The season is getting closer and closer, so it's high time we delve into our bitter AL West rivals' chances at success in 2016. We'll take a look at what's new, what to expect and if we need to be worried or not. Today we're looking at the Texas Rangers.
One of those teams in the AL West who don't actually reside in the west. You know, baseball town. The former employer of nearly every horrible free agent acquisition in Arte's tenure, plus the residence of Arte's worst trade acquisition, Vernon Wells.
Were they even good last year?
Well, they won the AL West, eliminating our Halos from contention on the very last day of the season. They enjoyed bounce-back years from former free agent busts Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder, along with breakout campaigns from stinky second baseman Rougned Odor and white bread first sacker Mitch Moreland. While they were just as mediocre as the Angels most of the year, they sold the farm for Cole Hamels to replace the injured Yu Darvish atop the rotation and went on a tear to overtake the kids in Houston for the division crown.
What'd they do this off-season?
Not much, really. They signed Ian Desmond to a bargain one year, $8MM deal, though it would be much more of a bargain if he was actually going to play the position he is good at. Rather, they signed the shortstop (thus sacrificing a first round pick) to fill their hole in left field. Of course, they wouldn't have that hole if the increasingly fragile Josh Hamilton were healthy enough to play.
The only other new additions are fifth outfielder Justin Ruggiano and reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, acquired from the Mariners in the Leonys Martin trade. Really, their biggest acquisition, aside from picking up Hamels late last season, will be the return of Yu Darvish, expected to return to their rotation mid-May after recovering from last season's Tommy John surgery.
What is their strength?
Aside from the ageless wonder who should of been an Angel, Adrian Beltre? I can't really figure out how this team won the division crown last season. Hamels should be good once again, though at age 32 it is probably fair to say he isn't a true "ace". Darvish can be, though it would be a tall order coming off TJ surgery. Really, their line-up is pure mediocrity aside from third base, DH and maybe right field, though Choo gives back a lot of those runs with that sieve on his right hand. Their biggest strength, really, is that they manage to avoid being terrible at any position.
What is their weakness?
While they lack any true black holes, they also lack any real impact players aside the few guys we just mentioned. And even those guys are just pretty good. If Darvish has any setbacks in his recovery, they are looking at a back-four of Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Colby Lewis and Nick Martinez rounding out their rotation. Yawn. Their bullpen inspires just as little confidence beyond closer Shawn Tolleson.
The line-up leaves a lot to be desired, as well. New "left fielder" Ian Desmond projects to hit something in the ballpark of .245/.305/.415, which won't even meet the modest standards of their actual shortstop, Elvis Andrus. Mitch Moreland will probably go back to being a pumpkin while Odor will have to prove he is not a one-year wonder.
So, what can we expect?
Both Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus project a losing record and I tend to agree. Their roster looks to be every bit as mediocre as the Angels', though collectively, their top end of Beltre, Fielder, Hamels and Choo can't compete with our collection of Trout, Pujols, Richards and Calhoun. They'll be good enough to stay competitive through most of the season but expect them to wither in the Texas sun before long.
What's the most accurate representation of the team in gif form?