Off-season went off course, but Rangers like their chances

Posted Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The off-season comes to end for the Texas Rangers this week, when pitchers and catchers report for spring training and position players trickle in behind them shortly.

Judging by what happened -- and what didn't happen -- turning off the Hot Stove might rank as the highlight of the off-season for general manager Jon Daniels.

Josh Hamilton took the money and ran to Anaheim. Zack Greinke took the money and ran a little farther north to Los Angeles.

A gimpy Mike Napoli is in Boston. Justin Upton was traded to Atlanta. Nelson Cruz is facing a suspension for banned substances.

Michael Young was traded, Jurickson Profar is ticketed for Triple A to start the year, and some players privately expressed displeasure with the direction of the club.

Daniels, though, has a clear conscience. He's sleeping just fine at night ahead of his arrival to Surprise, Ariz., satisfied that the off-season went well and that the Rangers will be contenders in 2013.

"We like what we've done," Daniels said. "A couple guys that we were interested in early on ended up elsewhere. That's part of the deal, but pretty much in every case it was our decision not to finalize deals.

"We're not hesitant to do any of those things when the fit is right. We just didn't like the fit. We like our club, and we like the possibilities ahead of us."

The Rangers didn't stand pat after their early off-season misses, which included Greinke and Hamilton going off the board within the same week in December.

Young had been traded the day before Greinke signed with the Dodgers.

Hamilton, already in the fans' doghouse for his showing down the stretch, could now be Public Enemy No. 1 after the Rangers weren't given the chance to counter the best offer he received. He and wife Katie then detailed how they weren't wooed enough during the free-agent process.

Rather than push the panic button, Daniels found veteran pieces A.J. Pierzynski and Lance Berkman, combined age of 73 after Berkman celebrates his 37th birthday today.

The plan to move Ian Kinsler to first base and insert top prospect Profar at second has been put on hold.

"Obviously, we were involved with Greinke and some other guys," Daniels said. "It ultimately got to the point where for the price it would have taken us to get them here we just weren't comfortable. You make those decisions and you move on."

So, here's what the Rangers have:

A lineup that, if healthy, can still put up runs, especially if Berkman and Adrian Beltre can stay off the disabled list.

"There are All-Stars up and down the lineup," said David Murphy, who will take over in left field. "We're still solid to where 1 through 9 we've got a great lineup."

Four members of the starting rotation who are locked up at least the next four seasons, with Colby Lewis, Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz returning from injuries at various points this season to bolster the pitching staff.

"Our rotation, 1 through 4, possibly is the best in the game," Kinsler said. "If you have pitching, you always have a chance to win."

A group of players that has been to the postseason the past three years, and Profar and another top prospect, Mike Olt, standing by in case of an injury or Cruz suspension.

"The number one thing for us is we really like the core of this club and where it's headed," Daniels said. "We didn't want to do anything to disrupt that. We wanted to find some pieces that fit, and we think we did."

That sounds like a contender for the American League West title, and that's what the Rangers are even without Hamilton, Greinke, Napoli, Young or Upton.

The star power might be lacking, but the Rangers don't agree with the doom-and-gloom predictions being made after what is perceived to be a lousy off-season.

"People are very much geared toward instant gratification. If you are looking for instant gratification, there's reason that you could be upset," said Murphy, who will take Hamilton's spot in left field. "But if you know the game and you see the big picture, I think it's been a good off-season."

Said Daniels: "It doesn't matter what the review of the off-season is. It matters what happens during the season.

"What I'm excited about with this club is all the things we've talked about for years, like the core of this team, recommitting ourselves to pitching, to the athletes, to giving our young guys a chance, to finding the right guys to fit the club, to finding the right veteran presence.

"We're excited about the team we've got."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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