The Texas Rangers ended the 2020 season as the worst team in the American League, finishing with the second-fewest wins in all of baseball, ahead only of the Pittsburgh Pirates. They haven’t had a winning season since 2016, also the year they last reached the postseason. The rebuilding flag has officially been raised in Arlington, a year into their brand-new ballpark.
Texas did make waves in late March by picking up the fourth-year option on manager Chris Woodward. The 44-year old skipper was entering the final year of his original three-year deal, but the front office believes Woodward is the right captain to lead the Rangers ship back to relevancy.
Globe Life Field played host to two rounds of the 2020 MLB Playoffs last October, but the Rangers did not participate in the festivities. As noted, their 22-38 record was the second-worst in the league, though they did close out the year with a three-game sweep of the Astros.
After winning seven of eight in early August to improve their record to 10-9, Texas lost 10 of their next 11 and never sniffed the .500 mark again. The Rangers would proceed to endure three separate losing skids of three, four and six games in September before wrapping up the campaign with those three victories over Houston.
The Rangers were adequate in their new digs, going 16-14 at Globe Life, but were miserable on the road, winning just six games in 30 tries, tied with the Pirates for the fewest road wins in baseball
Because the Rangers are in a clear rebuild, 2021 wasn’t the offseason to make big free agency splashes. The hope around Arlington is that they’ll show enough improvement to lure one or two next winter and they’ll definitely have the money to do so then. They did bring in some recognizable names on short deals, but remains to be seen whether they pay off.
David Dahl was acquired on a one-year deal from the Rockies in December after spending his first five big league years in Colorado. Dahl was an All-Star in 2019 but has never played more than 100 games in any season.
The Rangers also added Khris Davis in a trade with the A’s, Mike Foltynewicz in a deal with the Braves and Nate Lowe in a transaction with the Rays. They also added Ian Kennedy in free agency with the idea that the former starter could compete for a spot in the backend of the bullpen.
The biggest departure was Lance Lynn. The 33-year old was the staff ace, finishing fifth in the Cy Young voting in 2019 and then earning his 100th career win last year. He was in the final year of a three-year deal, getting moved to the White Sox for prospects; Dane Dunning and Avery Weems.
Corey Kluber is a big name, but barely registered an impact in his one season in Texas, pitching seven innings total before bowing out with an injury. The former Cy Young winner wound up in New York, signing a one-year deal with the Yankees in January.
Texas also severed ties with a former franchise staple, as Shin-Soo Choo left the team to sign with the SSG Landers of the Korea Baseball Organization, closing out a six-year run with the club.
The big question mark is who will step up to be the ace. Is there an ace on the staff? Lynn was unquestionably the best pitcher and foundational piece of the Rangers’ rotation over the last two years, and his departure opens up a huge hole.
Kyle Gibson will get the ball on Opening Day, the third different pitcher in three years that Woodward has tasked with the honor and first opportunity for the eight-year veteran.
Jordan Lyles might have the best stuff on the staff, but he gave up a league-high 45 runs last year, yielding 12 home runs and 23 walks in a disappointing season. As noted, Dunning came over from Chicago in the Lynn trade and could wind up as their best pitcher.
Jose Leclerc was expected to compete for the closer position after showcasing the best stuff for a bullpen arm. However, he experienced elbow soreness and discomfort in spring training and is expected to miss significant time. That could very well open the door for Kennedy to at least start the year as the team’s top option in the 9th inning.
Texas Rangers Offense
The Rangers were near the bottom (or at the bottom) of every major offensive statistical category in 2020 and are banking on players returning from injuries to turn their fortunes around. They finished dead last in the American League in runs scored and even on a team with Joey Gallo in the lineup, only hit 62 long balls.
Gallo had the fourth most strikeouts in MLB last season and adding Davis is like having a right-handed Gallo in the lineup, where at-bats will result in either homers or Ks. Davis, however, will miss the start of the season because of a quadriceps strain suffered on a bunt single in late March.
Look out for Wille Calhoun if he can stay healthy too. Calhoun should slide into the middle of the lineup and has 30+ homer potential, but is coming off a scary injury where he broke his jaw in spring training last year, forcing him to miss the entire season.
3 Key Players
Had this been written a week before we actually published it, it could have looked completely different. But with the injuries we just noted to Davis and Leclerc, it vaults Gallo and Kennedy to the top of the list almost by default.
The Rangers will hope Calhoun can provide some of the pop that they’ll miss for however long Davis is out, but Gallo will need to produce 40 or more long balls in order for this lineup to pose any kind of threat.
Gallo’s defense shouldn’t go unnoticed either as he and Isiah Kiner-Falefa entered camp last year set to play new positions and both wound up winning Gold Gloves. Kennedy has pitched out of the bullpen before, but was abysmal with the Royals last year, posting an 0–2 record with 9.00 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 14.0 innings pitched.
The Governor of Texas lifted the state mandatory mask policy, but they’ll still be required for fans at the ballpark. In the Rangers’ home opener, that ballpark will be filled at 100% capacity, the first expected sellout in Globe Life Field’s brief history. They’ll then revert back to a reduced capacity, but there’s at least a small edge when the Rangers open against the Blue Jays on April 5-7. Their season actually begins with a three-game set in Kansas City.
Their first divisional series begins on April 19 with a trip to Los Angeles and they’ll see former teammate Lynn in Chicago from April 23-25.
According to the BetUS sportsbook, the Rangers share the second longest odds to win the World Series (+12000) with the Rockies and Orioles, ahead of only the Pirates. As far as the division goes, Oakland, Houston, Los Angeles and Seattle all have shorter odds than Texas who come in at +6000 to be crowned AL West Champs.
In terms of regular-season wins, BetUs.com has the over/under at 67.5 games for the Texas Rangers. If you are new to sports betting, please check out our MLB betting hub page to get started.
Gallo has the third-shortest odds to hit the most home runs at +1400, which might be the most compelling race the Rangers find themselves in in 2021.