To go over the list of free agents the Texas Rangers have said they are not going to sign this offseason is probably unnecessary.
Anyone who was projected to make more than $10 million a year apparently is off limits for the Rangers. That’s life with a small-market team, which the Rangers apparently believe they are this offseason.
To that end, small-market teams know they must do all they can to hold as long as they can the players they won’t be able to afford once their free agency rolls around. No team has perfected this practice more than the Tampa Bay Rays, beginning with Evan Longoria (who got too rich for their blood on the deal they negotiated) and currently with Chris Archer.
But all teams try it, including the big-market Rangers. They most recently did so with second baseman Rougned Odor, who signed a six-year, $49.5 million contract last season.
While general manager Jon Daniels isn’t being allowed to cut any big checks for players outside the organization, he might be attempting to lock up the Rangers’ young stars for the future.
And maybe, just maybe, two established stars and another contributor the Rangers love.
Here five players the Rangers might consider extending before the season begins:
1. Nomar Mazara: The right fielder will be 22 years old when he enters his third full season in the majors, and he will be eligible for salary arbitration next year.
Mazara has been a streaky-but-productive cog in the lineup. He endured a miserable start to the second half to still reach his only individual goal for 2017: 100 RBIs. He got there in the final game.
The thought is Mazara will only get better, and the hope is that a permanent home in right field will assist in that. This should be a front-burner issue.
2. Joey Gallo: Yes, even though Gallo has only one full season in the majors and has flaws he must overcome, the Rangers might want to pursue this one.
Gallo hit 41 home runs, and power like his doesn’t come along often. He also has shown that he’s not a one-trick pony, with an ability to play multiple positions well and as a good base runner.
He also showed signs that he will be much better than the .209 average posted in 2017.
Would an extension be a gamble? Probably. Sometimes, though, a team needs to gamble a little.
3. Elvis Andrus: The shortstop is still young, at 29, but he is entering his 10th season in the majors and can opt out of his eight-year, $120 million contract after this season and after 2019.
Do the Rangers really want to see him leave? Not after the season he posted in 2017.
Does Andrus really want to leave the Rangers? Not really.
And he doesn’t necessarily have a ton of leverage. The teams that could afford to pay him what he wants already have a quality shortstop. His only suitor might be the Rangers.
So, just take care of all the drama now. Throw him a couple extra million a year and maybe another season or two on the end of his deal and call it a day.
His situation is one to watch.
4. Adrian Beltre: This is a tough one.
The third baseman, destined for the Hall of Fame, isn’t getting any younger and is coming off a season in which he didn’t play 100 games because of injuries.
When he did play, though, he played at an MVP kind of level, and it seems he wants to keep chasing the elusive world title as long as his body allows.
He might not want to continue chasing that with the Rangers if they don’t build a team around him that he believes can win it all. The Rangers don’t want to see him reach 500 home runs — his next major milestone — with another club.
They also don’t want to have to fill the void Beltre fills in the clubhouse. No player on the roster is respected more and carries more influence than Beltre does.
5. Robinson Chirinos: The Rangers bought out Chirinos’ final two seasons of arbitration last spring, and have a club option that will keep him from leaving via free agency after this season. Though they have time with him, why wait?
Chirinos is one of four catchers on the Rangers’ 40-man roster, but he has more experience than the other three combined. Jose Trevino might someday be the Rangers’ regular catcher, but he will open this season at Triple A.
A Chirinos extension just makes sense. So does signing Yu Darvish, but Chirinos would sign for far less than $10 million a year.
That’s life for a small-market team, or one pretending to be this offseason.