SAN DIEGO Jon Daniels estimates that he and his crew have spent 75 percent of their days here at the winter meetings working on acquiring starting pitching. One is a must, and they would push Nick Tepesch, Nick Martinez, et al, down the depth chart if a second starter could be had.
“I’m not against backing it up,” the general manager said Tuesday. “You can never have too much pitching.”
It’s assumed that the Rangers are using the remaining 25 percent of their long work days at the Manchester Grand Hyatt trying to acquire a catcher and, to a lesser degree according to Daniels, a left fielder.
Daniels is on record saying that Ryan Rua, Michael Choice, Jake Smolinski and Mitch Moreland could hold down left field just fine, even though there are obvious concerns about each after the 2014 season.
Rua performed nicely after his call-up in the non-pressurized situation of playing for a last-place team in the final month of the season. But he is still learning to play left field, and he has only 105 career at-bats.
Smolinski, in essentially the same experience boat as Rua, struggles with breaking stuff.
Choice struggled in all facets, perhaps feeling some pressure of the being the hometown kid playing for the hometown team.
Moreland had his left ankle rebuilt, and wasn’t exactly a rangy outfielder before the injury. He was an emergency outfielder, despite his extensive time there in the minors.
So, left field might be more of a priority than Daniels is letting on. The Rangers don’t necessarily need a power hitter, though Justin Upton is still dangling out there on the trade market, but they need something.
Daniels suggested a defensive-minded fourth outfielder, which they had until they dealt Craig Gentry for Choice last year. The Rangers need more of an offensive threat than Gentry, but would like someone who can run and find a way to spark the offense when the thumpers aren’t going well.
Who fits that mold? That’s for the Rangers to determine, and they are looking.
They were a bat short to start last season, but still felt like they had a top-five offense. That was with Alex Rios, who is gone but who hasn’t been replaced. Even though Rios had no power and declined rapidly as he battled injuries in the second half, he’s still more proven than Rua/Choice/Smolinski/Moreland.
The offense is going to be better than it was at the end of last season, a by-product of injured players returning, but the argument could be made that the Rangers are now two bats short.
Maybe left field is more of a priority than Daniels is letting on. It should be.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760