One of the Texas Rangers’ off-season decisions has already been made. It was made Aug. 1, when Jonathan Lucroy and his $5.25 million club option for 2017 were acquired from Milwaukee.
That option, of course, will be picked up.
The Rangers, though, have six other significant decisions to make — five regarding players who can be free agents at the end of the World Series and one involving a player with a club option.
Each one played a role in victories in 2016, even late-season victories, and no matter which team he has played for has been a difference-maker many times over in his career.
Three have been with the team since the franchise’s first run to the World Series.
With a budget that is expected to stay the same, anywhere from $155 million to $170 million by some estimates, money will dictate if it’s possible to bring everyone back.
Carlos Beltran, DH/RF
The Rangers traded for the veteran slugger Aug. 1 and got the player they were expecting — a professional hitter and baseball sage who guided young players over the final month. The fire is still there for Beltran as he, just like Adrian Beltre, seeks a World Series ring before he heads into retirement and into the Hall of Fame.
Beltran said that he will sign with a contending club and that the Rangers are built to win in 2017 and beyond.
Beltran turns 40 in April, and he seems to understand that teams might be hesitant to give him a three-year deal at $15 million a year, similar to the contract he signed before the 2014 season with the New York Yankees, even though he is coming off a productive season.
Ian Desmond, CF
The Rangers found an All-Star in late February when the signed Desmond and turned the shortstop into a left fielder. Desmond was a center fielder by May and a lineup mainstay the entire season.
He’s going to improve defensively with more games in center field. His arm is already a weapon. His bat was the Rangers’ best in the first half, and though it cooled after the All-Star break, he was a 20-20 player and a .285 hitter.
Not bad for a center fielder who just happens to be regarded as a wonderful teammate with a tireless work ethic. That’s the kind of player teams don’t want to let get away, even if it takes a multi-year contract to keep him.
Carlos Gomez, OF
The Rangers salvaged this former All-Star from the free-agent trash heap in August, and he took advantage of his second life and become one of the Rangers’ best players over the final six weeks.
Gomez found welcoming arms in the Rangers’ veteran clubhouse, and a player who has been portrayed as a problem child was an exemplary citizen.
The Rangers believe that Gomez could be their everyday center fielder and that his woeful days with the Houston Astros are behind him. In helping lift the Rangers, Gomez likely salvaged some market value this winter, and it will take multiple years to keep him.
Derek Holland, starting pitcher
The Rangers signed the left-hander in 2006, saw him develop into a top prospect and then a key performer for their teams that went to the World Series in 2010 and 2011. The multi-year contract that gave him is out of guaranteed years.
But the Rangers hold club options for the next two seasons, the first for $11 million in 2017. Compared to the going rate for a free-agent starting pitcher, that’s not unreasonable. This winter’s starting-pitching market is woeful. When Holland is right, he’s as good as any of them.
Holland, though, has dealt with significant injuries the past three seasons, and his fastball velocity has dropped to the point where he doesn’t have same success pitching inside. He fell out of favor so far in 2016 that he wasn’t on the postseason roster.
Colby Lewis, starting pitcher
This has been an unbreakable bond since Lewis was signed out of Japan before the 2010 season. He gave the Rangers postseason grit the first two years, and the Rangers repaid him by standing with him through flexor tendon, hip, knee and oblique injuries.
Lewis doesn’t blow hitters away and relies on pinpoint command. He eats innings. He usually gives his team a chance to win. He never asks for a ton of money.
The thin starting-pitching market plays in Lewis’ favor, and so does the Rangers’ lack of pitching depth. There’s also that unbreakable bond. It’s going to be hard to break again.
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Selected in the 2007 draft, Moreland blossomed quickly to the point where the Rangers felt comfortable trading 2008 first-round pick Justin Smoak in 2010 and slugger Chris Davis in 2011.
Moreland is better than Smoak but hasn’t provided nearly the offense that Davis has with Baltimore. Moreland has battled injuries and inconsistency. The latter got him late in the 2016 season as he enters free agency for the first time and wants a multi-year deal.
But he has developed into a nice defensive first baseman, and the Rangers have a sure-fire first baseman ready to step in for him. Joey Gallo would seem to be the favorite, but he has a lot of learning to do. There would be no shortage of growing pains.