The rebuilding plan the Texas Rangers are undertaking has reached the manager’s office.
Multiple sources confirmed that the Rangers are contemplating replacing Jeff Banister after the season even though he is under contract for 2019. The Rangers exercised the option they held on him for next season shortly after the 2017 season ended.
Those same sources also said that no final decision about changing managers has been made.
The Rangers’ second consecutive losing season, one put in place by the front office and ownership, is not necessarily why Banister’s future is in doubt. Instead, officials have started to wonder if he is a fix in the long-range plan.
Banister and general manager Jon Daniels declined the chance to comment.
The Rangers entered their off-day Thursday with a 64-88 record and a 31-game deficit behind the first-place Houston Astros in the American League West. The Rangers, who were officially eliminated from the postseason earlier this month, are riding a four-game losing streak after being swept by the Tampa Bay Rays to open their final homestand of the season.
Daniels officially said that the Rangers were in a “development” mode in June after it was announced that he had signed a multiyear contract extension. Young players had been thrust into significant roles due to injuries to infielders Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre.
The future of the Rangers’ coaching staff, Daniels said in May, would hinge on how well Banister and the coaching staff created an environment conducive to developing young players for future seasons.
But those aren’t the only young players on the team. With the rebuild expected to continue beyond the expiration of Banister’s contract next season, one school of thought is to let a new manager put his fingerprints on the development as the Rangers return to being contenders.
Why not keep Banister in place during the rebuild?
Sources said that players over the past four seasons have described communication issues with him since he replaced Ron Washington after the 2014 season.
Some of it seems insignificant, such as players not being told in advance that they are getting an off-day or being told ahead of time that they are getting an off-day only to arrive to the ballpark in the lineup.
Starting pitchers have gone days between starts not certain of when they were pitching next and how to prepare.
Players, though, rely on their routines to get them through each game or start, and they certainly don’t consider those issues to be insignificant. Some have felt that their concerns fell on deaf ears when presented to Banister.
In today’s baseball, the players, 1 through 25 and young or established, are the manager’s No. 1 priority.
Ultimately, so is winning, and Banister helped guide the Rangers to AL West titles in 2015 and 2016. They weren’t eliminated from postseason consideration last season until Game 156 in the final week.
He was voted the AL Manager of the Year in 2015 in his rookie season after leaving his job as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ bench coach after the 2014 season, and he came to the Rangers fully embracing and even spearheading a jump toward analytics.
One of the sources said that the Rangers are also evaluating the data being given to players, and that needs to be revamped no matter who the manager is in 2019.
There’s a chance that will be Banister, but there’s a chance that it won’t.