Rangers likely to have different look in 2013 season

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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Zack Greinke

Adding the top pitching free agent to the rotation would keep him from the Angels and keep Alexi Ogando in a bullpen that stands to lose Koji Uehara and Mike Adams.

Josh Hamilton

Even with his injury and substance-abuse issues, Hamilton is likely to get $20 million a season. If he leaves, the Rangers will have to get creative to replace his 43 homers and 128 RBIs.

Justin Upton

Only 25, Justin Upton could help the Rangers shore up free-agency losses. But recent reports are that the Diamondbacks aren't likely to deal their right fielder.

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The Texas Rangers had a third consecutive trip to the ultimate October baseball destination canceled Oct. 5 with a loss in the American League wild-card game.

Instead, Detroit will be representing the AL in the World Series, which begins tonight at San Francisco.

Watching this postseason has been maddening at times for the Rangers, whose general manager has dealt with a case of Stockholm syndrome.

"I found myself oddly rooting for both the Giants and the Cardinals," said Jon Daniels of the teams that held the Rangers captive the past two Fall Classics.

"I don't know if I need help or what."

The help-wanted sign is up in Arlington, where work toward the 2013 World Series is in the early stages. Daniels and his staff of executives and scouts met last week to review 2012 and look ahead.

They are faced with a group of seven players, led by Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli, who will become free agents once the World Series ends.

If the Rangers are to return to the World Series in 12 months, they won't look like the club that went in 2010 and 2011 or the team that was a contender again this year.

The decision on Hamilton is the first domino, which could start a chain reaction of trades, free-agent signings and position swaps that might have Justin Upton in right field, Zack Greinke in the rotation, and Ian Kinsler leaving second base.

Far-fetched? Probably. But play along. It could happen.

"We're going to look at everything," Daniels said Tuesday. "We have some target areas. There are some areas we feel we can upgrade, and there are some where we flat-out have needs."

The Rangers haven't closed the door on bringing back Hamilton, the five-time All-Star who comes with substance-abuse and injury baggage and seemingly day-to-day personal drama.

To retain one of the best players in the game for 2013 and beyond would likely cost more than $20 million a season. To pay him that much, though, comes with ample risk, and all involved would have to continue to put up with Josh being Josh.

To replace him for 2013 and beyond wouldn't be easy. Daniels and team president Nolan Ryan will have to be creative, and majority owners Bob Simpson and Ray Davis are going to have to open their wallets once again.

The creativity side could start with a trade with Arizona for Upton, 25 years old and owed $38.5 million over the next three seasons.

A deal comes with obstacles, including recent claims from Diamondbacks officials that Upton is unlikely to be a dealt. But they need to rebuild the left side of their infield, and the Rangers could package third baseman Mike Olt as enticement.

Another issue is that Upton has played only right field, a spot that Nelson Cruz has played the past four seasons. Cruz, entering his final year before free agency, has played left field on occasion.

But there could be a potential logjam there as the Rangers appear to be leaning toward having infielder Jurickson Profar as a key part of the team in 2013.

He wouldn't play 162 games, but 120 is a nice target. To find him at-bats could mean shifting Kinsler from second base to left field and relegating Cruz to duties at designated hitter.

Michael Young and David Murphy would see their playing time squeezed, though Young and Mitch Moreland could continue to platoon at first base.

Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry would seem destined for a platoon in center field.

All of that could happen if Hamilton heads elsewhere, but more work would remain.

Enter Greinke, the top pitching prize on the free-agent market. He also won't come cheap. He could fetch as much as $130 million over six years, figures that have pushed the Rangers' comfort level in the past.

Adding Greinke, 29, to the rotation could keep him away from division rival Anaheim and keep Alexi Ogando in a bullpen that stands to lose Koji Uehara and Mike Adams.

Whoever ends up on the pitching staff could be throwing to a new catcher. Napoli turned down a three-year, $38 million offer last off-season, and isn't likely to get that figure from the Rangers again.

The Rangers still view Napoli as a productive hitter, but don't believe he can catch 130 games a season like Yadier Molina and Miguel Montero, who signed lucrative deals earlier this year.

No matter what happens this off-season, Daniels and his group have their work cut out. But it might actually be enjoyable.

"It could be," Daniels said. "You have a lot of things to lay out. There are a couple of directions we can go with things."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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