The Rangers and free agent outfielder Travis Jankowski are in talks on a deal that would bring the veteran back for a second season in Texas, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Nothing’s final just yet, though Grant suggests the two sides are nearing an agreement.
Jankowski, 32, parlayed a minor league deal with the Rangers last offseason into a role of significance on their World Series-winning roster. The veteran speedster appeared in 107 games for Texas and hit .263/.357/.332 with a 12.2% walk rate and just a 14.6% strikeout rate. Jankowski connected on only one homer but went 19-for-20 in stolen bases and provided the Rangers with above-average defense in all three outfield positions, becoming a key backup on a deep Texas roster.
That marked the first time since 2018 that Jankowski had reached 100 games played or 200 plate appearances in a season. While he’s appeared in the majors every year dating back to 2015, he’s been an oft-optioned and twice-DFA’ed player who hasn’t always held a firm grip on a roster spot. Last year’s impressive blend of speed, plate discipline, contact and defense clearly made a favorable impression on the Rangers, however, and it seems he’ll have an opportunity to reprise that role in 2024.
The Texas outfield won’t have much change in 2024 when compared to the end of the 2023 season. Star right fielder Adolis Garcia will look to build on last year’s 39-homer campaign. Leody Taveras is expected to return as the primary center fielder. Top prospect Evan Carter seized the left field job with a big showing late in the season and, particularly, in the playoffs. If any of that trio struggles or falls to injury, 2023 No. 4 overall pick Wyatt Langford is on the cusp of big league readiness himself. Langford will get a chance to earn an Opening Day roster spot this spring, and if he succeeds in doing so, he could form an outfield/DH rotation with the other three starting outfielders.
Jankowski would once again serve as a backup across all three spots, providing the potential for a late-game defensive replacement or pinch-running appearance on any given day. As a career .254/.343/.333 hitter against righties with just a .186/.256/.237 slash against lefties, any starts for Jankowski would likely be limited to those against right-handed opponent on the mound. The emergence of Carter and perhaps Langford could leave him with a more limited role than he saw in ’23, but Jankowski has the makings of a valuable bench piece who could step into a more prominent role for a short term, should injuries necessitate (as was the case with Garcia during the World Series).
The Rangers opened a spot on their 40-man roster with this morning’s trade of fellow outfielder J.P. Martinez to the Braves, but that spot will presumably go to right-hander David Robertson, once he completes his physical and finalizes his reported one-year agreement with the team. Re-signing Jankowski to a big league deal would require a second spot on the 40-man roster to be opened up, meaning another move from the Rangers could well be on the horizon.