Three veteran minor-leaguers depart Rangers organization

Three veteran minor-leaguers depart Rangers organization

Right-hander Drew Hutchison, who made five starts for the Texas Rangers this season, is among three players who have departed the organization as minor-league free agents.

Right-hander Chris Rowley and pitcher-outfielder Anthony Gose also took free agency. Neither Rowley nor Gose appeared with the Rangers this season.

Hutchison exercised the opt-out clause in a minor-league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and signed with the Rangers on Aug. 5. He was 1-1 with an 8.86 ERA for the Rangers.

The Rangers obtained Rowley from Toronto on a waiver claim. He was 2-3 with a 3.46 ERA in seven starts at Triple-A Round Rock.

Gose tried to become a two-way player this season. He hit .238 with a .568 OPS for 42 at-bats at the High- and Double-A levels. Gose was 2-0 with a 5.19 ERA and more walks than strikeouts (25-24) for 26 innings as a left-handed reliever.

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Rangers GM Jon Daniels shares who he says was their most improved player, details about the manager search and more

Rangers GM Jon Daniels shares who he says was their most improved player, details about the manager search and more

Jon Daniels, president of baseball operations and general manager of the Texas Rangers, joined the Ben & Skin Show on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM] to talk about the team. Here are some of the highlights:

On who he thinks improved most in 2018

Jon Daniels: I’d say Jose Leclerc, just looking at everybody across the board. Talking to him at the end of the year in his exit interview I was really impressed by his self-evaluation of a year ago and the initiative that he took to address that.

He flat out said ‘I looked at my year, I started out great and I wasn’t in good enough shape and I wasn’t ever going to let that happen again. So he dedicated himself to be as strong as he possibly could. Core, shoulder work and if you’re ever out here early, you would see down the left-field line there’s Alex Claudio and Jose Leclerc just getting after it every single day 110 degrees, didn’t matter. They were out there early, those two guys, to really get some extra work in and I think that’s the biggest reason why you saw him take the leap he made from an interesting arm to really a dominant, established reliever.

On the manager search

Ben Rogers: How big is the list [of candidates] and how quick will you narrow it down to those five or eight?

JD: The list is probably about 40 long, it’s already been narrowed from there. I think we’ll probably end up talking to, in that range eight to 10 maybe by phone and in-depth in person in that five to eight range. That’s kind of what we did last time and we thought it was a good process. We’ll do a few things a little differently, just kind of learned and talked to other folks in the industry. Not just baseball, but talked to some folks in football, basketball who have gone through successful searches and it’s actually been a very fun process, putting the process together, trying to figure out the absolute best way to get out a lot of the qualities and things we want to know about candidates.

It’s hard because it’s one thing to answer a question great, it’s another thing to execute against that in the pressure cooker that is big-league baseball.

On unconventional candidates

Jeff “Skin” Wade: Are there any unconventional candidates or should I say maybe candidates that don’t have managerial experience? If so, how do these guys end up getting on the radar?

JD: The best thing that we can do is every time that you talk to somebody throughout the year, whether you have an opening or not for any position, we encourage all of our people to ‘hey, pass it along.’ You meet somebody impressive, pass it along. Talk to an agent and they talk about ‘hey, when this guy is done playing, he’s going to be outstanding.’ We write that down, we keep a database of all this so that when this comes about we have that. 

Now that we’re actively looking, it’s a lot easier. You talk to everybody, we talk to people on other teams, we talk to our own guys, ‘who have you come across that’s really impressive?’ Talk to players who the best coach around. Look back at guys who’ve recently managed maybe out of that role a little bit. 

You see so many of the most successful managers in the game are on their second or third jobs. Guys who have learned from their past experiences. Just trying to put that all together. There are some guys, at least on the initial list that are doing the broadcasting world. We’re trying to exhaust everything and not rule anybody out. 

