Rangers just spent a lot of money. Now they should spend even more.


Give the Rangers this, if nothing else: no matter how things go, there can be no question of accusing them of financial austerity. Not when they exceed expectations and give 31-year-old Marcus Semien a seven-year contract worth $175 million, or a full year and $37 million. on the highest projection. Not when they pay low-end starting money to Kole Calhoun, 34, whose last good season outside of the shortened 2020 pandemic year was 2016. And not when they end the day with a commitment of 56 million dollars over four years for Colorado Rockies right-hander Jon Gray. the total damage is $236.2 million, a staggering figure for a franchise that has skimped on the open market since its last playoff appearance in 2016.

Now they should go even further. Much further.

Since late July, I hear the voice of Jon Daniels whenever the Texas Rangers come to mind. Three words, in particular: “No half measures.” Daniels told them the next morning he traded Joey Gallo to the Yankees, and he thought about them in terms of what shape that rebuild will ultimately take. It’s a fitting battle cry for a team with a worn major league roster and deep farm system – the Gallo trade helped that – but timid to the ceiling, especially when it comes to bats. Of course, the reconstruction must be complete. What else would a team do that lost 100 games for the first time since 1973?

That talk came to mind once again on Sunday as news of the moves came in because, right now, the Rangers have engaged in half measures. The Gray deal is a great deal no matter where a team is in its development cycle: $14 million a year for a proven mid-rotation starter with age (he turned 30 earlier this month -ci) and durability (at least 25 starts in all but one of his full major league seasons since 2016) is money well spent, and that’s before you wonder if Texas could coax another equipment out of himself to become a bloated version of Lance Lynn and Mike Minor. But Calhoun is little more than a stopgap to a position where Texas desperately needs to unearth long-term contributors. At one year with a club option for a second, the financial commitment is negligible, but the opportunity cost lies in absorbing board appearances that could go to a younger free agent or to better gauge potential at term of a fringe name on the roster — an Eli White, perhaps — or a midseason callup.

Then there’s Semien, an objectively brilliant player – back-to-back third-place finishes in AL MVP voting –with the intangibles a young clubhouse badly needed, but whose best seasons on this contract will almost certainly come before Rangers themselves peak. Dan Szymborski of Fangraphs estimates the decline will set in as early as 2024 before it really hits in 2025, after which Texas will be chained to the Semien years of decline at $25 million per person. It’s a curious move for a team barely a calendar year away from seeing the last of Shin Soo-Choo, another high-end import that arrived in his early thirties only to see his production decline eventually crippling the self-budget. Taxed from Texas. The calculation was then more comprehensible, at least; the Rangers were racing against the clock to win a World Series before their aging core lost relevance. In today’s environment, the move looks like a player now for later roster, baseball get-rich-quick scheme for a team lacking the on-field talent to pull it off. Why the urgency?

Again, a curious move, unless the plan is to go even further. Several reports circulated Sunday night that Texas was ready to double up in the big-money shortstop pool, shelling out for Trevor Story of Colorado or, better yet, Corey Seager of the Dodgers (then rebounding Semien to second base) . It would be dramatic, seismic, a statement deal unlike anything the Rangers have undertaken since A-Rod’s winter of 2000. It would kill any talk of an Astros or Cubs rebuild, the patient stockpiling of a young age-core aligned and at a controlled cost.

Yet, with nearly a quarter of a billion already on the felt, that is precisely what Texas should be doing. The Rangers need to give the baseball ecosystem an even bigger jolt, and Seager or Story would do that better than any signing since Adrian Beltre. And Texas shouldn’t stop there either. Take Jamey Newberg on one of his trade suggestions and flip some of the newly superfluous prospect depth in the middle field in Oakland for Matt Olson, the great first baseman Nathaniel Lowe longs to be but wouldn’t have the time anymore. to mature. Bring home native son Clayton Kershaw while they’re at it, for the short-term boost to the top of the rotation and, more so, the cultural cachet of the greatest baseball player Dallas has ever produced in finishing his career at home. Perhaps also for Seiya Suzuki, because fiscal irresponsibility in sport goes hand in hand with fun and vibes.

All that always wouldn’t be enough to turn Rangers into contenders overnight. The rotation would remain too uneven, the bullpen too suspicious, the holes in the outfield and behind the plate too glaring. So they’ll have to spend even more next summer, when the gems of minor league pitching culture – Jack Leiter, Cole Winn, Ricky Vanasco – will come knocking on Globe Life Field’s door.

Even then, there are no guarantees. If Semien hits rock bottom sooner than expected, or if Josh Jung isn’t the plug-and-play third base prospect he’s widely assumed to be, or they can’t find anything close to an outfield mix able, or Gray/Kershaw/whoever doesn’t if he doesn’t become a veteran ballast in the rotation, or half a dozen other things don’t fall into place, Texas could find themselves on the misaligned lane that dooms teams to mediocrity: paying for aging big names without enough young talent to complete production. That’s how the Angels floundered while possessing the two best hitters in the sport.

But in seven hours, the Rangers made their bed. They chose boldness, and there can be no turning back now. Spending generously is not enough; they only have to look at 21 in the rear view mirror to confirm it. Spending globally might be. At this point, anything less would be a half measure. And the most powerful executive in their building knows better than anyone how little it will bring them.

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