Wednesday Newsletter time: Texas Rangers' track record suggests they will be in mix for NPB players
One of the Japanese league's best players the past few seasons and two of their best pitchers in 2021 could be headed to the majors.
As general managers meet this week in Carlsbad, Calif., they do so with the understanding that Japanese star outfielder Seiya Suzuki will be posted.
Former Texas Rangers right-hander Nick Martinez is free to sign with an MLB team, as is longtime Japanese ace Tomoyuki Sugano.
With the Rangers considering all kinds of players to add around their young core, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see them dip into Japan to do so.
They have the track record with Japanese players, dating to 2008 with the forgettable Kaz Fukumori. They signed Yoshi Tateyama in 2011 and hit it big with Yu Darvish in 2012. They have also signed Americans who resurrected their careers in Japan, namely Colby Lewis, Tony Barnette and Chris Martin.
Joely Rodriguez also came to them from Japan.
Their most recent addition from Japan is Kohei Arihara, who dealt with an injury in 2021 and then was designated for assignment at the end of the season. He is still in the organization and is expected to compete for a rotation spot in spring training.
That says something about the state of the Rangers’ rotation. They have two good bets in right-hander Dane Dunning and left-hander Taylor Hearn, but that’s it. They feel they need to add a veteran or two so as to not overwork or rush younger starter.
While the Rangers have been linked to lefty Clayton Kershaw, they aren’t expected to be majors players at the top of the pitching market.
Martinez, the Rangers’ 18th-round pick in 2011, won’t command a huge salary. He had his best season yet in Japan, posting a 1.62 ERA in 23 starts for SoftBank. He also pitched well for Team USA in the Olympics.
Martinez improved upon his 2020 ERA by three runs, so it’s easy to wonder if 2021 was a fluke. He worked out at Driveline Baseball in the offseason, where he was able to add velocity. He also pitched differently than in the past.
Sugano is a free agent who could be signed without a posting fee. He turned down the opportunity to play in the majors this season and returned to Yomiuri. He just turned 32, and Martinez is now 31.
The Rangers have interest in Suzuki. He’s a solid all-around player who could hit 20-25 home runs in the majors. He’s not nearly as good as Shohei Ohtani, but he’s not the same risk of being a bust as Yoshi Tsutsugo.
Two writers for mlbtraderumors.com are predicting that the Rangers will sign Suzuki, who posted a 1.075 OPS this season with 38 home runs for Hiroshima.
He would be an upgrade, and he wouldn’t cost any draft-pick compensation. That’s something that will help dictate how the Rangers navigate this offseason.
More 40-man moves?
The Rangers shuffled through a series of roster moves last week to get players on the 60-day injured list back on the 40-man roster. After doing so, they were left with four vacancies on the 40-man.
Their next roster crunch comes Nov. 19, when they have to set the 40-man and add minor-leaguers they don’t want to expose to the Rule 5 draft. They have more than four they will want to protect.
The potential list of players who need to be protected includes right-handers Ricky Vanasco and Ronny Henriquez, left-handers Cole Ragans and Jake Latz, and outfielder Bubba Thompson. There are several others.
The Rangers added righties Glenn Otto and Nick Snyder during the season. Infielder Yonny Hernandez, too.
This team isn’t finished building its farm system, despite a surge in the industry rankings. The last thing the Rangers want to do, especially if they are going to sacrifice draft-pick compensation in free agency or strike a trade or two this offseason, is lose talented minor-leaguers.
Networking pays off
The Minnesota Twins hired Jayce Tingler as bench coach Monday following his dismissal as San Diego Padres manager after the season.
He was fired by former Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller, who has been the Padres’ GM since 2014. Tingler was hired by Twins GM Thad Levine, who left his post as Rangers assistant GM five years ago.
In September, Preller hired former Rangers assistant GM Mike Daly after he was taken out of Rangers player development. Daly will work alongside Padres farm director Ryley Westman, who is a former Rangers minor-league coach.
Tingler left the Rangers for the Padres after the 2019 season. Tingler, Preller, Levine and Daly were all hired by the Rangers by general manager Jon Daniels. He and Preller were college roommates. Daniels and Levine met when they worked for the the Colorado Rockies.
That was 20 years ago.
It’s good to have friends.
Now, that’s a best man. Enjoy. See you Thursday.