walks in a dozen outings as he struggled with fastball command. But he has posted strong results in the upper minors, including a run of 2.86 ERA ball (with 10.1 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9) in his 34 2/3 innings last year at Triple-A. And he has shown a high-level spin rate that could hold appeal to other organizations.
As for the 27-year-old Springs, he turned in solid results in 2018 but took a bit step back in his sophomore campaign. Over 32 1/3 frames, he surrendered 6.40 earned runs per nine with 8.9 K/9 and 6.4 BB/9. While he hasn’t really shown it at the MLB level, Springs has at times carried eye-popping strikeout numbers in the minors. And he did record a 12.5% swinging-strike rate in 2019.
We’ve seen quite a lot of chatter surrounding the Rangers’ efforts to add another big bat, some of it contradictory. The team just added Todd Frazier, which plugs in one part of the corner infield picture. That likely reduces the urgency of adding righty pop, though it still seems the Texas org is at least dabbling in that market.
The top two names available are Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna. Both are rather youthful, well-established hitters but come with some demerits. It seems there are multiple organizations circling in hopes of securing a high-value contract. Whether there’s any significant appetite for a longer, larger deal isn’t entirely evident.
So, where do the Rangers stand with regard to these players? Depends who you ask. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweets that the Rangers are “active” and “among the favorites” to secure the services of Castellanos. But Morosi said much the same last week, citing a recent in-person meeting, only for a team source to claim the sides hadn’t even yet had a sit-down.
In the interim, the Rangers were again cited as a finalist on a righty bat … this time, Ozuna. It has now been five days since the 28-year-old was said to be deciding between the Rangers and Cardinals, with no resolution. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets that he has “been given no indication of significant meaningful dialogue on Ozuna.”
In the course of throwing some cold water on the Ozuna concept, Grant notes that Castellanos is a “better fit” in Texas. That’s presumably because the latter slugger has experience in the corner infield and could step in at first base, which is reportedly where the team has been considering him all along.
As Grant notes, it’s theoretically possible that the Rangers could add one of these players, clear the resulting logjam by dealing Willie Calhoun, and still pick up Rockies star Nolan Arenado in a trade (perhaps involving Calhoun). Like the Cardinals, who also remain tied to Ozuna, the Rangers presumably still have at least one eye trained on Arenado. But that complicated scenario would leave Ozuna/Castellanos in the corner outfield mix, which is supposedly not the Rangers’ desired outcome in the case that they acquire the latter.
If it all feels a bit like running in circles … well, the Rangers and their rivals may be doing just that. Taken as a whole, it seems there’s a rousing game of musical chairs involving a variety of right-handed-hitting corner pieces. Josh Donaldson is among the other players involved; the Braves, Nationals, Reds, and perhaps other teams are also somewhere in the picture.
The Rangers have reached an agreement with free-agent third baseman Todd Frazier, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that it’s a one-year, $5MM guarantee that includes a club option for a second year. Frazier will collect a $3.5MM salary in 2020 with a $5.75MM option for 2021 that comes with a $1.5MM buyout, per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. The deal is pending a physical.
Frazier, who will turn 34 in February, just wrapped up his second season with the Mets, authoring a nice bounce-back after a rough 2018. He posted a .251/.329/.443 slash line with 21 homers in 499 plate appearances. He’s been sapped of some of the power that made him a fan favorite in Cincinnati, but he has remained a roughly league-average hitter that also provides passable defense at third base. That’s enough to make him attractive to a Texas team that didn’t get great production from the position last year.
The numbers Frazier posted last year were in line with his career marks, making his dismal 2018 season look more like an outlier. If that’s true, and the Rangers get a version of Frazier that performs closer to his 2019 levels, it will be hard for Texas to be upset with such a low-cost signing that fills a clear need. Nick Solak looked to be the best in-house candidate to claim the position, though the Rangers may prefer to deploy him in a utility infield role.
Texas has been variously connected to all of the offseason’s big names at third base, including top free agents Anthony Rendon, now with the division rival Angels, and Josh Donaldson. The latter has yet to sign, but the Rangers are said to have backed off in their pursuit as he eyes a four-year deal. Most recently, they’ve been connected to Rockies star Nolan Arenado, though there’s skepticism that a deal will get completed. To be sure, Frazier doesn’t offer the same star power as the aforementioned trio, but he represents an adequate stopgap and insurance should they go 0-for-3 in their pursuit of the big fish.
Moreover, the addition of Frazier, who can also play first base, presumably doesn’t necessarily preclude the Rangers from continuing their pursuit of a top-flight option at the hot corner. Indeed, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that Texas will not cease in attempting to acquire Arenado even after signing Frazier. Should their play for Arenado come to fruition, Frazier would likely slide into a timeshare with Ronald Guzman at first base. And should the Rangers miss out on Arenado and Donaldson, then Frazier is penciled in as a short-term solution, with top prospect Josh Jung waiting on the horizon.
