Texas Rangers

5 key answers from Daniels about Rangers in 2019, in 2020, and more money this off-season

The Texas Rangers are going to have a bigger budget for 2020 and expect to make a bigger jump in wins and losses.

General manager Jon Daniels wouldn’t say Tuesday how much more money or guarantee how many more wins during the annual season postmortem at Globe Life Park. Expectations, though, are that the product on the field will be more competitive than the 2019 team that went 78-84.

“Even internally, our priorities were more laying a foundation for future success,” Daniels said. “I think we’re going to be able to hit the ground running this week from a planning standpoint for next year, certainly throughout the off-season with the development that will happen, and into camp next year. The work these guys put in this year has put us in a better position.”

Daniels pointed to Joey Gallo as the shining example of a player grasping new information and new coaching from a new coaching staff. There are others who took longer to get it and need to show more off-season.

The Rangers will hold their annual scouting meetings in Arizona later in the month. That’s when roster clean-up will begin and a more definitive plan to attack the off-season will be hatched.

Daniels was asked multiple questions, as was manager Chris Woodward, over nearly 45 minutes. Here are five key answers the GM provided:

Money, money, money

Almost all fans want their favorite team go spend money on free agents in the off-season, but the Rangers haven’t gone too crazy the past few seasons.

Their Opening Day payroll this season was 20th in MLB at $106,969,999, according to USA Today. Spotrac.com has the Rangers finishing the season with a payroll of $128,940,386, 15th in the majors.

The Rangers likely have their own calculations. After meeting with owner Ray Davis and the rest of the ownership group, Daniels said there will be more money in play.

Daniels joked he wouldn’t be able to say how large until Opening Day on March 26 at Seattle.

“It’s kind of a general range,” Daniels said. “In talking with Ray and with ownership and the rest of the leadership group, I have an idea the range we’ll be in. As an organization, we’re going through the process of planning for next year, and not just for the big-league club but everything that goes with running a business of this size.

“It will be higher. Our major-league payroll will be up from where it was this year, but I don’t have an exact number yet.”

Where to upgrade?

The Rangers have holes that must be filled, and Daniels identified the starting rotation and third base as key areas before also touching on other potential spots were upgrades will be added.

Daniels didn’t say if the Rangers would add more than one starting pitcher, though that seems possible, or if they would shoot for right-hander Gerrit Cole and third baseman Anthony Rendon at the top of the market.

“We haven’t had our full strategy meeting, but we definitely will this month,” Daniels said. “In early conversations, starting pitching and third base are probably the top two on the list. There are a number of other areas that we can improve.

“We have candidates to compete for spots in the the rotation and at first base, but I think to create the level of competition we want at a variety of spots, we’d like to add from the outside in those areas and I think there’s clear opportunity for us to receive incremental improvements in those areas.

“There are other spots that we need to improve. First base, catcher, center field, bullpen are all areas you can improve. I think we can improve some of that externally, and some of those spots will be the product of improvement of our own players.”

Timeline for playoffs?

Daniels wouldn’t guarantee the postseason next season or the year after, but the expectation is sooner rather than later.

That could mean 2020, when he expects the Rangers to be better. That could mean 2021, after some more prospects develop and with another round of free agency.

“Last winter when we had our organizational meetings before spring training, we talked very loosely about 2019 and we weren’t going to set any limits on the club,” Daniels said. “We would have loved to be ahead of schedule, and I think for the first half of the season the players and staff kept us in it. Ultimately, we weren’t good enough yet this year.

“At the same time, we talked about 2020, the new stadium and some additional resources that we thought we could take a real step and certainly every year after that the expectation for us is to contend.

“I use that term ‘taking steps’ because I think it’s really challenging to sit here and identify a year and circle it on the calendar. We want to get better, and I hope the efforts of everybody in the organization enable us to be sitting here talking about postseason baseball next year.

“I’m not going to sit here and guarantee anything because we have a lot of work to do.”

Breaking the logjam

The Rangers’ roster features four left-handed-hitting corner outfielders. That was hard for them to manage in 2019 and would be difficult again in 2020.

It looks as if Gallo and Calhoun are going to be the right fielder and left fielder, though the Rangers haven’t completely closed the door on Gallo in center.

That leaves Shin-Soo Choo and Nomar Mazara to be the primary designated hitter/extra corner outfielder, with Choo looking like the favorite to keep playing every day and Mazara as a trade candidate.

However, Choo has only one year left on his contract and might be more attractive to teams.

Looking for a trade is on the to-do list.

“I don’t know if we have to trade from it necessarily,” Daniels said. “But when everyone’s healthy we have more left-handed-hitting corner guys than we have spots for. We’re going to definitely look at it this winter. I think it makes sense to. We talked about it in July a little bit. We’ve got other needs, and if we line up with somebody ... . If not there will be some competition and we’ll sort through it.”

Willie, Elvis and Odor

The final question had been asked, but Daniels wanted to make sure to mention how far Calhoun came this season. He had help from strength and conditioning coach Jose Vazquez, outfield coach Jayce Tingler and dietitian Stephanie Fernandes, Daniels said.

Calhoun hit 21 homers in 309 at-bats, posted an .848 OPS, and showed dramatic improvements defensive and on the bases after shedding more than 20 points during the off-season.

“I know in spring training he didn’t make the club and at a different point we sent him down,” Daniels said. “I feel remiss not mentioning what a tremendous year he had. Really, a credit to the staff for pushing him, but he put the work in. As much as anybody, he took a huge step this year.”

Earlier in the news conference, Daniels didn’t back down from the idea that shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Rougned Odor must be better next season and that he hopes competition will make them better.

“For us to win a championship, we need significantly better performance out of those spots,” Daniels said. “That’s just being honest. I think we had very clear conversations with Elvis, with Rougie and other guys competing for spots.

“We know what they’re capable of. I felt like the last stretch of the season — forget about the results on the field — there was a lot more understanding of what they need to do and buy-in to the way we’re looking to play and looking to prepare.”

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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.