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Hot Stove: Rangers 'Expected To Be Aggressive' With Marquee Free Agent Shortstops

Things are heating up with the Texas Rangers and the marquee class of free agent shortstops.

The upcoming free agent class of shortstops are going to be the most discussed topic of the baseball offseason, outside of the negotiations between Major League Baseball and the Players Association over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Surely, the new CBA—or lack thereof—will affect this class and their suitors. 

Even so, the 26 clubs that are not playing baseball right now are putting their game plans together for the offseason. And in the coming months, five of the 30 clubs—maybe less—will commit a substantial amount of money to the crop of Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story and Javier Báez.

The Texas Rangers front office and their pro scouts are meeting in Arizona this week to formulate their plans for acquiring more players, and the top players of the free agent market—yes, even the shortstops—are a key part of the discussions.

If this comes as a shock to you, or if the phrase, "Yeah, right" entered your head when you read the paragraph above, it only echoes what the front office bluntly said in their end-of-season press conference earlier this month.

"We're going to be discussing players in every category, every position, and every area of the market," said Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels on Oct. 6. "There's nobody that we're going to rule out because of a perceived price tag."

So while Corey Seager is coming through in the clutch for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston's Carlos Correa is stealing the show in the American League playoffs, many baseball writers, analysts, insiders and more are speculating where the quintet of shortstops will land this winter. And with everything that Rangers leadership is saying, fans in Dallas-Fort Worth are salivating at the thought of any of the five donning Rangers red, white and blue for the next several seasons.

But what about two?

ESPN senior writer Buster Olney laid out how evaluators rank the five shortstops, and where each one might land. The Rangers were one of six teams mentioned as real players in the shortstop market, along with the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Seattle Mariners, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs. 

Before you get too excited, one evaluator told Olney, "You might have 13 or 14 teams bidding on shortstops this winter." That's a lot of demand with a serious lack of supply.

Regarding the Rangers, the possibilities sound almost too good too be true, especially since the last contract the Rangers inked that was in excess of three years was Shin-Soo Choo's seven-year deal in 2013. Nevertheless, here's what Olney wrote regarding the Rangers' situation:

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The Rangers are expected to be aggressive, with a high focus on building a strong organizational culture. The decisions of the free agents will largely come down to dollars, but rival evaluators are keenly aware that Seager has a strong relationship with Texas manager Chris Woodward, and note that Story grew up in the Dallas/Arlington area. There is speculation among rival evaluators that the Rangers could double-dip among the elite shortstops, signing two and shifting one to another position.

Signing one of the five would be a major win for the Rangers. Signing two? That would be quite the pivot from "tear-down" mode to building a contender.

From what we know at InsideTheRangers.com, the Rangers' plan is to acquire talent over the next couple of winters, not just a one-year overhaul. Of course, it doesn't mean the Rangers can't acquire two of the five shortstops and then add more next winter. Texas only has $28 million on the books for next season with a very small and inexpensive arbitration class. In 2023, only José Leclerc's $6 million club option is on the books. 

Add in that Daniels said the budget would be "consistent with the market and fan base of this size," that would mean the Rangers have money to spend. Lots of it.

As far as who the Rangers might target, Olney lists the Rangers as a potential landing spot for all of the shortstops, except for Báez. The Seager/Woodward relationship remains consistent with what we know as well. One source tells InsideTheRangers.com that Chris Woodward covets Corey Seager, which does not come to any surprise given their days together in Los Angeles.

As for what it will cost, Correa and Seager—despite the concerns over their injuries—are poised to get the most money. They are the youngest in the class. Correa will be entering his age 27 season in 2022, while Seager is just five months older. Both are also putting on huge displays in the postseason, adding to their reputation of being great clubhouse guys and big-game players. Look for those contracts to push a decade in length, with one, if not both, earning at least $300 million.

Story and Semien will get paid handsomely as well, but are a tad older. Story has just one more season before he turns 30, and Semien is entering his age 31 season. Their contracts may end up being in the seven-year range. When healthy, Story may be the best two-way shortstop in the class, but he is coming off a bit of a disappointing season. Teams may be hesitant to unload the same type of deal that Correa or Seager require.

That being said, the ties between Story and his hometown Rangers go all the way back to before the 2021 regular season. One source confirmed with InsideTheRangers.com that the Rangers had serious interest in pursuing Story this winter. But now, it's unclear where Story ranks in their pecking order several months later.

The Rangers will surely have their hands full regarding the pursuit of any marquee free agent. There will be plenty of suitors, including the teams mentioned previously, and you can bet the Dodgers and Astros won't let Seager or Correa walk away easily. There will be a bidding war, and the CBA negotiations could play a huge factor into how the Rangers—and the free agents themselves—attack the offseason.

Buckle up. It's bound to be a fun winter.


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