Though the 2016 season came to an abrupt end Sunday for the Texas Rangers after they were unexpectedly swept out of the American League Division Series, there was very little reflection Tuesday from general manager Jon Daniels and manager Jeff Banister.
Opening Day for the 2017 season is less than six months away, April 3 against the Cleveland Indians at Globe Life Park. The planning for next season is about to commence.
The Rangers’ brain trust will be off through Thursday and will step on the gas toward spring training Monday in attempting to cobble together another team capable of defending the AL West title, but this time advancing deeper in the postseason.
They will have some heavy lifting to do this off-season, but the consensus among Daniels, Banister and the few players who cleaned out their lockers Tuesday is that the Rangers’ core group of returning players is already good enough for another trip to the playoffs.
“We expect to win,” Daniels said. “We have a really good nucleus, a good core, a good mix of veterans and young guys that have a lot of potential to improve, and a lot of experienced players regardless of their age.
“First things first would be to address our own guys. We’ve got a couple of options and a number of free agents who played prominent roles on this club we’ve got to make decisions on. We haven’t had time to have our meetings yet, but starting pitching and decisions we’ve got in center field and first base stand out.”
The Rangers will have Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Martin Perez back for 2017. Darvish missed the first seven weeks this season as he finished recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Colby Lewis and Derek Holland aren’t locks for 2017. Lewis is a free agent, and the Rangers hold an $11 million club option on Holland. The free-agent pitching market is thin, which makes decisions on Lewis and Holland more difficult.
After the starting rotation struggled in September and in the three ALDS losses to the Toronto Blue Jays, Daniels vowed that things will improve.
“We’ll be better,” he said. “I’m very confident in our group that we will address it.”
The Rangers must also decide if they will bring back designated hitter Carlos Beltran, first baseman Mitch Moreland and outfielders Ian Desmond and Carlos Gomez, who become free agents following the World Series.
At age 39, Beltran might only get a one-year deal, while Desmond and Gomez are candidates for multiyear contracts. Third baseman Adrian Beltre said he will encourage them to re-sign, but won’t meddle too much as the players weigh what’s best for their families.
Beltran talked glowingly Tuesday about his time with the Rangers after being acquired Aug. 1 from the New York Yankees. He said he would gladly return next season for the right deal.
Desmond declined Sunday night to address his future, saying it was too early after the loss to think about 2017.
Beltre, though, doesn’t expect there to be any significant changes to the roster, which buoys his hopes that 2017 will finally be the season when he and the Rangers win it all.
“I’m probably going to be engaging with them and talking about trying to get them back,” Beltre said. “Do I want Mitch back? Yes. Do I want Ian back? Yes. Do I want both Carloses back? Yes. It’s not in my power. We’ll have to see what happens.”
Only two days after an abrupt end to the season, the Rangers were mostly looking ahead to 2017.