Can Rangers emerge as World Series contenders after busy offseason?


The Texas Rangers have made some waves in the last two offseasons but seem to be overlooked by many. Perhaps that’s due to the Astros, Mariners, and Angels competing with them in a tough AL West division. Perhaps that’s due to the Rangers winning just 68 games last season.

Nevertheless, it’s the offseason and hopes are high in Texas.

The Rangers signed Jacob deGrom and Andrew Heaney, and are reportedly close to signing Nathan Eovaldi to round out their rotation. They’ll join two starters that the Rangers signed last offseason, Martin Perez and Jon Gray.

The starting rotation seems to be locked in – as long as everyone can stay healthy – but there are a few other question marks starting the Rangers in the face.

Rangers broadcaster C.J. Nitkowski joined WEEI’s Rob Bradford on the Audacy Original Podcast “Baseball Isn’t Boring” to talk about the Rangers’ offseason and chances of contending next season.

“I look at this team and I’m going to take this enormous leap of faith because I can, because that’s what the offseason’s about. I’m saying that they can contend for the World Series, they can contend for the American League West title,” Bradford said (12:08 in player above). “I know coming off of last year that’s a pretty big leap but I look at the potential of their starters … relievers good enough, obviously you have some pieces offensively. I look at them – it’s a big ask to take that kind of jump – but from the outside, why not?”

The Rangers only won 68 games last season – eight more than in 2021. They haven’t finished over .500 since 2016 when they won 95 games and were swept in the ALDS by the Blue Jays.

Now, with a few more additions this offseason, are the Rangers ready to take that leap?

“Everybody has question marks. How those questions get answered are going to dictate how your season’s going to go,” Nitkowski said, acknowledging the importance of health when it comes to starting pitching.

Nitkowski then mentioned last year’s big offseason additions of Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. Semien got off to a very slow start and should be more comfortable heading into the 2023 season. Seager set a career-high with 33 home runs but hit a career-low .245. Both of those guys should be better in 2023.

If the big guns can do their jobs, it’s going to be up to the rest of the lineup to pull their weight as well.

“The questions that have to be answered are things like Josh Jung, who had a little bit of time, he was the eighth overall pick back in 2019 for the Rangers, COVID got in the way, some injuries got in the way,” Nitkowski said. “He finally gets to the big leagues last year, hit five home runs in a short amount of time, looks like it’s going to play. So what does that look like over the course of a full year?

“What does left field look like? The Rangers had the worst OPS among left fielders in major league baseball last year, collectively, that’s something they’re trying to address right now whether it’s Bryan Reynolds, whether it’s bringing in a Robbie Grossman to be a platoon with a guy like Brad Miller as a possibility,” Nitkowski continued. “There are a lot of different ways that they can go.”

Those are two big questions for the Rangers, but Leody Taveras and Adolis Garcia have settled in nicely at the other two outfield positions.

They also have an overlooked Silver Slugger winner.

“Nathaniel Lowe won a Silver Slugger after the Rays thought he couldn’t hit lefties – they don’t get much wrong, but they got that one wrong – he crushed lefties last year and used the entire field and hit .302,’ Nitkowski said. “That was a big leap for him, he did a really nice job.”

While the Rangers’ starting rotation has been the focus, there are still a few question marks in the bullpen. A fully healthy Jose Leclerc and Jonathan Hernandez should help.

“Both of those guys pitched about half the year after coming back from elbow surgery. Brock Burke was phenomenal. I know a lot of people probably don’t know a ton about him. A guy who quite honestly was off the radar for me last year and ended up having a huge, huge season,” Nitkowski said. “I’d love to see them bring Matt Moore back. Matt Moore was great. First full year in the bullpen, sub-two ERA, and he was a multi-inning reliever. He crushed it. He’s still out there as a free agent, I got to believe a lot of teams are in on him.

“So those are the couple what ifs that if they go the right way, yeah, I’m with you because they can lean on that pitching.”

The starting rotation is going to be the backbone of the team and the Rangers are hoping that can help them emerge as a true contender in 2023 and beyond.

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