Rangers off-season blows into action. Who's returning, who isn't, and who's new?
In the aftermath of any passing, there is the mourning period, and then there is the day when you realize that life must go on and bills must still be paid, and while the world will never be what it was before, it still exists, and you still exist in it.
The 2017 Texas Rangers season has been dead for a month, and while Rangers fans mourned a month of wild postseason baseball, the Astros won their first World Series and November lurked in wait. It's here now, and the sound has returned to our ears, the movement of the world has returned to our eyes, and there is a lot of chaos to try to wrangle.
So, let the wild rumpus begin: the Texas Rangers off-season is in full swing.
On a conference call today, both Jeff Banister and Jon Daniels spoke to the media about a number of moves, some of which had been rumored for awhile, and others of which were new. With no further delay, let’s get to them: It’s the November 6th Baseball Texas Occasionally!
1. Don Wakamatsu will be the new bench coach. Wakamatsu lives in Keller, Texas, which just so happens to be where Jeff Banister lives. Last off-season, the two of them worked out with their sons and forged a friendship. When Wakamatsu—who had been the bench coach for the Kansas City Royals since 2014—was informed that he would not be returning in that role in 2018, Banister saw an opportunity and called Jon Daniels.
It’s not Wakamatsu’s first turn in the role. He served as the Rangers’ bench coach from 2003-2006 under Buck Showalter, and moved to third base coach in 2007 when Ron Washington took the helm for Texas. In 2008, he accepted the job as manager of the Seattle Mariners, becoming the first Asian manager in MLB history.
Of course, the Rangers already had a bench coach. So what happened with...
2. Steve Buechele? He has agreed to move to first base coach. Both Daniels and Banister used the phrase “tremendous” in regards to Buechele (Daniels followed the adjective with “teammate” and Banister with “human being), and both allowed that Buechele’s grace in accepting the move was important part of the process.
“We did not set out this winter to change bench coaches,” Daniels clarified “We had a specific circumstance with Don being available and having an interest in coming here. We did not talk to anyone else, nor did we discuss anyone else internally; had this one particular candidate not come about, we would have gone down the path that it initially looked like we were going down, looking for a new first-base coach. (Buechele) has been an excellent coach, an excellent Ranger, this is not a
reflection on anything he did do, or did not do.”
Last year’s first base coach, by the way (Hector Ortiz) will move into the role of bullpen coach, taking over for Brad Holman, who was relieved of his duties at season’s end. And Ortiz won’t be the only new voice in the ears of Rangers pitchers: the Rangers today also announced the hiring of…
3. Dan Warthen, who has spent the last ten seasons as the Mets’ pitching coach. Warthen will serve as the assistant pitching coach in Arlington, working under Doug Brocail. What all does that entail? Well, they’re still defining the role, but “he will aid everything that Brocail does on a daily basis,” Jeff Banister said., before explaining that the traditional two-coach pitching coach approach (pitching plus bullpen) puts one of the pitching coaches out in the bullpen for the entire game. Adding an assistant pitching coach puts one more body in the dugout to increase communication during the game, and allow him to, for instance, have a conversation with tomorrow’s starting pitcher while the game is in progress. Warthen will also be utilized in “pre-game, post-game game plans with Doug Brocail. Video work, mechanical work… it allows, also, Doug Brocail to do what he does very well, which is connect with these guys individually to serve their needs.”
You may recognize Warthen’s name in conjunction with the “Warthen slider”, a pitch that has benefited the Mets staff, but has come into question lately in conjunction with injuries on the New York staff.
The personnel moves don’t end there, however. Texas has also brought back local legend...
4. Colby Lewis in the role of special assistant to the GM, “with an emphasis on working with pitchers in the club’s farm system” The role is similar to the roles filled by Michael Young, Pudge Rodriguez, and Darren Oliver. Additionally, the team has named...
5. Ross Fenstermaker as the director of pro scouting. Fenstermaker has been in the organization since 2010, and will move to Arlington as part of the promotion.
NOW! On to player moves.
5. Mike Napoli - Texas will not exercise his option for 2018. Daniels said that the team will be prioritizing pitching first, and defense second. He made sure to mention that he isn’t ruling out bringing Napoli back, but given all the equivocations, that seems highly unlikely.
6. Martin Perez - Texas will exercise his option for 2018. This is a no-brainer: a middle-of-the-rotation starter at $6 million is a steal.
7. Tony Barnette - Texas will not exercise his option for 2018. While the other two moves were expected, this one was still up in the air. Barnette would have been paid $4 million in 2018, and the team decided not to bring him back at that rate. Daniels did follow up this announcement by immediately saying “We still have interest in bringing Tony back; we are still talking to him, and we’ll see where that goes.”
Napoli and Barnette are now free agents. If Barnette does not return, allow us here to officially thank him for all the music recommendations over the last two years. Meanwhile,
8. Austin Bibens-Dirkx and A.J. Jimenez have cleared outright waivers and have been given the option to accept an assignment to Round Rock or become free agents, but—much like Barnette—Daniels made sure to include that “we have expressed interest in bringing Austin back; he’s going to look through his options, and we’ll do the same, but that is a possibility.”
With these two spots cleared off the 40-man roster, Texas was able to bring...
9. Chi Chi Gonzalez and Hanser Alberto off the 60-day DL. There is no 60-day DL in the off-season, so Texas had to make room on the 40-man, one way or the other. Well, sort of. There were a couple of notable spots cleared...
10. Andrew Cashner and Carlos Gomez are both free agents now, and the Rangers will not be offering a $17.4 million qualifying offer to either. For Cashner, says Daniels, it “came down to economics”; in short, the team wants to keep the door open to Cashner’s return, but they were not willing to commit $17.4 million dollars to the pursuit, and had he accepted, it would have hamstrung them on other pursuits.
Of note, Cashner has a new free agent: Jeff Berry at CAA.
As for Gomez, the Rangers feel more comfortable with Delino DeShields in center field than they did a year ago. DeShields took a huge step forward last offseason, and was worth 2.2 WAR in 2017, hitting .261 and reaching base at a .344 rate. Additionally, his defense improved markedly. That improvement may allow Texas to let Gomez walk, and focus more budget on pitching.
11. Shohei Ohtani is still up in the air, and the situation has been further complicated as MLB works out the new posting agreement with NPB in Japan. “They’re still kind of working through the details,” Daniels said of a recent communication from MLB to all of the clubs. “I’ve seen some various media reports speculating on it, but… I don’t think it’s something that we have enough information on to really base any decisions (or) plans on, and I think we’re in the same category as the other 29 teams, in that regard. We’ll go about our off-season, and if something transpires there and players are available, then we’ll evaluate those options, and if they’re not, they’re not.”
During the regular season, these recommendations occasionally come from Rangers players, broadcasters, or other people around the team (here’s a complete list). If there’s a player or person you’d like Levi to ask for a music recommendation, shoot him an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or a tweet here.
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