Rangers' Jon Daniels Says Next Year's Budget Will Be Down From 2020's Initial Payroll

With Texas Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels confirming a smaller budget in 2021, we take a closer look at what decisions the Rangers will face this winter.
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Major League Baseball's trade deadline has come and gone. While the Texas Rangers parted ways with veterans Mike Minor, Robinson Chirinos, and Todd Frazier, they decided to hold onto their biggest trade chip in Lance Lynn. 

"If there was an overwhelming deal out there, we probably would have made it," said Rangers general manager Jon Daniels. "But … I would not have been proud of some of those deals if we made them, and I don't think our fans would have been happy about it, either."

According to an interview Daniels did with 105.3 The Fan's GBag Nation, the Rangers value Lynn as a one of the best 10-15 pitchers in the game today. Evidently, none of the clubs the Rangers had discussions with about Lynn were willing to part with what they were asking for in return. The same goes for Joey Gallo, who is a much younger player with another year of control.

Daniels also told both the media and The Fan that next year's budget will be less than where 2020's initial payroll was set before COVID-19 derailed the baseball season. The Rangers have felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, from executives and staff taking pay cuts to roughly 12 percent of employees being furloughed.

"I've got a range," Daniels explained. "We have a number we've been using for planning purposes, but I would expect we will have additional conversations on that before we start moving into the offseason. I'm not certain what the overall budget will be. It will be down from where it was this year, but I'm not sure exactly where."

2020's initial payroll sat just north of $145 million, which was up from 2019's payroll of $128 million. 

While we might not know what the Rangers' budget will be in 2021, we can look at what we do know. To prevent any further confusion, we'll be optimistic and assume the 2021 season is played in full with players earning their full salaries. Although, that comes with a disclaimer that the COVID-19 pandemic could easily shoot down that optimism.

Veterans Off the Books via Trade

  • Robinson Chirinos ($6.5 million club option)
  • Todd Frazier ($5.75 million club option)

Total: $12.25 million

Mike Minor's contract expires at the end of the 2020 season and will become a free agent this winter. The only thing the Rangers could miss out on is submitting a qualifying offer for Minor now that he is with Oakland. With Chirinos and Frazier off the books after 2020, the club won't have to commit to either club option.

2021 Club/Player/Mutual Options

  • Corey Kluber ($18 million club option)

It's unclear whether the Rangers will pick up Corey Kluber's option for 2021. If Kluber pitches to his capability, $18 million would be much more reasonable. However, I believe the decision of whether or not to pick up Kluber's option could be an indication of how much the club slashes payroll next season.

Upcoming Free Agents (Initial 2020 Salary)

  • Shin-Soo Choo ($21 million)
  • Jesse Chavez ($4 million)
  • Danny Santana ($3.6 million)
  • Jeff Mathis ($3 million)
  • Luis García ($1.1 million)
  • Edinson Vólquez ($1 million)
  • Derek Dietrich ($575,000)

Total: $34.2 million

Choo and the Rangers have both previously indicated a willingness to reunite beyond 2020. Given Choo's age and decline in production, it's worth questioning if those feelings remain true on the Rangers side. If it does, it would have to be at a much cheaper price.

With the amount of young arms in the bullpen, the Rangers could conceivably move on from Chavez, García, and Vólquez. The Rangers seem to really like Danny Santana, but he has not been able to repeat any of the success he had in 2019 due to the slew of injuries he's dealt with this season. 

If the Rangers don't have a plan for a backup catcher behind Jose Trevino, they could be open to a reunion with Jeff Mathis. The Rangers have liked Derek Dietrich for a long time, so I believe they will at least kick the tires on a potential one-year deal for 2021. After all, the Rangers will need some veterans if they will have a youthful team next season.

Under Contract for 2021

  • Elvis Andrus ($14.25 million)
  • Rougned Odor ($12.3 million)
  • Kyle Gibson ($10 million)
  • Lance Lynn ($9.3 million)
  • Jordan Lyles ($8 million)
  • José Leclerc ($4.5 million)
  • Joely Rodríguez ($2.5 million)

Total: $60.9 million

This is where things get hairy for the Rangers. Lynn is a steal at $9.3 million and is a candidate for an offseason trade or contract extension. Leclerc will be expensive, but could really help solidify the back end of the bullpen along with Jonathan Hernández and Rafael Montero. With Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles earning a combined $18 million, the Rangers need those two to perform much better in 2021. Both of them have been quite disappointing thus far in 2020.

However, the big question for the Rangers is what the heck do they do with Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor? Neither are performing to their contract. Andrus will get a longer leash, but a $14.25 million salary demands production. Andrus is a fan-favorite and a great veteran to have on the team, but he has to produce if the Rangers are to have any chance of success.

With Odor, the Rangers have to make the decision to cut ties. Four years of underperforming a contract is long enough. He's had his chances. With The Dallas Morning News' Evan Grant reporting a discussion between the Rangers and Red Sox over an Odor-Nathan Eovaldi money swap ahead of Monday's deadline, it looks as if Texas is beginning to explore ways to move on from the perplexing second baseman. 

While a deal didn't get done, it doesn't mean the two clubs can't revisit the deal in the offseason. Like Odor, Eovaldi is under contract through 2022, but earns a much higher salary at $17 million per season.

Arbitration-Eligible Players (with Initial 2020 Salaries)

  • Joey Gallo ($4.4 million)
  • Nick Goody ($915,000)
  • Rafael Montero ($785,000)
  • Isiah Kiner-Falefa ($587,000)

All of these players will earn raises in 2021, with Gallo earning the highest raise entering his second year of arbitration. Montero will probably get a nice raise as well as he enters his final year of arbitration, Goody enters his second year of arbitration. 

Isiah Kiner-Falefa will likely see a substantial raise as he enters his first season of arbitration. With Kiner-Falefa earning an everyday role in 2020 and beyond, he has all the leverage he needs to demand a significant salary increase. 

We have to wait to see projections of what salaries these players could possibly earn in 2021. MLB Trade Rumors comes out with their projections every year in during the MLB postseason.

40-Man Roster/Notable Pre-Arbitration Players 

  • Kolby Allard
  • Sherten Apostel
  • Wes Benjamin
  • Brock Burke
  • Willie Calhoun
  • Kyle Cody
  • Demarcus Evans
  • Luke Farrell
  • Adolis García
  • Ian Gibaut
  • Ronald Guzmán
  • Taylor Hearn
  • Scott Heineman
  • Jimmy Herget
  • Jonathan Hernández
  • Brett Martin
  • Joe Palumbo
  • Tyler Phillips
  • Yadiel Rivera
  • Nick Solak
  • Leody Taveras
  • Anderson Tejeda
  • Jose Trevino

This is where the Rangers will get the most bang for their buck. The vast majority of this group will make league minimum with a handful like Calhoun, Solak, Hernández, and maybe a couple more earning just a bit more.

The remainder of this season will be huge for both the Rangers and this group of younger players. With no minor league season, the Rangers will have to base their decisions this winter off of what they see from the younger group playing at the major league level now. 

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