The Trade Market May Be the Rangers Only Option for Addressing Third Base
The Rangers started out their winter with Anthony Rendon as their number one priority. Third base is the largest need on the roster and he was the best position player. The marriage made sense on paper, but Rendon decided to go to the division-rival Angels, who were willing to offer seven guaranteed years.
Josh Donaldson always seemed to be the Rangers' plan B, but when word came out that Donaldson wanted four years, the Rangers reportedly weren't comfortable with that. So unless the asking price goes down on Donaldson, or the Rangers change their mind, Donaldson won't be a Ranger either.
The Rangers have massively upgraded their rotation, but third base, among other positions, remains vacated. When it comes to those other positions like catcher, first base, and center field, the Rangers at least have bodies there. The Rangers are currently without someone on the roster who can play third base for at least 140 games.
The trade market has developed over the course of the winter. Once teams saw how high of a demand there was for third base, teams like Colorado, the Chicago Cubs, the New York Mets, and New York Yankees have started fielding calls for their third baseman.
Obviously, the highest prize in the trade market is Colorado's Nolan Arenado. The Rangers have already contacted the Rockies about him, however it's unclear how far those talks have gone so far. There are no reports of the asking price being too high for the Rangers, so unless a contrary report comes out stating such, the Rangers should still have a shot at landing the five-time all star.
There were reports earlier in the winter that the Rangers were interested in the Yankees' Miguel Andujar. The 24 year-old third baseman was supplanted by Gio Urshela last season as Andujar missed nearly the entirety of 2019 with torn labrum in his right shoulder.
Andujar is a talented young hitter, but needs to drastically improve defensively. If the Rangers made a trade for him, they'd have four seasons of control over him at a cheap cost. Andujar is no Arenado, but he would be an improvement over the one-year stopgap the Rangers utilized last season with Asdrubal Cabrera.
The Mets have also gotten calls about Jed Lowrie, who is entering the final year of a two-year, $20 million contract. Like Miguel Andujar, Lowrie missed almost all of 2019 due to injury and the Mets have Jeff McNeil to play third base.
The Mets may look to trade Lowrie to get something positive for him while teams like the Rangers are desperate for a third baseman. The Rangers could also work out a deal to acquire Lowrie and former top first base prospect Dominic Smith, who's been supplanted by National League Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso.
The wildcard in the third base trade market is the Cubs' Kris Bryant. His pedigree precedes him, but is also in the middle of a service time grievance. It's unlikely, but if he wins his grievance, he will become a free agent after 2020 instead of the 2021 season.
Either way, the Rangers are not likely interested in giving up top prospects for only two years of a player, no matter how good he is. General manager Jon Daniels stated earlier this winter they weren't interested in trading for players with only a couple of years of control.
On the contrary, Texas did go out and get Corey Kluber, who only has two years left on his contract. However, the Rangers were able to make that trade without giving up anyone in their top-20 prospect pool.
Nolan Arenado also has an opt-out in his contract after 2021, which could throw the possibility of that trade out the window. The Rangers will likely require Arenado to waive his opt-out as a part of the trade negotiations.
The Rangers could still change their mind on Josh Donaldson and offer a fourth year. If they don't want to commit that, there isn't much else left in free agency. It would be another season of a one-year option. The best available free agent left at third base, based on their bWAR in 2019, is Todd Frazier.
Frazier would be an upgrade over Asdrubal Cabrera from last season, but it's not the most exciting move to get fans to come out to Globe Life Field.
If the Rangers truly want to solidify third base, the trade market seems to be the only option.
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