It's hard to believe that the Rangers were division champions just two years ago. They seem like they've been in decline for a while, but it's really just been one year. They don't appear to have improved at all (at least on paper) from last year's 78-84 squad, and they're relying on some aging veterans that may not be as productive as in years past. Continued decline seems to be coming, and .500 seems like a best-case, overachiever scenario for them.
Come July, expect a lot of this roster to turn over. Adrian Beltre is 39 now, and his Hall of Fame career seems headed to a DH-only phase in order to save more wear and tear on his increasingly fragile legs and extend his career. He was limited to just 94 games last year (65 at third base), and as we remember from his days in Seattle, he'll play hurt if at all possible. Meanwhile, their ace on the mound is Cole Hamels, 34, who had his worst season last year; he was still 11-6, though, and should draw a lot of attention from other teams as the season progresses and Texas falls farther behind in the standings. 35-year-old Shin-soo Choo, 34-year-old Doug Fister, and 33-year-old Tim Lincecum are also expected to play big roles, but there is some youth in Texas—Willie Calhoun, 23, will likely get called up to the Majors soon but was sent to Triple-A to begin the year to work on his defense as he converts from second base to the outfield.
Players to Watch
Adrian Beltre: The former Mariners third baseman joined the 3,000-hit club last year on his way to a certain election to the Hall of Fame when he hits his first ballot. He had what had to have been the most frustrating season of his career last year when he spent more than two months on the disabled list; at 39, Beltre may not have many more seasons to play, but he'll give it his all as long as he can.
Tim Lincecum: The former UW standout and two-time NL Cy Young winner had two suitors for his services this offseason: the Rangers and the Los Angeles Dodgers, hated rivals of his former team in San Francisco. "The Dodgers made a lot of sense," Lincecum said, "but I had to pick what was right with me and what I could live with.... What do they say, once a Giant, always a Giant, right?" Lincecum looked to be done after flaming out with the Angels in 2016 and sitting out 2017 altogether, but hopes to be a big part of the Texas bullpen this year.
Nomar Mazara: Thought of as a future superstar in Dallas-Fort Worth, Mazara enters his third big-league season with high expectations after 2017's 101-RBI campaign. The free-swinging outfielder has issues, though, namely lots and lots of strikeouts and, not coincidentally, a lackluster on-base percentage. There's no doubt the young man has learned to hit; it remains to be seen if he can also learn to refrain from missing.
Jeff Banister: After taking the Rangers to the playoffs in his first two years as a big-league manager, Banister saw how the other half lives last season. Losing Adrian Beltre for much of the year and poor campaigns from Rougned Odor, Mike Napoli, Joey Gallo, and others consigned the team to mediocrity no matter how well Banister did his job. Three seasons might be too small a sample size to declare him one of the game's better managers, but having won AL Manager of the Year in 2015—without having had any managerial experience at any level before that—and been runner-up for the award the next year, it's possible this guy actually knows what he's doing.
Doug Fister: A free agent before last season, the best offer Fister had was a minor-league deal from the Angels. But they didn't really want him and put him on waivers. Luckily for Fister, the Red Sox needed him, claimed his contract, and he started 15 games the rest of the way, one of which was a one-hit complete game against the best team in the league, the Cleveland Indians.
Fister left the Mariners way back in 2011 in an ill-advised trade with Detroit. The M's got Charlie Furbush in return, who was a valuable reliever for a few years, as well as Casper Wells, Francisco Martínez, and Chance Ruffin, who were not useful in any capacity. Fister, meanwhile, went on to compile a 32-20 record with the Tigers over the next 2½ years with a 3.28 ERA Seattle would have loved to have.
|Texas Rangers||(1972 - present)|
|League Champions:||2010, 2011|
|Division Titles:||1996, 1998, 1999, 2015, 2016|