So what are Texas Rangers fans to make of the their team getting rid of its franchise All-Star and its two best pitchers?
Put on your work gloves and steel-toe boots.
A legitimate, down to the studs and foundation rebuild has begun. The roster fans had just days before the July 30 trade deadline has been stripped for parts and left on the side of the road.
In fact, team president Jon Daniels is finally freely using “rebuild” to describe what is happening within the organization.
And even he admits that it’s probably a year or two too late, for a variety reasons, he suggested, without citing them.
The Texas Rangers continued their major-league sell off about an hour before MLB’s trade deadline at 3 p.m. Friday by sending starter Kyle Gibson, closer Ian Kennedy and minor league pitcher Hans Crouse to the Phillies for Spencer Howard and minor league prospects Kevin Gowdy and Josh Gessner. The Phillies are also receiving about $4 million cash in the deal.
“The reason I didn’t really use that term in the past is we weren’t really committed to it, quite frankly,” Daniels said, who suggested the rebuild view started last offseason.
“We’ve discussed prior to this year the merits of doing it sooner,” he said. “For a variety of reasons we didn’t choose that path. Had we gone down that path sooner, we’d probably be farther along at this point. There were valid reasons that those decisions were based upon at that time.”
Daniels, of course, isn’t going to detail the directives sent down from ownership and how the opening of Globe Life Field in 2020 — and to fans this season — altered how ownership has viewed personnel moves.
The 2021 team wasn’t expected to contend, but its struggles, which include two losing streaks of at least nine games for the first time in team history, punctuated just how far away they are from being competitive.
“We feel like we’re building a really strong farm system. Teams don’t generally win at the major league level without starting there first,” Daniels said. “We feel we’ve made progress there.”
First-year general manager Chris Young urged patience to fans, which many might find hard to swallow since the team is headed for its fifth consecutive losingseason, something that hasn’t happened since the franchise moved from Washington to Arlington in 1972. The club is on pace to lose 100 games for the first time since 1973.
(Want a silver lining? Another high-loss tally this year means another high draft pick next year, which is what happened after the 2020 Rangers (22-38) finished with the second-worst record in baseball and wound up selecting Vanderbilt star pitcher Jack Leiter with No. 2 pick in the 2021 MLB Draft.)
Both Daniels and Young voiced optimism about the direction of the organization’s crop of minor league talent, especially at Double A Frisco, and the job done by player development staff.
But that’s the same with just about every front office in the league. There are no guarantees any of these prospects will prosper into major league foundations, such as Gallo.
“It’s hard to see, to some degree, at the major league level based on the win and loss column, and certainly that resonates with me,” Young said. “Our fans deserve a winning team and our intent is to do that. But these things do take a little bit of time.”
The new Texas Rangers
So the rebuild begins. And it starts with seven players, none of whom would’ve had a driver’s license the last time the Rangers were in the World Series a decade ago.
Howard is a 25-year-old right-hander who was drafted in the second round in 2017. He’s pitched in 17 big league games the past two seasons, including 11 in 2021 with a 5.71 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings.
Gowdy is a 23-year-old right-hander who has a 4.43 ERA in 61 innings for the Phillies High A affiliate. Gessner is a 21-year-old right-hander currently pitching in Florida rookie league.
The prospects include right-hander Glenn Otto, 25; second baseman Ezequiel Duran, 22; shortstop Josh Smith, 23; and second baseman/outfielder Trevor Hauver, 22.
It will take years to determine the quality of either set of moves. However, what is clear now is that Rangers fans who were hoping of contending within a year or so need to recalibrate their expectations.
Daniels agreed the team should be competitive again by 2023, but that seems highly unlikely unless the core of players currently constituting the Rangers everyday lineup suddenly blossom into the best players they were projected to be. Or that a majority of the talented prospects in the system, including the seven newly-acquired players, all develop ahead of projections.
“We are creating winning expectations. These things sometimes materialize a little bit quicker than people expect or think,” Young said. “Certainly that’s a tough thing to say at moments like this when we had a week like this trading from our major league team to add to our minor league depth. But we’re in a pretty good position moving forward. What the timeline is I can’t make promises in terms of that, but I can promise there is talent on the way.”
Tough for Young to say, perhaps, but even tougher for fans to hear.