The end of the baseball season Wednesday night brought upon the onset of the off-season, as the final out of the World Series opened the door for more than 100 players to become free agents.
Teams get a five-day window to negotiate with their own free agents, so players won’t be team-jumping just yet. But it won’t be long before top targets like Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez and Nelson Cruz, among other big names on the market, are wooed by potential suitors and start to receive contract offers that will secure their financial futures.
Some teams still have internal business to finish before delving into the chaos. Included in that group are the Texas Rangers, who have tackled their biggest off-season issue with the hiring of manager Jeff Banister but still have much to do before putting their focus only on the business of acquiring players for 2015.
That doesn’t mean general manager Jon Daniels and his staff haven’t looked ahead.
“I don’t think we’ll be doing anything quick, but we’ve got to be prepared,” said Daniels, who spent part of last week in Surprise, Ariz., meeting with scouts and officials to address the off-season.
“In the short-term, we have to continue to work on the roster, coaching staff and to the degree that we promote from within on the coaching staff, we have to fill in our development system.”
Banister’s coaching staff is starting to come together, though there are many spots to fill. Hitting coach Dave Magadan will return, and pitching coach Mike Maddux and the Rangers are negotiating a contract that would allow him to return.
If Maddux is back, which appears likely, bullpen coach Andy Hawkins will also return.
A bench coach needs to be hired, and the Rangers are leaning toward Triple A manager Steve Buechele. But both base coaches need to be replaced.
Third-base coach Gary Pettis has bolted to Houston, and first-base coach Bengie Molina isn’t expected to be back on the coaching staff but will likely settle into a position in the organization.
“I would expect that probably by Friday, I don’t think we’ll have 100 percent clarity, but we’ll announce where we’re at,” Daniels said.
The Rangers will also soon be announcing a bevy of transactions designed to free up space on the 40-man roster. They have nine players on the 60-day disabled list who must be reinstated to the 40-man.
Four spots will be created when Colby Lewis, Neal Cotts, Scott Baker and Alex Rios are allowed to become free agents, leaving the Rangers at 34. A minimum of three players would have to be moved out to accommodate the 60-day DL players, but the Rangers will need spots thoughout the off-season to add free agents, trade acquisitions and minor leaguers they want to protect from the Rule 5 draft.
“There are a lot of guys we’re going to have to make calls on without the full spectrum of answers,” Daniels aid. “That’s where the challenge is. There’s a potential to expose some guys on waivers that usually you wait until you’ve exhausted all options. We’re not in a position to do that.”
The Rangers’ initial free-agent target will be Lewis, who is expected to fill a rotation spot, but Daniels said that the Rangers will pursue trades first before diving into the free-agent market.
There’s plenty of other internal business to tend to first. Let the off-season chaos begin.