Former Dodger Corey Seager will take on a new, unfamiliar role with Rangers
It’s been more than three months since Corey Seager opted to sign with the Texas Rangers and close the door on the Dodgers, the only Major League Baseball organization he had ever known.
Back on Dec. 1, two days after agreeing to a 10-year, $325-million contract not beholden to a state income tax, Seager was presented with his new jersey during an introductory news conference at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. He wore the threads with a wide smile walking around his new workplace. It was an exciting time.
Then, hours later, MLB implemented a lockout once the collective bargaining agreement expired. Communication between clubs and players was abruptly forbidden. The idea of not playing for the Dodgers became more abstract. It took until Sunday, until his first day of work with Texas, for the reality to penetrate again.
“When I showed up in camp, that was kind of the moment when it pushed back in, you know?” Seager said Monday. “It was exciting, though. It for sure was.”
Seager emerged on the back fields Monday for his first full workout day as a Ranger in a red pullover with his customary No. 5 on the left sleeve. The 27-year-old shortstop was in the same batting practice group as second baseman Marcus Semien, the other franchise cornerstone the Rangers bought during their pre-lockout spending spree. The middle infield duo later took ground balls together at their respective positions. Fans rushed to them for autographs. They were the main attraction.
As the Dodgers gathered on the field for the start of camp, the status of free-agent first baseman Freddie Freeman took center stage.
“We’re going to be attached at the hip,” Semien said.
The Rangers and Dodgers’ spring training homes are separated by a 30-minute drive. Their expectations for the upcoming season are about a light year apart. The Dodgers are a World Series favorite. They’ve made the playoffs the last nine seasons. The Rangers haven’t recorded a winning record since 2016 and lost 102 games last season. They’ve never won a World Series. The only team to ever win a title in the Rangers’ ballpark as the home team was the 2020 Dodgers.
The disparity between the two franchises surfaced Sunday when Clayton Kershaw confirmed he chose to return to the Dodgers over signing with the Rangers to pitch for his hometown team. The reason? The Dodgers offered him a significantly better chance to win another World Series.
“I’m a little biased,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “I think we still have a chance to win a World Series.”
Seager chose the Rangers because, to start, they offered more money than the Dodgers and every other suitor. Without him, the Dodgers will have Trea Turner, who is scheduled to hit free agency this winter, play shortstop. Turner said he’s open to discussing a contract extension, but the two sides haven’t had talks.
The Dodgers, even without Seager, are expected to contend for a title. To reach that level, the Rangers are counting on Seager to produce on the field and take the next step off it.
Seager established himself as an elite hitter at a premium position when healthy over seven years in Los Angeles. He was named National League rookie of the year in 2016. He made two All-Star teams. He was the NL Championship Series and World Series MVP in 2020. But the center of attention constantly shifted. There were MVPs here, future Hall of Famers there, and All-Stars everywhere. He was one of many important cogs in a finely tuned — and expensive — assembly line.
Texas will be different. With the Rangers, he’s a big-money superstar. He’s a veteran whom younger players will observe closely. He is, for the first time, viewed as a clubhouse leader. In preparation for the unfamiliar role, Seager said he had conversations with brother Kyle, who retired this winter after 11 seasons as a third baseman with the Seattle Mariners.
“I was fortunate enough to have a bunch of guys around, and then even when I became an older guy, there was still older guys around me,” Corey Seager said. “So, I didn’t have the full burden of it and I still don’t feel like I have the full burden of it. It can’t be on one guy. This is going to be a collective thing, just moving in the right direction and staying on path.”
Woodward recalled talking to Seager about the change years ago when he was the Dodgers’ third base coach. He told the young shortstop that the veterans around him would eventually be replaced and, before he knew it, he’d be one of those veterans.
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“Now I get a chance to kind of guide him and help him and say: ‘Hey, you’re the guy. All eyes are on you,’ ” Woodward said. “He doesn’t mind that. He doesn’t mind that because he does things right.”
For Woodward, that’s not Seager addressing the team with some speech. That’s not his style. It’s Seager refusing to take a pitch off during batting practice on a back field in spring training. It’s Seager going out of his way to help a teammate behind the scenes. It’s the relentless work ethic, the kind the Rangers believe can infuse their culture and propel them to the next level.
For seven years in Los Angeles, Seager often lurked in the background, building the resume for a huge payday. In Texas, he’ll always be on center stage, a responsibility he claimed when he signed on the dotted line in the final days of November and the reality hadn’t quite hit yet.
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