ARLINGTON, Texas — The 2021 Texas Rangers season hasn't been easy. It's been a year chock-full of painful moments. Some of them have been the natural growing pains that accompany a very young roster. Some of them have come from vast inexperience. And some from a sheer lack of talent.
The painful season has culminated in 100 losses (now 101), something that hasn't happened since the 1973 squad lost a franchise-worst 105 games. Nobody is happy about it. The fans, the front office, the players, the coaches — they all hate it.
"Whether it's 99, 100, 101, whatever it is, it still sucks either way," said manager Chris Woodward after the Rangers' 100th loss on Wednesday. "There's no sugarcoating that. It is triple digits, and it's something this organization hasn't done in a long time. So obviously nobody here is proud of the fact that they're associated with that."
Just a couple of days before that, general manager Chris Young said on his radio show with 105.3 The Fan, "We are 100 percent not going to have a year like this again."
Even though there are two games remaining this season, eyes are becoming more and more fixated on next year. Seldom does a day go by without Chris Woodward talking about adding external pieces for 2022 and beyond in his Zoom calls with the media. Everyone is ready to put 2021 behind them.
Naturally, the biggest question to answer is how do the Rangers get from where they are right now — a wildly inexperienced team where half the roster qualifies as rookies — to being a competitive ballclub?
"There's a lot that goes into that answer," Woodward said on Friday. "Personnel, processes. With our staff, I still believe in our processes and how we do them. We're going to critique all of those and figure out how to do those better. We're always doing that anyway. But how do we take this team from where it is right now to being a contender? How do we fill the roster?"
First, with the coaching staff, changes are almost guaranteed. Chris Woodward's option for 2022 was picked up in spring training and there is no indication that the Rangers are ready to move on. As for the rest of the coaches, there has been at least one change to the field staff every year since Jon Daniels took over baseball operations in 2006. After a 100-loss season, it's difficult to imagine all jobs are safe.
Secondly, the Rangers have to make decisions on which internal players will remain part of the future plans. The club has been conducting their exit interviews with players, reviewing the good and the bad from this season and carving out offseason plans to ready themselves for next year. But which internal pieces will stick? Which prospects will contribute to the big league team in 2022?
"We've answered some questions this year, but honestly it's too small of a sample size until we start to see it on a larger scale from some of these guys," Woodward said. "And maybe these guys will never get that opportunity, depending on who we bring in."
There it is. Another mention of adding external pieces.
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The Rangers have only $28 million on the books for next season. There is plenty of room in the budget to add free agents or trade for controllable assets that might require a financial commitment. The trio of Chris Woodward, Chris Young and Jon Daniels have been very forthright in the club's intentions to be "very active" in the free agent market this winter.
It's nearly impossible to completely overhaul a roster in just one season. But players in the Texas clubhouse have heard their manager, general manager and president of baseball operations talk about their offseason plans well before this season is even over. One Rangers player even told InsideTheRangers.com on the condition of anonymity, "Everybody in the locker room knows our roster next year is going to look way different than it does now."
"We know we're going to [add externally]," Woodward said. "But what does it look like? As soon as next year, how do we do that, and what does the future hold after that? How do we start putting these internal guys in? When are they gonna be ready?"
These are only some of the questions that have to be answered this winter. The Rangers have a lot of decisions to make, not only of who they may target in free agency, but the 40-man roster will be a daunting task in and of itself.
But with all the questions that need to be answered this winter, one thing is certain: The Rangers were very dissatisfied with what happened this season. And as of now, many expect this club to look very different in 2022. But it's not about turning this thing around in one year. It's a multi-year plan to reopen the window of contention in Arlington.
"This is not just a one-year thing," Daniels told InsideTheRangers.com on September 16. "We're looking to build for an extended period of time. We expect to add to the roster this offseason. By design, we're not looking to do all of it at once either."
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