The Dr Pepper Texas Rangers Award Dinner was held Friday night at Gilley’s Dallas, and FanFest will take place Saturday at Globe Life Park.
Each January this weekend serves to jump-start the march to spring training, and the clock is ticking. Pitchers and catchers report to Surprise, Ariz., on Feb. 14.
Opening Day on April 3 isn’t nearly as close but already the clock is ticking on the Rangers’ regular season and perhaps their 2018 season as well.
Adrian Beltre isn’t getting any younger, though he appears to be timeless. Yu Darvish can be a free agent after this season. Carlos Gomez, Tyson Ross and Andrew Casher can join him on the open market place.
Some of the Rangers’ 2016 firepower is gone. The Seattle Mariners appear to be better. The Houston Astros appear to have a more potent lineup.
The Rangers’ expectation is that they will be postseason contenders again in 2017, but the clock is ticking.
“We do have a team that can compete,” Beltre said. “Obviously, we can use some help. There’s no doubt that the division is getting stronger. Seattle added some good players on their team. We know Houston did, too.
“It’s not going to be easy, but we still believe we can compete with those guys and find a way how to get it done, not only to go to the playoffs but to go all the way.”
Beltre wants another bat to bolster the Rangers’ chances after the departures of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland, and the third baseman knows that there are a few more free agents who would fit nicely.
The Rangers and Mike Napoli have exchanged offers and counteroffers, but the slugger doesn’t appear to be in much of a hurry to sign. Pedro Alvarez, Chris Carter and Adam Lind are among the other veteran sluggers who could add pop to the offense. The Rangers signed James Loney to a minor-league contract late Friday, but he isn’t a power hitter.
“We’re going to miss everybody, but we’ve got to move on and find a way to replace those guys,” Beltre said. “The GM is trying his best to do that, and so far there’s been some good signings for us. I don’t think he’s done yet.
“There’s never enough. There’s a couple a free agents out there that could be wearing a Texas Rangers jersey. Hopefully, that will happen.”
Darvish is entering the sixth and final season of the contract he signed in 2012, and his goal for 2017 is to prove to the Rangers that he is worth the original investment. If he does that, he will hit the open market as one of the premier starters and could command a salary in excess of $30 million a season.
General manager Jon Daniels said that there has been initial contact with Darvish agents about an extension, but the heavy lifting is typically done during spring training.
Darvish claims that free agency isn’t on his mind and said that he is comfortable with the Rangers, who have gone out of their way to help him make the adjustment in cultures from Japan to the United States over the years.
“I’m really grateful to the Texas Rangers organization for giving me this big of a contract,” Darvish said. “They’ve taken care of me really well, so I just want to show the Rangers how much I can do and that they were right for giving me that contract.
“Starting last year I felt like being more part of the team. Yes, I feel comfortable.”
So does Gomez, who shook off his miserable start to 2016 with Houston to arguably be the Rangers’ best player over the final six weeks. He said he clicked in the clubhouse from Day One, and he wanted to be around that again in 2017.
“When you have job that you can’t wait to wake up and go to the ballpark, you’re in the right place,” Gomez said.
But he signed only for one year, taking a gamble on himself that a productive season will lead to a free-agent payday next off-season. He believes he will be an offensive force and flourish again as a center fielder.
He sees the Rangers competing for a third straight American League West title. Beyond that, who knows?
The clock is ticking.
“If I could be a dream team in this, I would do that,” Beltre said. “I’ll go to war with these guys we have right now. I’ll go to war with these guys that we have right now. We believe that the team we have right now is good.”
The Rangers Fan Fest at Globe Life Park is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for season ticket holders and $5 for children 13 and under. Advance tickets are available at texasrangers.com/fanfest. Tickets will also be available at the Globe Life Park first base ticket office at 7 a.m. Parking is free. Globe Life Park gates at home plate and first base open at 8:45 a.m.