The Texas Rangers fired manager Chris Woodward on Monday amid a season of dissatisfactory progress despite the investment of more than half a billion guaranteed dollars in the free agent market over the winter, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN.
The Rangers occupy third place in the American League West with a 51-63 record. Woodward is expected to be replaced by an interim manager after his fourth consecutive year with a losing mark.
The additions of Corey Seager — with whom Woodward was close from his days as a Los Angeles Dodgers coach — Marcus Semien and Jon Gray this winter heightened expectations following a 60-102 season in 2021. While the Rangers have played far better this year, with a run differential near even, their 6-24 record in one-run games would be the second-worst single-season winning percentage in such finishes since 1900, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Texas in November gave Woodward a contract extension that covered the 2023 season and included a 2024 option. The Rangers hired Woodward in November 2018 after coaching stints with Seattle and the Dodgers that followed a 12-year career as a utilityman.
He arrived in Texas to replace Jeff Banister, who had won division titles in his first two seasons after replacing Ron Washington but struggled to a last-place finish in 2018. The Rangers hoped Woodward would stabilize the role as the organization transitioned through a rebuild, which saw a better-than-expected beginning in 2019 as they went 78-84. But last-place finishes in the shorted COVID-19 season and last year prompted the Rangers to accelerate their timetable in the open market.
While they have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, adding Seager at $325 million and Semien at $175 million to form their half-billion-dollar middle infield was the move meant to thrust the Rangers into at least near-contention. Seager and Semien’s slow starts have abated — they’ve combined for nearly six Wins Above Replacement — but Texas’ pitching ranks among the league’s bottom third in ERA and Fielding Independent Pitching.
The new manager inherits a Rangers team with plenty to dream on — particularly if they hit the free agent market this winter with money to spend and a starting pitcher to acquire. The Rangers considered multiple options at the trade deadline, including trading for starting pitching and even going after Juan Soto, but they held onto a farm system that features a wide array of talent at the top levels. With Seager and Semien, center fielder Adolis Garcia, catcher Jonah Heim, Gray — and perhaps left-hander Martin Perez, with whom the Rangers have discussed an extension — the core around which Texas can build exists.
Finding a manager to bring the best out of it in a division with a Houston Astros team that’s perpetually competitive and a Seattle Mariners team on the rise is now the goal. Texas revamped its coaching staff over the winter, and now comes the most important hire yet in a manager the organization hopes can accomplish what Woodward didn’t: a return to the glory days of 2010-16, when the Rangers made the playoffs five times in seven years.