To those who say the Texas Rangers and Jon Daniels haven’t been productive enough this off-season, the general manager presents Prince Fielder as Exhibit A in his defense.
He also firmly believes that the catching duo of Geovany Soto and J.P. Arencibia, the re-signing of right-hander Jason Frasor, the trade for outfielder Michael Choice and the addition of a few starters on minor league deals have left the Rangers in a position to contend for a sixth straight season in 2014.
Daniels won’t argue that work is left to be done before spring camp opens in February, but he is prepared to move forward without the additions of free-agent outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz.
The Rangers’ brain trust headed home earlier Thursday afternoon without making a significant roster addition at the 2013 winter meetings, and no deals for either impact players or complementary pieces were close to being struck.
The pace of the marketplace would suggest that the Rangers will know soon enough whether Choo’s price tag will drop into their comfort zone or if Cruz will take less money to return to the team that has forgiven and forgotten his dalliance with performance-enhancing drugs.
As of checkout time at the Walt Disney Dolphin Resort, Daniels was planning to go forward with acquiring smaller pieces to pair with those already in place.
“We like what we’ve been able to accomplish overall,” Daniels said. “There’s still some things we can do, but I don’t expect any more substantial, big moves.
“That’s not to say we aren’t looking at some things, but I don’t expect any more major moves. I like our club. There are still some areas where we can add some depth, but I think we’ll be competitive.”
The offense still has holes that need to be filled, left field chief among them. But if neither Choo nor Cruz is signed, the Rangers will look for a veteran left-handed hitter to share time with Choice.
Daniels is also chasing a right-handed-hitting option to platoon with Mitch Moreland at designated hitter. One target entering the meetings, Corey Hart, agreed with Seattle on Wednesday, and Miami traded another potential target — native Texan Justin Ruggiano — to the Cubs on Thursday.
The bench also needs to be addressed. The Rangers might have found help there with the additions of infielders Brent Lillibridge, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Josh Wilson on minor league deals with invitations to spring training.
The Rangers also signed right-hander Armando Rodriguez to a minor league deal and invited him to camp and gave righty Doug Mathis a minor league deal but no invite.
“Position-player-wise, we can still add some depth for competition for at-bats that are likely to come up in the outfield and DH and the bench,” Daniels said. “You can also never have enough pitching depth.”
That isn’t likely to satisfy the masses, though Daniels tries not to let comments on stories, angry tweets or sports talk radio dictate the way he does business.
Choo or Cruz would, but Daniels is holding firm to the spending guidelines ownership has put in place. In other words, a budget-busting seven-year deal for Choo, likely at $20 million a season, won’t happen, and Cruz must find middle ground with the Rangers on a two-year deal with an option to return to Arlington.
Daniels said nothing has changed since Monday with Cruz, and he declined to comment on the Choo negotiations other than saying that the Rangers didn’t have the groundwork in place for a deal for any player.
A source said late Wednesday that the Rangers have not made a seven-year offer to Choo, contrary to an Internet report.
“I don’t think we’re going to make any other major moves,” Daniels said again.
Get used to it. Barring a shift in the marketplace, the Rangers are content moving forward without Choo or Cruz.