Colby Lewis will test free agency

If there was supposed to be one lock for the Rangers this offseason, it was re-signing veteran RHP Colby Lewis. 

Today, though, Evan Grant reports that the Texas front office failed to reach an early agreement with Lewis, and he intends to test the free agent market. 

There are a couple ways of looking at this. For the Rangers, a team relatively desperate to add a #3 and #4 starting pitcher this offseason, the news is obviously unfortunate. At least for now. Ideally they would have had Cobra squared away, inked to a cheap one-year deal so they could focus on more pressing issues, such as an outfielder/DH and a starter to slot behind Yu Darvish and Derek Holland. The fact they couldn't come to a compromise implies they probably low-balled Lewis and he thinks he can do better elsewhere. 

Secondly, for Lewis, a pitcher who rejuvenated his career in Texas after pitching in Japan, missed a season-and-a-half recovering from degenerative hips and was still brought back last season on a good faith contract, the figure he received must've been comically short of what he was anticipating. Especially since he comes across, through his own words, as someone who wants to pitch for the Rangers. 

This issue is compounded by the idea that Texas doesn't plan on increasing payroll in 2015, meaning they only have about $20 million to play with this offseason if they are to stay at roughly $135 million. Given Colby's age and injury history, it would be difficult for the Rangers to commit $7-$8 million to Lewis and still be able to ascertain another starter -- even via trade -- and a bat with the remaining $12 million. 

I'm all for Lewis seeking his market value, and it could be a situation where he finds a total he likes and brings it back to the Rangers to see if they'll match it, but from the Rangers perspective they have to be smart with the limited resources they have at their disposal. I'd love for an agreement to be reached at some point, but Texas clearly have a figure in their head, and aren't going to deviate too far from it if it hinders everything else they plan on doing this winter. 

The Offseason Is Underway

Hello, everyone. Welcome to Day One of the MLB offseason. 

Over at Lonestarball, Adam Morris writes that the Rangers have opened at 33:1 to win the 2015 World Series according to Bovada. I won't advocate anyone to gamble, but geez, 33:1? Given a little health the Rangers certainly have the talent to at least be a Wild Card team next year, and if the Royals can come 90 feet from sending Game 7 into extra innings, why not Texas? 

Evan Grant tweets that Jon Daniels told the media Jurickson Profar's MRI is "95% clean," and although I really don't know what that means, I know that 90% was good enough for an A when I was in high school. Or at least that's what the other kids told me. The hope for Profar, apparently, is to have him cleared by January, and if all goes well an opening assignment to Triple-A Round Rock figures to be in the works. Rougned Odor is the Rangers 2nd baseman until proven otherwise, but it would be a fool's game to sleep on Jurickson as 2015 gets underway. 

Grant also has an article up stating that Texas have extended a big league contract to free agent RHP Colby Lewis, who has expressed on multiple occasions his interest in returning to the Rangers. Lewis was shaky in the first half, but compiled an impressive resume (all things considered) down the stretch, finishing the season with a 3.97 ERA in his last 10 starts. Last year Cobra earned $2 million, and given some innings-reached thresholds in his 2015 contract, I suspect we're looking at something in the range of $3-4 million. 

Lastly, as I opined about a week ago, T.R. Sullivan writes that on Friday the Rangers are expected to announce Mike Maddux will return as the team's pitching coach, and for Steve Buechele to be promoted to bench coach. This will finalize the club's 2015 coaching staff under new manager Jeff Banister, with Dave Magadan as hitting coach, Maddux and Buechele. 

Other than that's, it's still Day One. Over the next couple of months we'll see some qualifying offers getting extended, free agents coming off the board, and eventually the rosters will be finalized for what should be a very interesting 2015. For the first time since 2009, probably, the Texas Rangers offseason should be far more entertaining than the regular season. 

Then again, how couldn't it be?

Texas Rangers Coaching Staff Update

On Monday it was announced that Tim Bogar would not be returning to be Jeff Banister's bench coach. Just as some fans believe the situation is rather unfair to Bogie, who was under contract with the Rangers through 2015, his best interests were in mind with the ending of the marriage. As Evan Grant points out, "It [essentially] would have been asking a guy who went 14-8 as the interim manager to take a demotion," which I think is about as well as it could be put. 