On Rangers outfield

JD: I think we’ve got to be open to talking about our outfield mix, all of whom we value and think can play in the big leagues. We’ve got some guys that have star potential, some guys that are maybe more defense-oriented or a more part-time type role. Between [Shin-Soo] Choo and [Joey] Gallo and [Nomar] Mazara, [Willie] Calhoun, Drew Robinson on the left side. The right side is probably more center field defense-oriented with Delino [DeShields], [Carlos] Tocci. They’re different shapes and sizes, they fill different roles, different levels of established careers and potential, but they’re going to play in the big leagues and I think that we’ve got to consider that’s an area of depth for us, there are not spots for that whole group and at least listen to what’s out there. That’s not saying we’re going to move anyone in particular or forecast exactly how it comes together, but we’ve got to be open to it.

On Adrian Beltre

JD: We’re going to let him be for a little bit. Before we really get to our offseason player planning, we’ve got a lot of hiring to do from manager and potentially some spots on the staff to some front-office positions that we’re going to look to fill. So that’s really where 99 percent of our focus is right now and while we’re working on that, letting Adrian be with his family, do his thing and I’ll probably reach out to him later this month and just get a sense of where he’s at and also after we’ve had our player offseason planning meetings, I’ll be able to give him a better idea of what our picture looks like and we’ll go from there. 

We don’t have a set date he and I have been discussing. I don’t know when he’s going to decide, nor have we outlined for him what the opportunity would be here.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

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Winter has arrived for the Texas Rangers. Here's why there's no timetable for when the thaw will come

Winter has arrived for the Texas Rangers. Here's why there's no timetable for when the thaw will come

SEATTLE — Winter is here.

The window of opportunity slammed shut on the Rangers way back in May. By July, they were shuttering it by trading off whatever value anybody was willing to claim. And now for the prolonged, hard freeze that follows.

Winter begins for most of Major League Baseball on Monday. For most, it ends in February, when training camps open and hope springs eternal. There is no timetable, though, for when the thaw will come for Rangers. They are, for the time being, cryogenically sealed into a rebuilding phase.

A season in which the Rangers didn’t see .500 after April 1 mercifully came to an end Sunday with a 3-1 loss to Seattle. The Rangers finished 67-95. Their 36-game deficit in the AL West was merely a number. They were out of the race by the end of the first month. The margin, however, does indicate how big the gap is between the top and bottom in the division. It was the fourth-biggest gap in club history.

– A manager: A significant portion of October will be spent on the search for a manager who is willing to take on the uncertainty of a rebuilding process and all the early losses that includes. He will have to be a leader, but a communicator first.

“We do need somebody to lead us,” said shortstop Elvis Andrus. “We need somebody to communicate with us. You have to understand the players and have to find a way to get through to everybody.”

– A pitching staff: The Rangers go into the offseason with just one starter in the rotation for 2019 — Mike Minor. This from a starting rotation that put together a 5.37 ERA. It was second-worst in the majors ahead of only Baltimore, which was a major league team in name only. It was the worst by a Rangers team in a decade — or since right before the just-closed window of opportunity first opened.

The starting rotation allowed a franchise-record 148 home runs and struck out an MLB-worst 590. High homers and low strikeouts are no way to conduct business in the majors these days.

The Rangers enter the offseason with no elite pitching prospects anywhere near the majors. The front office will likely have to cobble together a rotation from spare parts. It will be with an idea of getting through 2019 and buying young prospects more time to develop, not with any dreams of contending.

– A more well-rounded offense: Fittingly, the Rangers scored one run Sunday and it came on a home run. The team was too reliant on the home run, which meant too many big swings. The Rangers finished with 1,484 strikeouts. It was the second-highest total in team history. The record: 1,493 last year. They are the second AL team ever to average nine strikeouts a game or worse in consecutive seasons. Tampa Bay did in 2016-17.

