The Texas Rangers won their first World Series title on Wednesday night, knocking off the Arizona Diamondbacks by a 4-1 margin. The Rangers won 90 games during the regular season, but were relegated to a wild-card berth despite tying the Houston Astros atop the American League West standings because of Major League Baseball's tiebreaker procedures. It didn't matter. The Rangers went on a memorable postseason run that saw them eliminate clubs (including those Astros) who won 90, 99, and 101 games during the year.
Here's a scary thought for the rest of MLB: next season's Rangers might be even better than the club that just lifted the championship trophy.
We know, we know, it can be dangerous to make such proclamations in the aftermath of the decisive game of the World Series -- not to mention, you know, the entire offseason. We assure you, though, that we're not suffering from the early returns on a champagne shower, nor are we foolish enough to buy into the concept of infinite growth. We would've held and stated this belief regardless of how the World Series played out.
Allow us to explain by highlighting four such reasons.
1. Full seasons from young star outfielders
Evan Carter was one of the top stories of the Rangers' playoff run. Over 17 games, he batted .300/.417/.500 with 10 extra-base hits and three stolen bases. Not bad for someone who had appeared in just 23 big-league games before October started. (Carter proved to be a quick learner then, too, as he hit .306/.413/.645 in 75 plate appearances to close out the regular season.)
The Rangers will benefit from a full season of Carter, but he may not be the only prescient rookie outfielder on the club. Wyatt Langford, the No. 4 pick in last July's draft, figures to be making his own debut early in the year.
CBS Sports has been high on Langford for some time, ranking him as the No. 2 prospect in the class over the summer. (He'll be ranked as the No. 4 prospect in the game when our winter prospect list drops; Carter will be No. 3.) He validated our belief by posting a 1.157 OPS in his first 200 trips to the plate as a professional. That includes a five-game cameo in Triple-A to end the year.
Langford showed so much so quickly that Rangers general manager Chris Young was asked if the team had considered adding him to the World Series roster ahead of Game 4 in response to an injury. Young seemed humored by the question and said no, but it says something about Langford that it was asked.
2. Empowered management and front office
These Rangers have already shown a penchant for making blockbuster moves over the last several years, whether it was signing Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Jacob deGrom, or trading for Max Scherzer, Jordan Montgomery, and Aroldis Chapman. In each case, the Rangers gave out big money over long terms and real young talent to position themselves to win a ring.
Now that Texas has made good on that desire, two things can happen: 1) Rangers fans can look at Cole Ragans' Baseball Reference page without getting nervous, and 2) Young can ask himself and ownership the following question: how nice would it be to win another?
What, precisely, that would entail is to be determined. Maybe it means re-signing Montgomery. Maybe it means flipping some depth -- utility player Ezequiel Duran would likely appeal to a number of teams seeking offensive help -- for a different mid-rotation starter. And so on.
The Rangers do have a few notable impending free agents: Montgomery, Martín Pérez, Mitch Garver, Travis Jankowski, and Chapman included. You can expect them to do something this winter. We'll just have to find out what.
3. Weakened division
Again, we're playing a little loose by writing about some of this stuff before the offseason has had a chance to transpire. This one feels safe for one main reason: Shohei Ohtani is widely expected to leave the Los Angeles Angels. It feels within reason to write that the talent level of a division will go down whenever the most talented player in the sport's history is on their way out.
The Angels, in turn, could begin a full-on rebuild, lowering their seasonal expectations. The Oakland Athletics are certain to remain laughable for at least another season. That means the Rangers are, realistically, going to be tussling with the Astros and the Seattle Mariners for the division crown.
We'll have to see how those three teams approach the offseason before we make further proclamations. The state of the Angels and the A's has us believing that the bottom of the West will be weaker next year regardless.
4. Potentially better health from key players
It's no stretch to write that the Rangers who took the field for Game 5 were compromised. They were without ace and key signing Jacob deGrom, as well as right-hander Max Scherzer and outfielder Adolis García. (Scherzer and García were removed from the roster after suffering injuries in Game 3.)
During the regular season, the Rangers had been relatively healthy overall. They had the eighth-fewest days lost to injury, according to Spotrac. Alas, not all days missed are created equally. Losing deGrom for half the season, as these Rangers did, impacts a team more than losing a middle reliever.
With that in mind, Baseball Prospectus has constructed a way to measure how many Wins Above Replacement a team loses to injury using the PECOTA forecast model. These Rangers lost more than six WAR, per BP's estimate. For scale, the Los Angeles Angels -- without two of the game's best talents, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani -- were calculated to have lost nine WAR to the IL.
Health isn't just one large random number generator, even if it sometimes feels that way. It's a given that deGrom is going to miss a large swath of the 2024 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but it's possible that other players who missed either crucial or long stretches -- Scherzer, García, and even Corey Seager -- could stay on the field more next year. That seems like bad news for the rest of the league.
Rangers World Series championship gear now available
The Rangers have won thier first World Series title in five games over the Diamondbacks. Texas hadn't even had a winning season since 2016, making the 2023 World Series title even sweeter. You can already get Rangers World Series championship hoodies, t-shirts, hats, autographed baseballs, and more. Grab your piece of history before it's gone here.
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