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Rangers Offseason: Predicting the 40-Man Roster

The Texas Rangers have a plethora of decisions to make this offseason, with the 40-man roster being one of the most urgent matters.

ARLINGTON, Texas — As you may expect, the Texas Rangers — after losing 102 games in 2021 — have a lot to accomplish during the offseason. Sure, the club is in a rebuild, but the Rangers are very dissatisfied with the results from this season.

We've heard front office leadership talk openly about being "very active" in the free agent and trade market this winter. But the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between Major League Baseball and the Players Association expires on December 1. Without a new CBA, the market could be put on a unofficial freeze as both clubs and players hesitate to enter into new deals until the new structure of the league is in place.

But before that even happens, the Rangers have some key decisions to make regarding their 40-man roster. Clubs have to go through the 40-man crunch every offseason. There is no 60-day Injured List in the offseason, so all players that were on it need to be placed on the 40-man roster or designated for assignment. The Rangers currently have a full 40-man roster, eight players on the 60-day IL and a long list of notable prospects that are eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft this winter.

It's still very early in the decision-making process, and the Rangers have until November 20 to finalize their 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft, which always takes place on the final day of the Winter Meetings in December.

For those unfamiliar with the Rule 5 draft, here's a quick rundown of the event:

Held each December, the Rule 5 Draft allows clubs without a full 40-man roster to select certain non-40-man roster players from other clubs. Clubs draft in reverse order of the standings from the previous season. Players signed at age 18 or younger need to be added to their club's 40-Man roster within five seasons or they become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Players who signed at age 19 or older need to be protected within four seasons.

Not every club will make a selection, but those that do pick a player must pay $100,000 to the club from which said player was selected. Rule 5 Draft picks are assigned directly to the drafting club's 26-man roster and must be placed on outright waivers in order to be removed from the 26-man roster in the subsequent season. Should the player clear waivers, he must be offered back to his previous team for $50,000 and can be outrighted to the Minors only if his original club does not wish to reacquire him. A Rule 5 Draft pick can be placed on the Major League injured list, but he must be active for a minimum of 90 days to avoid being subject to the aforementioned roster restrictions in the next campaign.

Clubs may trade a player selected in the Rule 5 Draft, but the same restrictions apply to the player's new organization. However, a club may also work out a trade with the Rule 5 pick's original club to acquire his full rights, thereby allowing him to be optioned to the Minors under traditional circumstances.

-MLB.com

For now, here's a quick look at all the players currently on the 40-man roster, 60-day IL and notable Rule 5 eligible prospects. Then, we'll make a projection of how the 40-man roster might look come November 20.

Rangers 40-Man Roster

(As of October 6, 2021)
* - on 60-day IL

Pitchers

  • A.J. Alexy
  • Kolby Allard
  • Drew Anderson
  • Joe Barlow
  • Brock Burke
  • Matt Bush
  • Kyle Cody*
  • Jharel Cotton
  • Dane Dunning
  • Demarcus Evans
  • Mike Foltynewicz
  • Taylor Hearn
  • Jonathan Hernández*
  • Spencer Howard
  • John King*
  • José Leclerc*
  • Jordan Lyles
  • Brett Martin
  • Glenn Otto
  • Joe Palumbo
  • Spencer Patton
  • Yerry Rodriguez
  • Dennis Santana
  • Josh Sborz
  • Nick Snyder*
  • Hunter Wood*

Catchers

  • David García
  • Jonah Heim
  • Sam Huff
  • Yohel Pozo
  • Jose Trevino

Infielders

  • Ronald Guzmán*
  • Nathaniel Lowe
  • Curtis Terry
  • Nick Solak
  • Sherten Apostel
  • Charlie Culberson
  • Brock Holt
  • Andy Ibáñez
  • Anderson Tejeda
  • Yonny Hernandez
  • Isiah Kiner-Falefa

Outfielders

  • Willie Calhoun
  • Jason Martin
  • Adolis García
  • DJ Peters
  • Leody Taveras
  • Eli White*

