GM: Rangers not resting on laurels after 1st title

GM: Rangers not resting on laurels after 1st title
  • Jeff Passan, ESPNFeb 14, 2024, 05:35 PM ET


      ESPN MLB insider
      Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports”

SURPRISE, Arizona — The Texas Rangers opened spring training Wednesday still beaming from their surprising run to a World Series title last year — and intent on adding to it.

“In some ways, I think success for us is defined by what we do from here moving forward, not what we have done,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “You look out and you see the Kansas City Chiefs and what they were able to do in repeating and even what their comments were after winning in terms of their focus for next year already. And I think it’s very similar to what our group is. It’s so hard to win a championship, and it’s so hard to get back to even the World Series. A lot of things have to go our way.”

The Rangers blitzed through the American League playoffs and beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in five games for the first World Series win in the franchise’s 63-year history. They could return an even stronger team offensively, with a full season of rookie Evan Carter and the expected ascent of outfielder Wyatt Langford, who could make his debut after being drafted with the fourth overall pick last year.

Despite guaranteeing just over $40 million in free agent contracts, in the bottom half of spenders this winter, the Rangers are carrying a payroll in the $220 million range, the highest in team history. When asked whether they could potentially add another player — free agent left-hander Jordan Montgomery was integral to the Rangers’ championship run — Young said: “I don’t think there are many additions coming at this point, but I’ve said before we’ll keep an open mind.”

Texas’ lack of resolution on a long-term local-television deal — its current contract with Diamond Sports, which has declared bankruptcy, is for one year — dovetailed with a lack of spending, even with the presence of top players such as Montgomery, National League Cy Young winner Blake Snell, outfielder Cody Bellinger and third baseman Matt Chapman, all of whom remain free agents.

“Jordan was such an important part of last year’s team, and again, we’ll keep an open mind, but that said, the TV uncertainty is real,” Young said. “We don’t know what it looks like beyond this year. I know there was a reduction in the fees for this year and that, moving beyond, there’s not certainty as to what that looks like. And there is a financial responsibility that we have to operate with until we have that certainty.”

Texas certainly could use Montgomery in the short term. The Rangers plan to begin the season with a rotation of Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Heaney, Jon Gray and Dane Dunning, with the fifth spot open. The Rangers expect reinforcements to trickle in. Future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer, who underwent back surgery over the winter, is slated to return in June. Right-hander Tyler Mahle, who signed a two-year, $22 million deal coming off Tommy John surgery, could pitch in July. And ace Jacob deGrom, also rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, started throwing Monday and could return by August.

The Rangers weathered injuries last season to hold on to an AL wild-card spot and surged through the playoffs with just six pitchers — Eovaldi, Montgomery, Heaney, Scherzer and relievers Jose Leclerc and Josh Sborz — throwing nearly 75% of their postseason innings.

“What they did at the end throughout the postseason was just amazing,” Texas manager Bruce Bochy said. “They were relentless in finding a way to get it done, and they didn’t care how it got done, just that it got done. And that’s what I really appreciated from them.”


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