Rangers have a selling job to do to repair numerous holes

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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lebreton More than three million people again saw the Texas Rangers play in Arlington this season.

The franchise’s 20-year, $1.6 billion-plus deal with Fox Sports Southwest is set to kick in after the 2014 season.

And the latest prospects rankings by Baseball America have the Rangers at No. 3.

Baseball, as Chico Escuela used to say, has been very, very good to Ray Davis, Bob Simpson and the Rangers’ new ownership group.

But now it’s time to see what kind of salesmen they are. All of them — Bob, Ray, general manager Jon Daniels, CEO Nolan Ryan.

All of them.

If the Rangers are going to get back to a World Series, it’s going to take a persuasive, collective selling job by Rangers, Inc., to turn this team back into an elite contender.

It wasn’t this season. As the sudden end to the season reminded us Monday night, it was a team rife with holes in its everyday lineup. The 730 runs scored were the fewest by the Rangers since 1995. Adrian Beltre’s 30 home runs were the second-fewest to lead the team in 22 years.

When regulars slumped and planned-DH Lance Berkman was unable to contribute, the club tried to shift philosophies in midstream by “manufacturing runs.” But that philosophy takes base runners, and Elvis Andrus’ team-leading 52 walks were the fewest to lead the team since Jim Sundberg in 1981.

The Rangers’ pitching is likely to be tweaked, if only because of two notable pending free agencies. The club is going to have to decide whether it’s worth convincing 38-year-old reliever Joe Nathan to take a two-year deal to return, or to make somebody else the new closer.

Joakim Soria? Neftali Feliz? Tanner Scheppers? Maybe even Alexi Ogando?

I think you try to sell Nathan on a two-year deal. Day in and day out, he was the Rangers’ best pitcher this season.

The other free-agent pitcher to ponder is starter Matt Garza. Having long coveted him, is Daniels willing to write off Garza’s stunningly underwhelming 13 starts with the Rangers as an aberration?

I think it depends upon what pops up behind Door No. 3, and I’m not talking about Colby Lewis. Otherwise, you hold your breath — and maybe your nose — and re-sign Garza.

It’s the Rangers’ everyday lineup, though, that will need the most off-season work.

The individual fingers have all been appropriately pointed. David Murphy’s batting average plummeted 84 points and his OPS dropped by 203.

Mitch Moreland’s numbers fell 43 and 53 points, respectively. Even worse, from May 25 to the end of the season, Moreland batted .194 with a .275 on-base percentage. It stamped him statistically, for those final 98 games, as the worst first baseman in the American League.

Moreland is 28, so his awful season came in what should be the peak of his career.

First base and left field, where Murphy started 106 times, are the two primary positions that must be fixed for 2014.

Whether it’s by trade, free agency or an international amateur signing, Daniels, Ryan and the owners are going to have to become salesmen who won’t take no for an answer.

Ryan, in particular, is going to have to take an active role in identifying and convincing any newcomers that the club hopes to sign. As his plethora of TV ads show, who can say no to Nolan Ryan?

One impending free agent is going to be a tough call. Nelson Cruz’s 27 homers and 76 RBIs were sorely missed for 50 games. But with outfielder Alex Rios already under contract, does Cruz want to move to DH? And will he take a two-year offer to do so?

As the Oakland Athletics showed the Rangers, the right mix in baseball’s alleged post-testosterone era is to blend a few power bats with a healthy sampling of on-base grinders. Cruz fits the former category but not the latter.

So it’s time for Bob, Ray and the gang to go shopping.

Atlanta catcher Brian McCann, Cincinnati on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo, Cuban defector and slugging first baseman Jose Abreu?

Yes, yes and yes.

But it’s going to take money and a relentless selling job.

That’s your cue, gentlemen.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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