Also, they finished the season hitting .240. It was the second-lowest mark in the AL, one point ahead of 115-loss Baltimore. It was the second-lowest batting average in team history, better only than 1972 (.217). Batting average doesn’t matter anymore you say? OK, the .319 OBP was the seventh-lowest since the club came to Texas. It doesn’t matter how you parse up the offense, it was bad.

It all makes for a long-term project, the kind that doesn’t get completed over a single winter.

Winter is here for the foreseeable future.

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Believe it or not, here's why Joey Gallo should be considered the Rangers' most valuable player this season

Believe it or not, here's why Joey Gallo should be considered the Rangers' most valuable player this season

The Most Valuable Ranger: Joey Gallo

At the All-Star break, this seemed unthinkable. Shin-Soo Choo was at the tail end of a 52-game on-base streak and was clearly the club’s best player. But he has faded badly in the second half while Gallo has surged. 

Consider this: At the All-Star break, Choo (.911) had 172-point OPS advantage over Gallo (.739). As they went into the final weekend of the year, Gallo had wrestled away the team lead .822-.809. A turnaround of nearly 200 points. 

Factor in Gallo’s strong defensive performance at four positions and it’s impossible to overlook him. In fact, you might make a case that the second-most valuable player was Jurickson Profar, who was closing fast on Choo in OPS (he trailed .809-.797 entering Thursday), also due to his versatility. 

It seems inconceivable that a guy with a batting average in the low .200s and a club record for strikeouts could be the team’s MVP, but it speaks to how the game has changed. And to how bad this Rangers team was.

Related: Why ‘Vegas Strong’ takes on a significant meaning for Rangers slugger Joey Gallo

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If this is the end, it has been a pleasure to cover Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre

If this is the end, it has been a pleasure to cover Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre

SEATTLE – Adrian Beltre is retiring.

I think.

On Sunday, Beltre will finish his 20th full season in the majors. He will return home to Los Angeles to decompress and heal a body that doesn’t heal so quickly anymore. At some point in the next month or so, he will decide whether he wants to come back for another season.

I believe the decision, however, has already been made. There are no sources telling me definitively one way or another and this is not a news story about if he will, nor analysis over whether he should. It is merely an appreciation over what has been.

It has been a pleasure.

Rangers fans watched as Beltre evolved from great talent into a Hall of Famer. It’s not necessary here to recite stats. They are simply historic. Every time I write a sentence these days about an accomplishment of his, names like Willie Mays or Brooks Robinson or Stan Musial are the ones that pop up.

OK, just one stat for context. There are four players to ever have at least 3,000 hits, 400 homers and five Gold Gloves. Beltre is one. The others: Mays, Dave Winfield and Carl Yastrzemski.

Nice list. It also does not do justice to the legendary toughness he displayed. A year ago, he played through a high ankle sprain. Two years before that, it was a torn ligament in his thumb. And, my personal favorite, the time in the middle of the 2012 playoff race when he disregarded the extreme pain of a bowel obstruction caused by scar tissue from a long-ago abdominal surgery to hit a game-winning home run against Los Angeles.

For all the toughness, all the accomplishments and all that Hall of Fame company, the thing fans will remember most about Beltre will be the pure, unfiltered joy with which he played the game. If ever there was a player created for the GIF and Meme Era, it was Beltre. Every night there was something.

Everybody conjures up their own image of Beltre. He’s dancing at the plate after taking a pitch. He’s swinging from one knee at a breaking ball and driving it into the seats for a homer. He’s snarling at teammates for patting him on the head. He’s camped under the same pop fly as Elvis Andrus. Or when being asked to step into the on-deck circle, he’s yanking it to him rather than going to it.

In July, 2024, when he is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, they should simply que up a YouTube channel dedicated to the Best of Beltre rather than ask him to deliver a speech. Beltre would probably prefer that, too. He hates talking about himself. Hates it.

Trust me. I have first-hand experience. Over eight years, I’ve tried repeatedly to get Beltre to consent to a one-on-one offseason interview. I wanted to convey to readers what this guy was like away from the field. Each time, Beltre, like the great white whale, has slipped away.

