Jon Daniels respectfully declined to use the term “extra outfielder” Tuesday afternoon in recalling the contributions that Craig Gentry made for the Texas Rangers the past few seasons off the bench.
But the speedy defensive specialist was never going to be an everyday player on a team that needs power, especially in its outfield and especially in 2014. Michael Choice might not be a lineup regular in 2014, but the trade that brought him home from Oakland could give the Rangers a starting outfielder over several future seasons.
The Rangers sent Gentry and right-hander Josh Lindblom to their division rival Tuesday for Choice, the former area prep and college star, and minor league infielder Chris Bostick.
Daniels will continue to look for a player who would play regularly in left field, but an excited Choice should be part of the Rangers’ outfield mix next season.
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“Growing up here, I’ve been to a ton of Rangers games,” the 24-year-old Choice said. “Me and my dad would go to the Ballpark all the time. To be able to say that I’m going to play in front of this home crowd is an awesome feeling.
“My job is to get ready this off-season, come into spring training in the best shape possible and to prove that I am ready for that kind of role, a starting role. That’s my main goal, to go in and help this team win.”
Oakland made Choice the 10th overall pick out of UT Arlington in 2010, and he posted a .302/.390/.445 slash line with 14 homers and 89 RBIs in 132 games at Triple A Sacramento in 2013.
The A’s brought him to the majors as a September call-up, and he made his big league debut Sept. 2 against the Rangers. He collected his first hit, an infield single off Martin Perez, a day later.
Like Gentry, Choice can play all three outfield spots, though Gentry has a stronger arm and is better defensively. Gentry also has more speed and steals more bases.
But one American League scout believes Choice, who graduated from Mansfield Timberview High School and lives near the Arlington-Mansfield border, will develop into an everyday player who will hit 20 to 25 homers a season while batting .260 to .270.
The Rangers have an opening in left field for 2014 and could have a spot in right field in 2015 if Alex Rios isn’t re-signed.
“The opportunity is for him to start making a contribution right away,” Daniels said. “But also, his career is ahead of him, so it’s a now and a future fit for us.”
Gentry, 30, was the Rangers’ Player of the Month for September after hitting .354, and he stole a career-high 23 bases and had six outfield assists. His two homers were a career-high.
He batted .292 over the past two seasons.
“I think Craig is among the best in the game at what he does,” Daniels said.
The Rangers will continue to look for the right combination in left field next week at the winter meetings, where they will also try to find a catcher to pair with Geovany Soto.