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Offseason-in-Review: Texas Rangers

The Rangers made a bunch of moves, but how close will they come to the Astros?

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros
Big Time Timmy Jim was the most fascinating addition.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Rangers (78-84)

SP Matt Moore (acquired in a trade with the Giants)
SP Doug Fister (signed a one-year, $4 million contract with a club option)
SP/RP Mike Minor (signed a three-year contract for $28 million)
RP/SP Jesse Chavez (signed a one-year, non-guaranteed contract for $1.5 million)
RP Chris Martin (signed a two-year contract for $4 million)
RP Tim Lincecum (signed a one-year contract for $1 million)

1B/DH Mike Napoli (signed a minor league contract with the Indians)
OF Carlos Gomez (signed a one-year contract for $4 million with the Rays)
SP Andrew Cashner (signed a two-year contract for $16 million with the Orioles)
SP Miguel Gonzalez (signed a one-year contract for $4.75 million with the White Sox)
SP Nick Martinez (will pitch in Japan in 2018)

As you can see above, pitching was seemingly the sole focus of the offseason for the Rangers, at least in terms of the deals that they were able to complete. The team revamped a rotation that traded away Yu Darvish at the trade deadline last season and received disappointing performances from Martin Perez and de-facto ace Cole Hamels, and pretty horrible ones from back-of-the-rotation filler pieces Nick Martinez, A.J. Griffin, Tyson Ross and August acquisition Miguel Gonzalez.

Matt Moore and Doug Fister are far from sure things, but they’re at the very least new names that can provide hope for Rangers fans. Moore slogged through the worst season of his career in 2017, losing an NL-high 15 games while putting up a 5.52 ERA, giving up 27 home runs in just under 175 innings pitched. He’ll be paid a reasonable $9 million this year, though, and his contract (that he signed all the way back in 2012 with the Rays) includes a $10 million team option for 2019. Fister was perfectly cromulent for the Red Sox in 2017, throwing 9013 innings of 4.88 ERA ball, which is respectable enough in the AL East. Most intriguing is that Fister posted a career-high strikeout rate of 8.3 batters per nine, and he allowed just nine home runs on the season.

Mike Minor gets his own paragraph because he’s an interesting case in that he’ll be attempting to convert back to the rotation, despite not having handled a starter’s workload since 2014 with the Braves. Minor was brilliant for the Royals last season after a two-year layoff, striking out 88 batters in 7723 innings, with a sterling 1.02 WHIP. Minor ended the season as one of the Royals' closing options, picking up six saves. He can’t possibly be as good when throwing five or six innings at a time, but the team always have the option of returning him to the role in which he’s likely best suited if they don’t like what they see from him every five days. Jesse Chavez and minor-league signee Bartolo Colon are also around as insurance.

The bullpen has also been revamped with an amalgam of potentially interesting arms, with Tim Lincecum the headliner. The Freak sat out the 2017 season after being shelled while starting for the Angels in 2016, and will now look to reinvent himself as reliever. Lincecum worked out at Driveline in the offseason and is reportedly back up to 93 miles per hour on his fastball. He won’t be ready for the start of the season due to a late start, though, so the intrigue will shift to Chris Martin, signed out of Japan after a failed stint in the majors from 2014-15. Martin was able to buttress his already-excellent control with burgeoning stuff over two years with Nippon Ham, posting a ridiculous 1.12 ERA over 8813 innings, striking out 91 and walking just thirteen. His WHIP was a sterling 0.67. Lincecum and Martin join a bullpen mix featuring funky left-handed closer Alex Claudio, hard-throwing righties Matt Bush and Keone Kela, and cross-firing southpaw Jake Diekman, along others.

The offense will return essentially intact in 2018, as Mike Napoli wasn’t much of a factor in the latter part of the season anyway. Instead of adding new pieces, the team will hope for continued growth from lefty sluggers Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo, as well as a rebound from Rougned Odor and a full season of health from Adrian Beltre. If anyone falters or is hurt, the team has infielder Jurickson Profar (who will start the season on the bench) and outfielder/DH Willie Calhoun (who will begin the season in AAA) ready to step in.