Texas Rangers 3B – Positional Analysis
The Texas Rangers 3B picture is a little more focused, now that there’s a new face in town. Let’s survey the landscape and see what to expect in 2020.
2019 At a Glance
2018 brought with it a tough goodbye, as Rangers 3B mainstay, Adrian Beltre, announced his retirement from baseball. Beltre, with the Rangers alone, was a 3x Gold Glove, 3x All-Star, and 2x Silver Slugger. One does not simply fill this void with any ol’ body. Nonetheless, the Rangers picked up Asdrubal Cabrera, a 2x All-Star in his own right. Along with him, veterans Patrick Wisdom and Matt Davidson were signed for depth, but also for upside. By the end of July, Cabrera had been traded to Washington, Wisdom was scarcely seen, and Davidson was firmly planted in Triple-A Nashville.
Although Wisdom and Davidson combined for 64 home runs with Nashville, the former couldn’t produce even a spark in comparison to his minor league numbers. The latter, Davidson, never saw major league grass in all of 2019. Wisdom has since signed with Seattle and Davidson remains a free agent.
After the Cabrera trade, the Rangers were forced to use a committee of utility players at third. In the remaining months, Logan Forsythe would start 28 games, Isiah Kiner-Falefa 23, prospect Nick Solak 11, and super-utility-man Danny Santana 8. Whether it be the glove or the bat, each of these players lacked a key component in what is needed in a third baseman.
Swing and Miss in Free Agency
The thought of landing Anthony Rendon, the most sought-after non-pitching free agent going into 2020, was enough to get Rangers fans going. Sadly, efforts to land the elite cornerman would fall through. Rendon ultimately signed with the division rival Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. While this was a hard pill to swallow, considering the Rangers were among the favorites to land the Texas native, hope was not yet lost. Josh Donaldson was quite well known to be the Rangers “Plan B”, but that too fell to the wayside as the two camps could not agree on a contract length.
The following weeks saw Mike Moustakas, Maikel Franco, Josh Harrison, Travis Shaw, and even former Ranger Asdrubal Cabrera come off the board. Good third basemen were becoming as scarce as hen’s teeth. During this time, the Rangers were named in talks with names such as Nicholas Castellanos and Todd Frazier Todd Frazier.
Enter the Toddfather….
The Texas Rangers and veteran Todd Frazier agreed on a 1-year deal worth $5M deal on Sunday, January 12th. The agreement is pending a physical, of course, and includes a 2021 team option that brings with it a $1.5M buyout.
What does the new Texas Rangers 3B bring to the table? First off, Frazier brings a a mixture of power hitting and sure-handed fielding that the Rangers did not have last season. Over the course of the season, he averaged but a meager .251 batting average with a .772 OPS, but his 21 home runs and 106 wRC+ are substantial improvement to current personnel. What really may surprise some is how effective Frazier was facing LHP. He was 6 points shy of a .300 average, in 142 plate appearances and slugged .540. We’re not talking a middle of the order hitter, but for a team who struggled so much vs. LHP, the Toddfather brings some optimism.
Platoon Option or Ironman?
Do I necessarily believe Todd Frazier MUST be in a platoon to be valuable to the Texas Rangers? No. Would I prefer him in one? Sure. That also depends on personnel, of course. In this hypothetical world where I make decisions, have we made no more roster moves? Is Ronald Guzman still playing 1B and batting .135 versus lefties? If so, yes, let’s get Frazier over to 1B on opposing LHP days so Guzman rests. We can squeeze Nick Solak, Danny Santana, or Isiah Kiner-Falefa into the lineup to avoid ever seeing Guzman take a swing at another lefty pitcher. Now, what if, and it’s a HUGE “what if”, the baseball Gods smile upon us and we can sign Nick Castellanos or a similar power RHB? That makes building platoons much easier.
What Are the Alternatives?
Back to “squeezing Solak, Santana, or Kiner-Falefa” into the lineup; make no mistake, Nick Solak is going to be seen and heard. While he lacks the overall power of Todd Frazier, he did hit .293 with an OPS of .884 in 135 plate appearances in 2019. Solak also struggles defensively, more specifically on the throwing end of things, which may suit him more for 2B. Without a doubt, Santana will be in the everyday lineup as well. Popular belief is that it will be in CF. However, there are many moving pieces and young men fighting for playing time. I wouldn’t rule out Santana playing a bit of 3B if Scott Heineman has a good spring.
It should be noted, Todd Frazier started a total of 117 games in 2019. While those aren’t Elvis Andrus totals, it does demonstrate durability. He may flip to the opposite corner a few times this season, but we should see more of the same from Frazier in terms of availability. Outside of 2018, when he saw the IL for the first time, Frazier has been a relatively healthy player. There is very little to not like about this signing. A great glove, good power, and an all around excellent clubhouse presence make me personally excited about 2020 and now we can rest knowing that the Texas Rangers 3B position has been addressed. Are the Texas Rangers finished adding to the roster? As famed WWE announcer, Gorilla Monsoon would say, “Highly unlikely.”
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