Gil LeBreton

Rangers will have another record payroll, as Daniels puts on post-holiday roster touches

According to the internet number crunchers who keep track of these sorts of things, the Texas Rangers will begin the 2017 season with a team payroll in excess of $170 million.

Only six other major league teams are expected to have one higher.

It will be the highest club payroll in franchise history – almost 50 percent more than it was five years ago and 245 percent of what the Rangers paid their World Series team in 2010.

Yet, there are still Luddites out there who dare to publicly ask, “When are the Rangers going to spend some money and get some pitching in here?”

(Insert forehead slap emoji here).

Maybe to some, it’s not a good look for general manager Jon Daniels to be turning his pockets inside-out just weeks after Arlington voters approved a half-billion in sales-tax dollars for a new ballpark.

Do we have to explain how one doesn’t quite have anything to do with the other?

But I get it. Center fielder Ian Desmond is gone to the Rockies. Veteran Carlos Beltran, a star in the Rangers’ 2016 division title run, has signed with the rival Astros. Derek Holland now pitches for the White Sox.

And the lean crop of free agent pitchers has become thinner still. Rich Hill, Edinson Volquez, Aroldis Chapman – they all have new deals.

And the Rangers?

Daniels signed pitcher Andrew Cashner and outfielder Carlos Gomez to one-year contracts. They may or may not re-sign pitcher Colby Lewis.

And, oh, right – club doctors plan to inspect Josh Hamilton next week in Houston to see if he’ll ever play baseball again.

(Slow clapping sound).

True, it would be a splashy Christmas gesture for the Rangers, as they did around this time in 2014, to leave free agent Shin-Soo Choo in the fans’ stockings. But the club lately has done a lot of its best roster bolstering in January and February, which still counts.

When asked this week what was next on his to-do list, Daniels gave his standard off-season answer:

“There’s no one agenda item that we have. We’ll continue to explore different options, whether that’s adding depth or exploring some things that would be a little bit bigger than that. Most of our conversations have still been on the pitching side, but we’ll see.”

On the surface, the math is simple. Three Rangers have been subtracted from last season’s starting postseason lineup – Desmond, Beltran and first baseman Mitch Moreland (signed with Boston). A fourth free agent, Gomez, has been signed and will fill Desmond’s spot in center field.

The lineup still lacks two bats.

But Daniels doesn’t see it as simple arithmetic.

He views having Choo healthy and available in right field for a full season as “an addition.” Plus, he says, the club will benefit from a full season of catcher Jonathan Lucroy and a healthy, for once, Jurickson Profar.

The notion that Choo is a free-agent bust lacks substance. He’s been hurt, missing nearly 40 games in his first season in Texas and only performing in 48 games last season.

But when healthy Choo has shown his value. After a slow start in 2015, few players in the American League in the final three months were as good as Choo.

One perception is correct, however. Daniels isn’t standing on the MLB street corner, flashing his free agent bankroll. That would be an unwise negotiating tactic for any general manager.

But Daniels clearly takes exception to the notion that the team won’t spend.

“The last eight or nine years, we haven’t finished the job,” he said. “We have work to do. But we’re proud of our track record.

“As far as the dollars, we’ve been a top-10, maybe top-8 payroll for six or so years. And we will be again this year, and we’ll have a record payroll, the highest in franchise history.

“So I don’t think that’s an informed characterization.”

It is not. But that’s why the uninformed can’t see that Daniels has done his best work lately in January and February.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram