I’ll never cash an easier bet than last year’s Under season win total for the Texas Rangers.
They lost 102 games and went 15-34 across June and July to remove any potential for a sweat. It was a terrible team in every facet. They were outscored by 190 runs, lost by five or more runs 31 times and were never above .500. The Rangers had the worst offense in baseball with a .291 wOBA and were one of two teams with an OBP below .300. On the pitching side, only the Diamondbacks accumulated fewer fWAR. The Rangers had a 4.80 ERA and a 4.76 FIP with the fourth-lowest K% in the majors. The bullpen was about league average, so most of the poor performances came from the starters, a group that posted a 5.33 ERA and a 5.19 FIP.
The Rangers were at least active this winter. They revamped the top of the batting order with Marcus Semien, Corey Seager and Mitch Garver. They brought in outfield upgrades with Kole Calhoun and Brad Miller. They signed Jon Gray and Martin Perez in hopes of bolstering the rotation and Greg Holland and Garrett Richards on the relief side. They threw around a lot of money for a team with a season win total of 74.5, but was it enough for a 15-win improvement?
The offense certainly looks more exciting than it did last season. Semien won’t hit 45 home runs again, but he’s a big upgrade at the top of the order with two outstanding offensive seasons in the last three years. He posted 7.6 fWAR with the A’s in 2019 and a 6.6 fWAR with the Blue Jays in 2021. Semien has also improved defensively over the years and was a great second baseman for the Jays last season.
Last season, Semien pulled the ball a lot more and hit a lot more fly balls. The Blue Jays are doing that with a lot of their hitters, so we’ll see if he keeps it up in Texas. The ball doesn’t carry nearly as well at Globe Life Field and AL West parks are worse for offense than AL East parks. I have no doubt Semien will be a valuable player but not nearly as valuable as recent years.
The Rangers gave Seager a 10-year, $325 million deal, which is a lot for a player who missed ample time last season and most of 2018. He’s been a productive hitter with a career slash of .297/.367/.504, and he was solid last season with a .389 wOBA. He makes a ton of quality contact with a great feel for the barrel, so his offensive profile is a good gamble, but health is a factor and his range at shortstop is questionable.
Given that the Rangers got a 95 wRC + at second base last season and an 85 wRC + at shortstop, Semien and Seager are tremendous upgrades. If Calhoun and Miller hit for an outfield that had an 85 wRC + last season, that’s two more upgrades. Calhoun did miss most of last season with an injury and he’s now 34 years old, so I’m tepid on his profile. He, too, has increased his launch angle to generate more power. Miller hit 20 homers in 377 PA, but he is a health risk as well. His contact quality numbers were outstanding, but he is a full-fledged platoon player.
Adolis Garcia is a more valuable player by traditional metrics than the new-school sabermetrics. He strikes out a ton without walking but also hit 30 homers and played a great center field last season. His low OBP will hold down his offensive numbers, but he has an enticing power/speed combo. Nathaniel Lowe hit 18 homers and posted a 115 wRC + as he finally got some regular playing time. Garver, the team’s new catcher, hit 13 HR in 68 games after hitting 31 in 93 games in 2019.
The lineup does have some upside but also has a tremendous amount of injury risk and a lot of guys that haven’t dealt with the strain of playing every day. The Rangers will be attempting to put together some platoons, which is a good strategy if players stay healthy.