How do the Rangers become a contender again? They must answer these burning questions first

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ARLINGTON – When you lose 100 games in a season, there are LOTS of problems to tackle. But we have limited space here. Even the World Wide Web is only so big. And a lot of Ranger issues will take more than a winter to resolve.

They can still process a lot of things and have to do it.

“How do we take this team from where it is currently to being a competitor?” Manager Chris Woodward said when asked about the team’s biggest pressing issue. “We’ve answered a few questions this year, but honestly it’s really too small for a sample, until we start to see it on a larger scale.”

That is, if there is a proper offseason. More on that in a moment.

Here are the biggest issues to tackle as the Rangers take the first steps in trying to break a worst five-year losing streak in a row at Texas in 2022:

What are the rules?

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred on Texas Live! entertainment complex during a press conference at Globe Life Park in Arlington on Tuesday, September 19, 2016.(copied by personal photographer / Tom)

Every baseball team will be waiting for a new collective agreement – if it is concluded. The current ACA ends on December 1, which is roughly the start of the free agent buying season.

Without CBA, baseball faces a lockdown, which would end the winter and could compress free agency into freedom for all whenever the work situation is resolved. Typical Ranger luck. They might have more money to spend on free agency than ever before, and all stores could be closed indefinitely.

Among the issues that MLB and Players’ Association lawyers will need to grapple with are free agency rules, such as qualifying offers and draft compensation.

As it stands, the Rangers would likely have to forgo their second-round selection if they signed a top-tier free agent. While that probably wouldn’t stop the Rangers from being active, a pick from the top 40 picks has real value and could have an exact impact on how they approach the free agent class.

The good news for the Rangers is that there is “optimism” that the process could end as a way to induce spending in the open market. If so, the Rangers could also have their free agent and draft pick. A real cake-and-eat situation. For a team that is ready to spend in the offseason and has a high draft level, this could be a real advantage.

How to spend?

Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story waves to the crowd during a walking ceremony around the park after a baseball game on Wednesday, September 29, 2021 in Denver.  The Rockies won a 10-5 victory over the Washington Nationals.  Story is expected to be a free agent this offseason.  (AP Photo / David Zalubowski)
Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story waves to the crowd during a walking ceremony around the park after a baseball game on Wednesday, September 29, 2021 in Denver. The Rockies won a 10-5 victory over the Washington Nationals. Story is expected to be a free agent this offseason. (AP Photo / David Zalubowski)(David Zalubowski)

The Rangers could be the biggest spenders of the offseason. They could increase the payroll by over $ 100 million this offseason and not return to 2015-16 levels when the club were in the $ 160 million range. And there are a lot of holes to fill.

The free agents with the most impact are all natural shortstops: Irving’s Trevor Story, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager, as well as Marcus Semien and Javier Baez (both playing on second base). You want any of them, and a team better be prepared to shell out over $ 25 million a season. And in most cases, over $ 30 million. That shouldn’t scare the Rangers this winter.

But they must also be realistic. They will not be able to solve all their problems in one winter. For the Rangers to return to competition, it will likely take at least another year of organic growth and a second spending offseason.

So, does management identify and try to meet one or two needs this winter, bet on growth and then try to convince the owner to spend a lot on a second? winter ? Or are the Rangers trying to improve their club as much as possible for 2022, betting that getting closer will help them convince the owners to take the next step on spending?

There is a risk in waiting for growth that may not come, and there is a risk in spending now and having nothing to spend later.

Control the strike zone

Texas Rangers center fielder Joey Gallo (13) leans on an infield of Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Marco Gonzales (7) in the fifth inning at Globe Life Field in Arlington, the Tuesday August 11, 2020. The field attracted the march.
Texas Rangers center fielder Joey Gallo (13) leans on an infielder of Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Marco Gonzales (7) in the fifth inning at Globe Life Field in Arlington, the Tuesday August 11, 2020. The field attracted the march.(Tom Fox / Staff Photographer)

When the Rangers traded Joey Gallo at the end of July, he led the big leagues in the marches. And still, the Rangers offense ranked 29th out of 30 teams in goal percentage for the year, which is a big reason they were last in the majors in percentage on base.

Walks drain pitchers, extend innings, and maximize offense. Of the top seven teams by walk percentage in the majors this year, six are heading to the playoffs. The Rangers need to improve. But here’s the problem: you can’t teach walks.

“Here’s how you improve the steps: you go out and get guys walking, which most teams do,” said Woodward. “I’m just completely honest and straightforward, but you can’t turn a guy into a walking guy. Guys who walk do it out of fear [factor on the pitcher’s part] or by controlling the strike zone. If you don’t control the strike zone, it doesn’t magically happen through work. “

Translation: Expect the Rangers’ free agent targets to have more refined hit zones.

Josh Jung is he ready?

Texas Rangers infielder Josh Jung warms up on third base in the fifth inning of a spring training game against the Kansas City Royals at Surprise Stadium on Sunday February 28, 2021 in Surprise, Ariz.
Texas Rangers infielder Josh Jung warms up on third base in the fifth inning of a spring training game against the Kansas City Royals at Surprise Stadium on Sunday February 28, 2021 in Surprise, Ariz.(Smiley N. Pool / Personal Photographer)

There was a time last winter when the Rangers thought that Jung, their first round of 2019, might be ready at some point in 2021. This is why the Rangers signed contracts with Charlie Culberson and Brock Holt, believing that ‘they could hold his place. until about July.

But that was before Jung suffered a stress fracture in his foot during spring training. Jung was absent until mid-June.

He has ended up with just 300 batting appearances this season, about 200 less than the Rangers would have hoped for.

So, they haven’t had any major league experience to rely on in their assessment for 2022.

The good news is that 23-year-old Jung has put together an impressive lineup with a .971 OPS at Double-A and Triple-A. Over the past month, when most players are tired, his OPS has actually passed 1,000.

He’ll likely get about 50 more home plate appearances in the Arizona Fall League.

With so many urgent needs on the roster, it would be nice if the Rangers could make a commitment to Jung and not have to spend the winter looking for insurance policies for third base.

There are a lot of other issues the Rangers need to tackle this winter. If they can solve them, it will give them a head start on a strong rebound in 2022.

Left to right, Texas Rangers right fielder Joey Gallo, center fielder Adolis Garcia, third baseman Brock Holt and left fielder David Dahl celebrate after the final of a win over the Detroit Tigers at the Globe Life Field on Tuesday July 6, 2021.
Houston Astros Carlos Correa (1) celebrates after hitting a three-run homerun against the Tampa Bay Rays in the fourth inning of a baseball game on Thursday, September 30, 2021, in Houston.

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