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Rangers Promise: Will Pay 'Market Dollars' For Big Free Agents

"We're going to have to pay market dollars in order to get top players and we're prepared to do so." - Rangers president Jon Daniels.

ARLINGTON, Texas — If you've been paying attention to the Texas Rangers over the past couple of months, you may have heard the words "very active" attached to the Rangers and the upcoming free agency class.

As president of baseball operations Jon Daniels, general manager Chris Young and manager Chris Woodward tied a bow on a 60-102 season on Wednesday, we got a much clearer view of what that will look like.

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

Translation: "We're going to spend some money." 

But just in case you don't like translations or want to read between the lines, Daniels doubled down on what exactly the Rangers — and ownership — are prepared to do this winter.

"Ownership is recommitted recently to support us financially, to pay market dollars," Daniels said. "We're not in the postseason, obviously. We haven't been now for five years. We don't have that advantage. We're not on TV tonight. We understand this isn't a situation where we're looking for discounts. We're going to have to pay market dollars in order to get top players and we're prepared to do so."

Currently, the Rangers have just over $28 million on the books for next year. While Daniels would not give specific numbers on the budget for 2022's payroll (front office executives seldom give hard numbers in a formal press conference), but said the budget would be "consistent with the market and fan base of this size."

For Rangers fans, this all should sound great on the surface. Ownership has given the go-ahead to Daniels, Young & Co. to buy, seemingly at will. After all, Dallas-Fort Worth is a top-five market.

The problem is the Rangers are coming off a 102-loss season. Typically, even if a stupid amount of money is thrown at a player, it will be difficult to attract the top players in any free agent market, especially one as deep as this year's class.

"We understand where we are. We're realistic about it," Daniels said. "We're a 60-win club on the field. That's not lost on us. But we do believe we have a lot of positives. We believe we can start to put things together with an active offseason, internally and with external additions and improvements. We don't expect to make up 30 or 40 games in the standings in one winter, but we're going to take real moves in that direction."

Daniels already told InsideTheRangers.com in an exclusive interview that this winter's plan to add free agents isn't a one-year deal. He reiterated that on Wednesday, saying ownership has given the all clear "to spend for a number of years."

"This is not a one offseason quick fix," Daniels said. "We're not looking to sign one player to be the finishing piece on a club that obviously struggled this year. We're looking for players that can be part of helping turn this around and really launch us to where we want to go."

If you're getting flashbacks of the Alex Rodriguez signing, especially when you consider the deepest position in free agency is at shortstop, don't fret. Daniels looks back at that situation and realizes where and why things fell apart.

"The size of the contract that was given to Alex at the time was obviously a record," Daniels said. "That wasn't so much the issue as it was not consistent with the rest of the plan, and that there was not a continuing commitment to build, whether that was to promote young players and develop them, which is part of it, but also a critical part is to add other key players externally. That part didn't really happen."

After the actions of this group in 2021, regarding the farm system, the Rangers are absolutely committed to building an exciting young core of players. Adding free agents at the same time that those young players — like Josh Jung and Cole Winn — hit the big leagues, is a whole other endeavor.

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Daniels said from the Rangers' experience of pursuing free agents in the past, three things are important to marquee players: 1) a chance to win 2) being paid at fair market value/being well compensated 3) an organization and community that they, as the player, and their family can be comfortable and thrive in.

From what Daniels said about ownership's commitment to spend, Points 2 and 3 are the easiest selling points. The biggest hurdle will be convincing top-of-the-market players that they can win in Arlington.

On the surface, that doesn't look good. This team just lost 102 games. They don't have any established, impact veterans on the roster. By season's end, 13 of the 28 players on the active roster qualified as rookies. 20 of them had less than two years of service. That is a wildly inexperienced team.

So both Jon Daniels and Chris Young have to be on their 'A' game as salesmen. And with the role Young played in luring Jack Leiter to Arlington in this summer's draft, maybe the Rangers have a leg up on where they have been previously. And therein lies the key part of their sales pitch: an up-and-coming farm system that is considered to be one of the deepest in the game.

"There are a lot of great things that are happening underneath the surface," Young said. "It's tough to say after a 102-loss season. But, as a player, I put on that lens and I fully believe that. I look at our farm system and where we are, I look at the culture and the people that we have here, I look at the market we're in, I look at what an unbelievably great place this is to live with a fan base that is just craving a winning team — players who are willing to understand that and look at this and see what the opportunity is, they're going to get excited about that. And the competitors that we want are going to embrace that. I think we're going to find the right ones that fit what we're doing."

"[We can offer] things that, to a player, I believe speaks to a chance to win for a sustained period of time," Daniels added. "As we look to bring in players on multi-year deals, I believe that's going to be important to them."

In other words, the Rangers are building with "a sense of urgency."

As far as the pool of free agents go, the Rangers plan to explore just about every position on the market. The deep class of shortstops that include Carlos Correa, Irving native Trevor Story, Corey Seager and Javier Báez have garnered the most attention amongst fans. The starting rotation will likely see some additions, and both Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard — both DFW natives — are on the market this winter.

Whether or not the Rangers are successful in adding one of those players, the expectation is they will add at multiple positions.

"We have needs everywhere," Young said. "I don't think we're limiting ourselves in terms of ways to upgrade our roster. I think that we have needs everywhere. We're focused and committed to exploring every possible way to improve our big league club, and do it in a manner that's still disciplined and consistent with our long-term vision here of creating a long-term championship window."

As Daniels told us at InsideTheRangers.com, fans may scoff at the message from Wednesday's press conference. Daniels, Young and Woodward all said the right things behind the mic on Wednesday to get this shipped turned around to avoid the rough seas of another 100-loss season.

Over the next couple of months, they'll have to put ownership's money where their mouth is.

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