Notable Rule 5 Eligible Prospects

Pitchers

  • Jason Bahr
  • Blake Bass
  • Scott Engler
  • Kelvin Gonzalez
  • Ronny Henriquez (No. 15 prospect on MLB.com, No. 29 on Baseball America)
  • Jake Latz
  • Jacob Lemoine
  • Fernery Ozuna
  • Cole Ragans (N/A, No. 17)
  • Daniel Robert
  • Alex Speas
  • Cole Uvila
  • Ricky Vanasco (No. 12, No. 16)

Position Players

  • INF Ryan Dorow
  • INF Ezequiel Duran (No. 7, No. 5)
  • INF Chris Seise
  • OF Bubba Thompson (No. 28, N/A)
  • OF Steele Walker (No. 21, No. 27)

To break this down, we'll look at the players who are "here to stay", then the players who are on the bubble, and wrap up with the players who will likely not be on the 40-man roster come November 20.

It's important to remember: Just because a player is not on the 40-man roster does not mean they will no longer be with the organization. The Rangers would likely try to keep most of the players they remove (would have to clear waivers) or try and trade them for another asset.

First, let's take a look at only the 40-man and 60-day IL players. Then, we'll add a list of potential prospects to a projection of the 40-man roster at the end.

Here To Stay

Pitchers (17)

  • A.J. Alexy
  • Kolby Allard
  • Joe Barlow
  • Dane Dunning
  • Demarcus Evans
  • Taylor Hearn
  • Jonathan Hernández
  • Spencer Howard
  • John King
  • José Leclerc
  • Brett Martin
  • Glenn Otto
  • Spencer Patton
  • Yerry Rodriguez
  • Dennis Santana
  • Josh Sborz
  • Nick Snyder

Catchers (4)

  • David García
  • Jonah Heim
  • Sam Huff
  • Jose Trevino

Infielders (6)

  • Nathaniel Lowe
  • Nick Solak
  • Sherten Apostel
  • Andy Ibáñez
  • Yonny Hernandez
  • Isiah Kiner-Falefa

Outfielders (3)

  • Adolis García
  • DJ Peters
  • Leody Taveras

Analysis: Many of these players are a given and don't really need much explanation. Spencer Patton and Josh Sborz could potentially be bubble guys, but I believe the Rangers saw enough to give them another crack at spots in the bullpen in 2022, or at least for the first couple months until Jonathan Hernández and José Leclerc return from Tommy John surgery.

On The Bubble

Pitchers (4)

  • Brock Burke
  • Matt Bush
  • Kyle Cody
  • Joe Palumbo

Catchers (1)

  • Yohel Pozo

Infielders (2)

  • Ronald Guzmán
  • Curtis Terry

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Outfielders (2)

  • Willie Calhoun
  • Eli White

Analysis: It might be difficult to potentially lose two pitching prospects like Brock Burke and Joe Palumbo, but both have had their health issues and haven't pitched up to standards when they have been able to be on the mound. They've now been surpassed for a few other young pitchers (Alexy, Otto, Dunning, King, etc.). They may have run out of chances.

Speaking of chances, both Ronald Guzmán and Willie Calhoun could be out of chances. I don't think they will, but it wouldn't be the biggest surprise in the world if neither of them were on the 40-man roster by the deadline.

As for Kyle Cody, the Rangers still value him. But due to his injury keeping him out until the second half of next season, they may be able to remove him from the 40-man, have him clear waivers and bring him back on a minor league deal. 

Remember, a Major League club can select an injured player in the Rule 5 draft, but said player has to be active for a minimum of 90 days in the season following the selection. Otherwise, the same Rule 5 roster restrictions carry over into the following season. With Cody expected to be out until the second half of the 2022 season, that may keep him safe from the Rule 5 draft.

Both Curtis Terry and Eli White could be the victims of bad luck/timing. Terry's MLB debut went about as bad as it could possibly go, and White could see himself removed to help protect another young outfielder from the Rule 5 draft.

