I wonder which of the three Christmas ghosts convinced Rangers owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson to loosen their purse strings? I bet it was the Ghost of Christmas Future, who showed the oil tycoons their brand-new ballpark sitting empty while second baseman Nick Solak whiffs behind a four-seam fastball to end another scoreless inning. Of course, that also could have been the ghosts of past and present.
Whichever one did the trick, Ranger fans owe them a sincere thanks. Those old white dudes made it rain free agency money.
With the Major League Baseball lockout looming earlier this month, the front office shelled out $561.2 million — and might have changed the fortune of the franchise in the span of two action-packed days. Every indication coming out of Arlington is that the Rangers plan to add more once the free-agent and trade markets reopen after a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is in place between those twin succubi, MLB and the Players’ Association.
The Rangers’ headline signings were former Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, who inked an eye-popping 10-year, $325 million contract; former Jays infielder Marcus Semien, who will be bringing home $175 million over the next seven years; and pitcher Jon Gray, whose four-year, $56 million contract will only barely allow him to afford a three-deck yacht home off the coast of Monaco. (Peasant!) The team also signed outfielder Kole Calhoun to a one-year deal, presumably to platoon at an outfield spot and valet for Seager.
The baseball world reacted with a collective “holy shit!,” and Rangers fans are likely still dealing with the fallout from soiling numerous undergarments.
The front office told us they were going to do this. We didn’t believe them because they also told us they were going to offer competitive contracts to Anthony Rendon, Zach Wheeler, and numerous other offseason targets over the years. To many, including me, the bluster from the top guys just sounded like a prelude to a chorus of “Welp, we tried” and another half-decade of keeping payroll low and waiting on the farm to produce. I even penned a piece on how ownership was in tank mode in an effort to sell the team.
So why did the brass decide to splurge now? Even with these signings — and possibly a few more — the roster is still filled with a crop of magic beans. Two reasons:
1.) The available free agents this season offered a rare opportunity to lock up middle infielders. Besides top of the rotation pitching, there isn’t a more valuable commodity than a stud shortstop. This offseason dangled four legit superstars at the position, and the Rangers snagged half of them. It makes no sense to sign these two dudes in their prime without a supporting cast.
2.) The best of the farm system is close to Arlington. The Rangers haven’t possessed top-tier prospects like the trio of third baseman Josh Jung and pitchers Jack Leiter and Cole Winn since names like Neftali Feliz and Elvis Andrus wore the crowns. That batch of prospects eventually sprouted into two World Series teams and a core that played competitive baseball for the better part of a decade. The prospect pool isn’t as deep now as it was then, but it’s just as tantalizing at the top.
Behind the big three in the minor leagues are about two dozen “interesting” guys, who could become really good players, trade pieces for really good players, middling players who never really materialize into regulars, or complete flops.
Will these big-tickets signees make the team championship contenders anytime soon? A lot of things still have to break the Rangers’ way. My guess is the team improves to mediocre next season (assuming there is a season), and then Leiter and Winn debut in Arlington in 2023. The front office is counting on a symbiosis of young players producing early on in their careers, old, expensive players not regressing or getting hurt, and a few of those pretty-good-not-great prospects blossoming into serviceable big-leaguers.
This is a time for celebrating, though, not forecasting. Let’s leave that ugly task to seasonal ghosts. As fans, we get to just enjoy having something better than hot garbage to watch again. It’s a Christmas miracle.