After Signing Gibson and Lyles, The Rangers' Plan is Clear
The Rangers agreed to terms with RHP Jordan Lyles on Friday night, but it's clear what Texas is trying to do.
They are all in on Anthony Rendon.
Third base was always at the top of the Rangers' priority list this winter, but they obviously knew that they needed to address starting pitching as well. The Rangers have money to spend, but if they truly wanted to land a potential superstar, they'd have a much better chance at landing a position player than a pitcher.
Starting pitching, especially the hot commodities of Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, always attract the most amount of suitors. The competition for elite starting pitching is extremely tough, especially when you're fighting against teams with deeper pockets.
The Yankees are all in on Gerrit Cole and are willing to break the bank for him. The Nationals are aggressively trying to reunite with Stephen Strasburg. Then, throw in the other big budget teams that are trying to lure in those pitchers like the Dodgers, Phillies, and Angels.
Let's face it. Those teams have a much better track record of landing elite starting pitching in free agency.
Instead of trying to climb another uphill battle, the Rangers turned all of the primary focus to their largest need at third base. And with money to spend, they have made Anthony Rendon their primary target. He's the best position player on the market and a third baseman. It's a perfect match.
They've also made Josh Donaldson a priority right behind Rendon. Donaldson just won the National League's Comeback Player of the Year.
With the Rangers now signing two end-of-the-rotation type pitchers, the Rangers' plan is coming together. While they pursue Rendon, they couldn't afford to wait around and miss out on potential arms for the rotation. With signing Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles to affordable contracts, it gives the Rangers much better quality at the end of their rotation while they wait.
People don't understand how much of a detriment the rest of the rotation was in 2019.
Even if Gibson and Lyles have ERA's between 4.00 and 5.00 in 2020, that's still a major improvement for two-thirds of the rest of the rotation. As long as Gibson and Lyles can pitch five-to-six innings for the Rangers, they will have done their job.
Financially speaking, the Rangers have upgraded their rotation by only spending $19 million of 2020's budget, leaving plenty of money to go after their main target in Rendon.
If the Rangers held out for the top starters while also holding out for Rendon, there's a very good chance they could miss out all together. Then, if they also missed out on Rendon, they would have really laid an egg this winter.
For the Rangers, holding out to give a position player a big payday makes more sense than a starting pitcher.
Rangers' fans wanted Texas to go hard after Jake Arrieta a couple winters ago. Now that contract would handcuff the Rangers from doing anything.
And take a look at the Boston Red Sox, who own baseball's largest payroll and are trying to offload a starter or two just to free up some money. Yes, you read that right. The Red Sox need to free up money. That's what happens when you have too many burdensome contracts on your payroll.
Given his age, even if Texas lands Rendon with a seven-year deal, he'll be 36 at the end of his contract. Position players, especially ones who are good hitters like Rendon, can remain very productive into their mid-to-late 30's. Also take into consideration Rendon could DH later on in his contract, preserving his health.
Upgrading the rotation now gives the Rangers flexibility going into the Winter Meetings in San Diego. If they miss on Rendon, they could turn their attention to Donaldson. If Donaldson is no longer available, then they could focus on the trade market to upgrade third base or allocate their money more evenly to address catcher, center field, and maybe even add another starting pitcher.
Having flexibility is key when you have multiple positions to upgrade in one offseason. The Rangers have gone about this in a very smart way. They've upgraded two spots in their rotation and still have their shot at Rendon.
If the Rangers land Rendon, very few people will be complaining about Gibson and Lyles in the rotation. The Rangers will have gotten their guy and massively upgraded their lineup with one signing.
Let the Winter Meetings begin.
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