Listen, like most people, I thought Tim Bogar was a lock to be the next Rangers manager. It was as close to a forgone conclusion as there is in sports, in my mind. That the front office decided to hold an open competition, as opposed to rewarding the guy who led the worst team in MLB to a 14-8 record as interim manager, should tell you about all you need to know about how they judged his tenure. No, it's not to say what he did wasn't at least mildly impressive given the circumstances of the 2014 Rangers. But before we all start standing up in defense of Tim Bogar, let's first understand that the games he won were of the least consequence of the entire season, and that he had expanded rosters at his disposal. Having the ability to piecemeal a bullpen for 4-5 innings per game -- where pitchers are generally throwing 1-2 innings at a time -- gives a manager a better chance of looking good. And Bogar did look good.

In the end, though, through hiring Banister it kind of gives the impression that Texas simply wanted to start anew after Ron Washington, that they obtained their real target instead of opting for the safe route. 

Anyway. 

On Tuesday Jeff Wilson tweeted that Steve Buechele met with Jeff Banister about the bench coach opening, and with Banister looking to finalize his staff sooner rather than later, Buechele would appear to be the frontrunner. (Which is really to say the beat guys haven't been dropping any other names, so he's the frontrunner by default.)

In the same vein, current Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan -- who was bypassed by the Yankees to be their hitting coach in 2015 -- says he is "sticking" with the Rangers, according to the fantastic A's beat writer Susan Slusser. This comes after interviewing with the A's to be their next hitting coach. 

As an aside, I've come to understand many Texas Rangers fans aren't particularly thrilled to have Magadan back, presumably based off how the Ranger offense has performed over the last two seasons. It's weird, I know. The truth is, if you want to see offense pick back up in Texas, YouTube is a good place to start, because the lineups of old -- filled with Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz and Michael Young -- are dead. This is a different team now and, minus the jet stream, a totally different look on the offensive end. The players who will deliver Texas back to the promised land no longer mash home runs and slug opponents to death; they've instead been replaced by guys like Leonys Martin (who kills with speed) and Shin-Soo Choo (who gets on base more than Casanova). 

It's not the hitting coach; it's the formula. 

Plus, if you were going to use 2014 as an example to why Dave Magadan should no longer be the hitting coach, it's a pretty terrible example being that most of the roster was gone by mid-season. 

Should Mike Maddux return as pitching coach, which at this point I have no reason to assume otherwise, then the Rangers coaching staff is tentatively set. That is, if Buechele is indeed destined to be the bench coach.

Either way, as I've said and as I will say, the coaching staff is far less important than how Jon Daniels manages the roster this offseason. I still suppose it's relevant though. 

The Texas Rangers Have a New Manager

As the Major League Baseball season begins to wind down with the Royals facing either the Giants or Cardinals (who else?) in the World Series, we finally have a concrete answer as to who will manage the Texas Rangers in 2015, and hopefully, beyond. And it's not the name you're expecting.

As recently as this morning, if you had asked me who would be named manager, I'd have told you that there wasn't a doubt in my mind that it would be Tim Bogar. As a matter of fact, I told a friend just that mere days ago. So when news broke that the Rangers had branched out and will hire Jeff Banister as manager, I was a bit surprised.

I'll be honest. Until today, I hadn't done any research on Banister. I'd seen his name as one of the finalists in the managerial search, but since I had assumed it would be Bogar, I never really gave it a second thought. Upon looking, however, it looks like maybe, just maybe, the Rangers have hired someone that will finally come a bit closer to bridging the gap between the front office philosophy and the game management.

Banister has served as Clint Hurdle's bench coach in Pittsburgh for the last four seasons. Hurdle, of course, was the hitting coach in Texas in 2010, and his time here left an impression, seemingly, on everyone in the organization. So yeah, his recommendation apparently holds some weight, and if Banister ends up being as successful as a manager as Hurdle has been, the Rangers will be just fine.