To this point, the Rangers have allocated most of their offseason resources to upgrades on the pitching side, adding Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson, and Jordan Lyles to the projected starting rotation. That has left some work to be done on the position player side of things, with third base getting the most buzz. But the Rangers have some interest in free-agent slugger Nicholas Castellanos, though interestingly they like Castellanos only as a potential first base upgrade—not as an outfielder. On the other hand, Marcell Ozuna might still be in play for the outfield, which currently features Joey Gallo, Danny Santana, and Willie Calhoun.
The Rangers have signed infielder Yadiel Rivera to a minor league contract, according to their executive vice president of communications, John Blake. The deal includes an invitation to big league spring training.
Texas will be the third MLB organization for the 27-year-old Rivera, previously a member of the Brewers and Marlins. Rivera appeared in the majors in each of the past five seasons, but he struggled mightily to make his mark, evidenced by his dismal .178/.248/.221 line with a single home run and a feckless .043 ISO over 188 plate appearances. Strikeouts have been a significant problem for Rivera, who has fallen victim to the K just under 31 percent of the time during his brief MLB action.
Although Rivera has hit better in Triple-A ball, he hasn’t exactly crushed pitching there. In 1,358 PA at the minors’ top level, Rivera has slashed .243/.280/.352 with 22 homers. Rivera did bat a fairly productive-looking .293/.310/.477 in 312 PA with the Marlins’ Triple-A affiliate in New Orleans last season, but his output was 16 percent below average in the offensively charged Pacific Coast League environment, according to FanGraphs’ wRC+ metric. Furthermore, Rivera’s strikeout and walk rates were abysmal. He went down on strikes at a 26 percent clip and collected walks just 1.9 percent of the time.
Entering the day, there were more than 150 players on the clock to exchange arbitration figures with their respective teams prior to a noon ET deadline. As one would expect, there’ll be an utter landslide of arbitration agreements in advance of that deadline. We already ran through some key facts and reminders on the arbitration process earlier this morning for those who are unfamiliar or simply need a refresher on one of MLB’s most complex idiosyncrasies, which will hopefully clear up many questions readers might have.
We’ll track the majority of the American League’s settlements in this post and split off a separate one for NL settlements as well. Note that all projections referenced come courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz:
- Newly acquired Angels righty Dylan Bundy receives a $5MM salary, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter links). He had projected at a $5.7MM price tag. Teammate Hansel Robles gets $3.85MM, per Heyman, just shy of his $4MM projection.
- The Yankees have worked out deals with all of their eligible players. The team has a hefty $8.5MM pact with Aaron Judge, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). Backstop Gary Sanchez settled for $5MM, per Feinsand (via Twitter). The New York org will pay righty Luis Cessa $895K and Jonathan Holder $750K, Murray reports (Twitter links). Fellow reliever Tommy Kahnle will earn $2.65MM, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter). And star lefty James Paxton has settled at $12.5MM, Heyman adds via Twitter. Chad Green and Jordan Montgomery have also agreed to terms, the former at $1.275MM and the latter at $805K, per Heyman (Twitter links).
- The Twins announced that they struck deals with Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton. Jon Heyman of MLB Network followed up with salary terms (all links to Twitter). May earns $2,205,000; Rogers takes home $4.45MM; Rosario lands at $7.75MM; and Buxton receives $3.075MM. While the first and last of those land rather close to the projected amount, Rogers got $550K more and Rosario got $1.15MM less than the calculators predicted.
- Shortstop Carlos Correa settled with the Astros for $8MM, per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (via Twitter). Righty Brad Peacock lands at a $3.9MM salary, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). The former went for more than his $7.4MM projection, while the latter ended up shy of the $4.6MM mark produced by the computers. The ’Stros also have agreed with closer Roberto Osuna as well, per an announcement. It’s a $10MM deal, slotting in just $200K shy of his projection, per Rome (via Twitter).
- The Orioles have a deal with outfielder/first baseman Trey Mancini, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. It’s for $4.75MM, per Dan Connolly of The Athletic (via Twitter), well south of the $5.7MM projection.
- Outfielder Jorge Soler has agreed to a $7.3MM deal with the Royals, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweets. That’s well off of the $11.2MM that MLBTR’s model projected, though it is likely that the cause of the gulf lies in the interpretation of the correct baseline to start from in building Soler’s salary. He’s in the 4+ service class but had been playing on the original deal he signed out of Cuba.