See Ya Later

Pitchers (5)

  • Drew Anderson
  • Jharel Cotton
  • Mike Foltynewicz
  • Jordan Lyles (free agent)
  • Hunter Wood

Infielders (3)

  • Charlie Culberson (free agent)
  • Brock Holt (free agent)
  • Anderson Tejeda

Outfielders (1)

  • Jason Martin

Analysis: The Rangers still have club control over Drew Anderson, Mike Foltynewicz, Jharel Cotton, Hunter Wood and Jason Martin. However, there are more valuable prospects that require 40-man roster spots. The Rangers need innings, which could possibly lead to a reunion with Jordan Lyles, but Foltynewicz failed to provide that in 2021 when the club needed it. It'll be a shock if he's with the Rangers next year.

As for Anderson Tejeda, he's fallen so far down the pecking order in the organization's middle infield, he had a hard time getting regular time at Double-A Frisco well into August. It's hard to imagine him on the 40-man roster over guys like Ezequiel Duran, who was acquired in the Joey Gallo trade and is one of the top hitting prospects in the organization.

Projected 40-Man Roster at Deadline

Bold: denotes Rule 5 eligible prospects

Pitchers (21)

  • A.J. Alexy
  • Kolby Allard
  • Joe Barlow
  • Dane Dunning
  • Demarcus Evans
  • Taylor Hearn
  • Ronny Henriquez
  • Jonathan Hernández
  • Spencer Howard
  • John King
  • Jake Latz
  • José Leclerc
  • Brett Martin
  • Glenn Otto
  • Spencer Patton
  • Cole Ragans
  • Yerry Rodriguez
  • Dennis Santana
  • Josh Sborz
  • Nick Snyder
  • Ricky Vanasco

Catchers (4)

  • David García
  • Jonah Heim
  • Sam Huff
  • Jose Trevino

Infielders (8)

  • Ronald Guzmán
  • Nathaniel Lowe
  • Nick Solak
  • Sherten Apostel
  • Andy Ibáñez
  • Ezequiel Duran
  • Yonny Hernandez
  • Isiah Kiner-Falefa

Outfielders (7)

  • Willie Calhoun
  • Adolis García
  • DJ Peters
  • Leody Taveras
  • Bubba Thompson
  • Steele Walker
  • Eli White

Analysis: This current projection has seven Rule 5 eligible prospects added to the 40-man roster. Cole Ragans and Ricky Vanasco are probably not going to pitch in the big leagues in 2022, but they are too talented to be left exposed. Jake Latz is closer to the big leagues — he even made his MLB debut as a COVID-IL replacement — and produced enough at Triple A to warrant attention from other clubs.

The Rangers said when they acquired Glenn Otto and Ezequiel Duran in the Joey Gallo trade that they would have to protect them this winter. Otto was obviously already added to the 40-man, and Duran is another bat the Rangers wouldn't want to lose. Both Bubba Thompson and Steele Walker could also be stashed away as a fifth outfielder on a big league club, meaning the Rangers would likely have to protect them.

There could be a scenario where Ronny Henriquez is left off the 40-man roster. And while his 5.04 ERA in Double A doesn't seem worthy of protection, his 1.18 WHIP and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings with Frisco show an ability to miss bats. That could be attractive enough to a club to take a chance on him, giving the Rangers incentive to protect part of their pitching core.

In this scenario, Brock Burke, Matt Bush, Joe Palumbo, Yohel Pozo and Curtis Terry are the "on the bubble" players left off the roster. The Rangers would surely like to keep all of these players, but would have to clear waivers first. It's conceivable that Terry would be the "41st man," meaning if the Rangers were confident that Eli White wouldn't be taken in the Rule 5 draft, they could give Terry his spot on the roster.

Final Thoughts

If these decisions seem difficult enough, we're not even considering the moves that would have to be made regarding any free agent acquisitions or trades. Free agency opens up five days after the conclusion of the World Series, so it is possible the Rangers sign a free agent prior to the 40-man deadline. But even after that deadline, as long as the CBA negotiations don't interfere, free agent acquisitions will leave more of these players off the 40-man roster.

Promo image by Kelly Gavin / Courtesy of the Texas Rangers

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