In the past, I’ve often felt fans were denied a chance to know him better. What I’ve come to realize only recently is that there really isn’t much difference in the at-home Beltre and the one fans have watched for eight years. He never changes.

This is why I know – or think I know – he’s retiring.

He’s talking about himself.

In the last week, Beltre has been more willing to discuss his career and his own feelings than perhaps ever before. After the last home game of the season in Arlington last week, he summed things up this way: “Mentally, I’m ready to accept the fact that maybe this is it.”

Over the course of the week that has followed, he’s participated in rookie dress up day for the second time in his career. On Friday, he explained at length the story behind the origination of the non-stop jawing in which he and Felix Hernandez have engaged over the last nine years. On Saturday, he went through the details of his three career cycles and how he almost had a fourth.

He punctuated each conversation with deep laughs. He relished, it seemed, the opportunity to talk just a little more.

All week, the media has lingered by his locker. All week, Beltre hasn’t even playfully chased us away. He may not want a farewell tour, but he has been at ease discussing himself and his legacy.

“Yes, he seems like he is enjoying it and having fun,” Elvis Andrus acknowledged. “But I hope it’s not too much fun. We will have way more fun if he comes back next year.”

Alas, Andrus, the rest of the Rangers, fans and, yes, even the media must come to terms with this: All good times must come to an end.

The end is coming for Beltre.

He has made the last eight years a very good time, indeed.

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Rangers' Nomar Mazara may be headed for offseason surgery

Rangers' Nomar Mazara may be headed for offseason surgery

SEATTLE – Nomar Mazara could start his offseason with surgery.

The Rangers right fielder, who has been troubled by a sprained thumb the entire second half, will see a hand specialist on Tuesday, two days after the season is completed. Mazara sprained his right thumb in July and it cost him a month on the disabled list.

“One day it’s good and feels strong and one day it’s not,” Mazara said Saturday. “When I saw the doctor after I did it, he said it was healing. It was strong enough. We just want to go see again.”

If Mazara does require surgery to repair or reinforce the ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb, it is unlikely that it would impact his ability to be ready for the start of spring training in 2019. Adrian Beltre played the second half of 2015 with a torn ligament in his thumb, then had surgery after the season and was ready for the start of 2016.

It appears the injury, which occurred in the final weekend before the All-Star break, has impacted his performance at the plate. Mazara had a .272/.332/.450/.783 first-half slash line. The batting average and OPS represented pre-All-Star break bests in Mazara’s three seasons. He began Saturday with a .220/.278/.402/.679 post-break slash line. Both the batting average and OPS are the worst of his career.

It is going to leave him with an overall slash line that doesn’t represent a significant step off his first two seasons. Mazara entered Saturday with 20 homers. He had 20 in each of his first two seasons in the majors.

The Rangers still view 2019 it as a step forward.

“I think you look at where he was headed when he was healthy,” interim manager Don Wakamatsu said. “There were times this year when we thought he was going to end up hitting 30 home runs. When I first saw him, he was one of the best young hitters I’ve seen. I’ve seen nothing to change that.

“I think the injury impacted him a lot,” Wakamatsu said. “He’s never going to complain.”

Said Mazara: “It was good to be able to get through this. There may be another time when I’m injured. I’ve got to be able to manage it and still play the game.”

Briefly: With only two days to go before Major League Baseball steps in and assigns affiliations, there is still no resolution to the Rangers’ rookie level Northwest League situation. The Rangers and San Diego Padres are the two remaining organizations without a 2019 affiliate. Spokane, the Rangers club since 2003, and Tri-Cities (Wash.) are the two remaining clubs without a major league affiliation. Both teams are owned by Brett Sports and Entertainment. 

— C Robinson Chirinos set a career high with his 18th home run on Friday. Chirinos had 17 home runs a year ago.

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