- The Tigers have a deal in place with southpaw Matthew Boyd, per Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter). It’ll pay him $5.3MM, per Chris McCosky of the Detroit News (Twitter link). That falls comfortably below the $6.4MM, suggesting that Boyd’s camp was concerned with the way his suboptimal ERA would play in the arb process. Fellow lefty starter Daniel Norris will earn $2.96MM, McCosky tweets.
Free-agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna has seemingly identified his top two remaining suitors. Ozuna suggested to Hector Gomez of Deportivo Z 101 (hat tip to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale) that he’s deciding between his latest team, the Cardinals, and the Rangers. He indicated that the Cardinals are his preferred choice.
The 29-year-old Ozuna is coming off a solid two-season run in St. Louis, which acquired him from Miami entering 2018. Ozuna was then fresh off a 5.0-fWAR season with the Marlins. He wasn’t as effective as a Cardinal, but he did post a pair of productive years with the club. Ozuna put up 2.6 fWAR in 2019, when he slashed .243/.330/.474 with 29 home runs and a career-high 12 stolen bases over 549 plate appearances.
On the heels of Ozuna’s quality showing last season, the Cardinals began the winter by issuing him a $17.8MM qualifying offer, which he rejected. But it has been difficult to find another obvious suitor since then for Ozuna, and the Cardinals did just weaken their outfield depth by trading Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena to the Rays.
Meanwhile, the Rangers have recently been connected to Ozuna and the other most prominent free-agent outfielder, Nicholas Castellanos. It seems the club has some leeriness in regards to the long-maligned defensive abilities of Castellanos, whom it apparently views as more of an infielder than an outfielder. But there’s no doubt that Ozuna’s an outfielder, and he’d fill the Rangers’ need in the grass in the wake of their Nomar Mazara trade with the White Sox. However, one of the big questions is whether the Rangers will pony up for Ozuna, who – along with forcing the team to cough up a substantial amount of money – would cost them their second-highest draft pick in 2020 because he turned down a QO.
The Rangers announced a series of pitching-related moves today, including the signings of right-hander Luis Garcia and southpaw James Jones to minor league contracts. Garcia and Jones will be invited to the club’s Major League Spring Training camp. In addition, recently-designated righty Jimmy Herget has been outrighted to Triple-A Nashville after clearing waivers, and right-hander Reed Garrett has been released so he can pursue a deal with Japan’s Seibu Lions.
Garcia, the most experienced member of the quartet, tossed 62 innings out of the Angels bullpen last season before opting for free agency rather than accept an outright assignment to Triple-A in October. Garcia posted a 4.35 ERA, 8.3 K/9, and 1.73 K/BB rate, while taking a lot of damage from the home run ball, allowing 13 homers over his 62 frames of work. Garcia also posted a career-low 47.2% grounder rate; still a respectable total, though a step down for a pitcher who never dropped below the 54.7% mark with the Phillies from 2013-17. Garcia also posted a 48.4% grounder rate in 2018, so his days as a truly elite grounder specialist could be over.
Overall, Garcia has a 4.17 ERA, 8.2 K/9, and 1.77 K/BB rate over 306 2/3 innings over the last seven seasons. He has held right-handed batters to a .238/.329/.370 slash line in that time, so he offers a bit of specialist value and durability to the Rangers should he win a job in their bullpen.
Jones will return for his fifth season in the Rangers organization as he continues the transition from outfielder to pitcher (yes, this is the same James Jones who saw action in center field for the Mariners in 2014-15). This work was interrupted by a Tommy John surgery that cost him the entire 2017 season, though more recent results have shown promise. Jones had a 2.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9, and 2.37 K/BB rate over 64 innings in 2019, split between Double-A (56 1/3 IP) and Triple-A (7 2/3 IP). Jones seems likely to continue at Triple-A this year, as continues to slowly but surely take an unlikely path back to the majors.
Herget was designated when Texas acquired Adolis Garcia from the Cardinals almost three weeks ago, though Herget’s extended stay in DFA limbo was due to league offices being closed over the holiday season. A sixth-round pick for the Reds in the 2015 draft, Herget made his Major League debut in the form of 6 1/3 relief innings for Cincinnati last season, before the Rangers claimed him off waivers in early December.
Garrett also got his first taste of MLB action in 2019, with an 8.22 ERA over 15 1/3 innings with the Tigers. Garrett had some strong numbers in the minors in 2018, which prompted Detroit to select him in the Rule 5 Draft. The righty’s lack of immediate success, however, prompted the Tigers to send Garrett back to the Rangers last May. Garrett will now become the latest in an increasingly large number of players with MLB or high-minors experience (or, the proverbial “Quadruple-A” types) to head to Japan or South Korea in search of a larger salary or a more prominent role.