Texas Rangers

In midst of rebuild, Rangers won’t spend big for 2019. How far will their payroll drop?

Gone from the Texas Rangers’ 2018 payroll are the salaries of Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Matt Moore, Martin Perez, Doug Fister, Robinson Chirinos, Jake Diekman and others.

Simple arithmetic, which isn’t so simple for some of us, says that those contracts were worth around $70 million and so far the Rangers have invested $14 million of that on Drew Smyly, Jesse Chavez and Jeff Mathis.

Arbitration-eligible players are going to get raises, but the Rangers have plenty of money to cover those and to make a significant invest or two or three this off-season. The free-agent market has picked up with starting pitchers Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi landing contracts, but there are still plenty of targets for the rotation-thin Rangers.

But general manager Jon Daniels has no plans of making it rain next week at the winter meetings in Las Vegas.

“We do have the ability to maneuver a little bit,” Daniels said. “It is just going to depend on the right fit, the right player, the right situation. We are working through those options now. This is not the year where we are going to go all out. We are probably a year away from starting to look at some different options for expanding the payroll.”

So, just what is the payroll going to be?

According to the Baseball Prospectus online information gold mine Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Rangers’ Opening Day payroll in 2018 was just over $133 million.

The website Spotrac.com has the Rangers’ current payroll at $92.5 million and them at $140 million last season.

After trading away Hamels and others, the Opening Day payroll dipped during the season.

Considering the 2019 needs, the payroll will clear $100 million even though the Rangers are rebuilding and don’t believe they need to spend money. But it won’t approach the franchise-record $185 million of 2017.

It will likely be more in the neighborhood of $120 million, which would rank in the bottom of MLB and would be below the MLB average. But that likely isn’t far removed from where the Rangers finished last season.

“We weren’t involved in Corbin or Eovaldi,” Daniels said. “We like both guys, but those weren’t the moves we were willing to make right now. We have been in touch with a number of other guys, both free agent and trades. Probably more free agents. We’ll see if the dominoes to start to fall a little bit.”

The Rangers are likely seeking deals like the one Mike Minor signed last off-season, three years and $28 million. That worked out far more favorably than the low-risk, $4.5 million game on Fister and the trade for Moore, who made $9 million.

But that’s the kind of deal the Rangers are likely seeking.

The budget surplus from 2018 likely has been invested in research and development, which the Rangers believe will pay off once the rebuild is done. It might accelerate that process.

The team saw attendance drop considerably in 2018 and could be in for another down year at the gate, though perhaps the novelty of going to Globe Life Park one last time will bring fans in.

And maybe, just maybe, the Rangers will sneak up and contend, though it’s hard to imagine. The oddsmakers in Las Vegas, where Daniels and crew will be next week, certainly don’t see it happening.

A $120 million payroll isn’t what it used to be.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.