With all of that said, my only concern with the Banister hire relates back to Tim Bogar. It looks to be more likely than not at this point that Mike Maddux will be back in 2015. With the hiring of Banister, however, that leaves a question mark with Bogar. Where does this leave him? Furthermore, after the Rangers played their best stretch of baseball in the 2014 season under Bogar's guidance, with a plethora of replacement players, no less, I think there has to be at least a little bit of concern about the type of message this sends to the players in the clubhouse. No, I don't think the players are going to not play for Bannister, but I do wonder if there will be some who think, "Is winning not enough?"

It's a small concern, but it's one I do have. Whether it's justified or not is another matter, but there it is.

No formal announcement has been made as of yet, but with your normal beat writers reporting it, that would seem to be a mere formality at this point. Now the front office can refocus its efforts on patching the starting rotation. That, I think, may prove to be a bigger challenge than replacing the winningest manager in franchise history.

Five Rangers Crack BA's Top-20 Prospects List

Unless you are Randy Galloway, or some mindless facsimile drone thereof, it's likely you have at least some confidence in the direction of the Texas Rangers moving forward. When I'm being overly critical of myself (which is often), it's easy to notice my level of optimism for the Rangers is abnormally high, but even I have a hard time rationalizing that 2014 was a lost season through any cause other than an abundance of injuries. Jon Daniels detractors like to cite not bringing back Nelson Cruz, or for trading Ian Kinsler to Detroit for Prince Fielder, as the reason(s) Texas didn't compete. And they are missing the point. 

Back in May, Keith Law wrote (Insider required) that the Rangers should shop Adrian Beltre, citing: "It's reasonable to expect to have to at least retool at some point in any 10-year span, and the injuries may force the Rangers to look at 2014 in that way -- the same way the Red Sox, a team with the financial wherewithal to compete every year, had to concede 2012..."

That, I believe, is what the Rangers front office had to reconcile with itself before going ahead with their course of action this year. Which is really to say they didn't do much of anything. Comparing Texas of 2014 to the Red Sox of 2012 could prove prescient, as Boston went on to win the World Series in '13, exactly where Daniels and the Rangers front office are trying to steer their own organization in '15.

The panicked, reactionary faction of the fan base would have preferred a complete stripping of the foundation of the franchise. To do this, Texas would have had to commit to the idea that they wouldn't win a title while Yu Darvish was under contract (through 2016 or '17), and thus would have looked to move him, Beltre, Elvis Andrus, and made attempts at dumping Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder. 

In reality, they didn't even trade Alex Rios or Neal Cotts -- two veritable locks to get moved by the deadline -- and wound up shipping only Joakim Soria (to the Tigers) and Jason Frasor (to the Royals). Of everything that transpired during 2014, by not executing a fire sale the Rangers declared they have no plans of going anywhere over the next few years. 

A day after Baseball America placed nine Rangers prospects on their Carolina League top-20 list, they put five Rangers prospects on the top-20 in the Texas League. (More specifically the top-12.) 

Joey Gallo checks in at #1 on both lists, and by the time 2015 gets underway we're very likely to see him as a unanimous top-25 prospect in MLB, if not higher. Jorge Alfaro, the odds-on favorite to be the starting catcher on Opening Day 2016 (if only for the fact there are no other obvious candidates), was #2 on the Carolina League top-20, and it's probably he's a top-40 guy on most boards heading into next year. Those are the two gems on the farm. 

Outfielder Nomar Mazara, 19, ended the season at Double-A Frisco, and he figures to be the #3 prospect in 2015. Other notable names to keep an eye on are RHPs Chi Chi Gonzalez, Luke Jackson and Jake Thompson, OFs Lewis Brinson and Nick Williams, and there are a bevy of others. The list goes on. There's an excellent chance the Rangers enter next year with a top-5 farm system, wedged somewhere behind the Cubs and Twins. 

Like I mentioned, I'm an optimist. But when you follow a team like the Rangers, like I do, it's a lot easier to be optimistic than anything else. Sure, there have been more crippling blows to this franchise than most (if not all) others over the last five years, like two World Series losses in '10 and '11, two rough collapses in '12 and '13, and a terrible injury-plagued year in 2014. But the roster is still seriously loaded, given a little health fortune, and, unlike this year, the reinforcements are on the way. The depth isn't here yet, but it's coming.