The question now becomes what’s next for the Texas Rangers after acquiring Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler in a blockbuster trade announced Wednesday night.
Fielder brings a needed power bat to the middle of the order, and Kinsler’s exit opens the door for Jurickson Profar to play every day at second base. But, with Kinsler gone, the Rangers don’t have a true leadoff hitter on the team.
Is that next up on the Rangers list?
Elvis Andrus, Leonys Martin and Profar have all batted in the top spot at some point in their careers, but there are more established leadoff men on the market such as outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Or do the Rangers look at possibly trying to lock up a catcher, such as Brian McCann, for the foreseeable future?
Those are decisions Jon Daniels, Thad Levine and the rest of the front-office staff will determine in the coming weeks. But the Rangers have the luxury of being able to essentially add either with how the team is currently constructed.
“Ideally, our goal was to add two bats,” Levine said. “We just added one [in Fielder] but also just subtracted one [in Kinsler]. We’re looking to add another bat, but we’re pretty indiscriminate where it comes from.”
Levine said the ideal bat would fit in as a “1-2” at the top of the lineup or a “5-6” in the middle, but didn’t talk about specific players.
However, free agents who would fit at the top of the lineup include Choo, Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. For the middle, the Rangers could look at McCann or possibly bringing back outfielder Nelson Cruz.
“We’re just looking to add the best offensive piece we can,” Levine said.
Levine said the team feels confident that someone in the organization, whether it’s Andrus, Martin or Profar, could emerge as the leadoff man if they don’t sign a Choo or Ellsbury. Levine also said the team wouldn’t be opposed to using a platoon-type role for the top spot depending on if the starting pitcher is right- or left-handed that day.
“Given the opportunity, we feel somebody — or somebodies — from that group will step up,” Levine said.
Choo and Ellsbury might be more attractive options with better track records, but they also come at a hefty price tag as each are represented by Scott Boras.
Choo had a .423 on-base percentage and scored 107 runs as the Reds’ primary leadoff man last year, while Ellsbury had a .355 OBP and scored 92 runs for the Red Sox. But Ellsbury is a bigger threat on the base paths, stealing 52 bases last year, and is also considered a better defensive outfielder than Choo.
Boras doesn’t talk about ongoing negotiations with specific teams, but said: “When a Choo and Ellsbury enter the Free Agent Team Store, their shopping carts get filled up rather quickly.”
In other words, Choo and Ellsbury are attractive additions for several teams, just like McCann would be.
McCann, 29, is the top catcher on the market and would give the Rangers another left-handed power bat in the middle of the lineup with Fielder.
McCann’s agent, B.B. Abbott, said the Fielder acquisition by the Rangers is viewed in a positive light as far as McCann is concerned.
“It certainly doesn’t hurt,” Abbott said. “To me, it actually opens up opportunities for Brian because it doesn’t hamstring them financially where they won’t be shopping for another bat.”
Abbott didn’t comment on specific negotiations with teams and also wasn’t ready to speculate how McCann’s free agency process might unfold.
“Free agency is weird,” he said. “Our system is going to be systematic with all of this. I’m not going to rule out this could happen in two days or it could happen in two months. Brian is the top catcher on the market and those types of catchers don’t make it to free agency, so he’s going to have a very healthy market for his services.
“Texas is certainly one of the teams that he fits because of all the things — catching in the heat, a catcher who is going to catch for a considerable amount longer. But there are a lot of teams he’s a fit for; just a matter of where their budget is and where their desire is.”
Abbott went on to say that McCann would not be opposed to getting at-bats outside of catcher. The Rangers re-signed Geovany Soto to a one-year deal with the mindset he’d be their No. 1 catcher, but haven’t ruled out adding McCann.
Abbott said McCann views himself as an everyday catcher, however: “If a team wants to give him at-bats in another place for the time being, because of circumstances, then absolutely he’s open-minded to that.”
The Rangers made a big splash Wednesday by getting Fielder and filling one of their needs, which prompted Daniels to say the team now has “some direction” of where it wants to go the rest of the off-season. But there are still several different routes they could take.