Ian Desmond and Carlos Gomez were on the receiving end of life preservers thrown by the Texas Rangers last season that saved the outfielders from waves of uncertainty.
Desmond was freed from the qualifying-offer anchor that ruined his first dive into the open market. The Rangers gave him a one-year deal for $8 million after spring training started to be their left fielder and also gave him another shot at free agency.
The Rangers pulled Gomez from the free-agent deep end Aug. 20 after a lousy start to the season with the Houston Astros, and he turned the second chance into a dive back into free agency as a more coveted player.
Only one was going to be re-signed by the Rangers. Never both. Maybe neither. Defense, finances and the availability of other center fielders would dictate who be given the chance to return.
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Desmond declined in the second half offensively and defensively, yet on Wednesday he turned an All-Star season into a reported five-year, $70 million contract with the Colorado Rockies to be their first baseman some of the time.
Gomez got the chance with the Rangers, parlaying five impressive weeks to end the season into an $11.5 million contract for 2017. Gomez, who turned 31 on Sunday, flashed a productive bat, found a knack for getting on base and was solid defensively in addition to being a model citizen amid reports that he was a clubhouse cancer.
Carlos Gomez played only 33 games for the Rangers in 2016, but batted .284 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs.
What a deal. It is for 2017, at least.
General manager Jon Daniels has talked all week about the challenge of building a winner for now and in the future. Well, the future is starting to look tricky.
Of course, a center fielder was the Rangers’ No. 2 off-season priority, and they have one now who had been pretty good before going to Houston. If the Rangers do nothing else in the outfield, they’re set with Gomez.
However, Daniels is still looking at the best way to juggle the outfield and designated hitter.
Another center fielder could be added, though not at the price of Andrew McCutchen, and Gomez could play left field while Nomar Mazara is in right field and Shin-Soo Choo is used mostly at DH.
But if the Rangers stand pat in the outfield the rest of the season, choosing to go with Mazara, Gomez and Choo from left to right, they will find themselves in the same position this time next year barring a contract extension with Gomez.
That seems possible based on something agent Scott Boras said: Gomez turned down multi-year offers to come back to the Rangers and again be paired with hitting coaches Anthony Iapoce and Justin Mashore, who helped Gomez fix his swing and change his approach.
Gomez also liked winning and loved the clubhouse, which the Rangers were banking on to keep the volatile Gomez more docile.
But in sacrificing multiple years, Gomez is set up for a bigger deal next off-season. Teams will want to see how he plays and how he behaves over the course of 162 games. If all checks out, he could be in Desmond’s financial territory while the Rangers are left with a hole to fill.
It’s possible next off-season that the Rangers could lose Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, Yu Darvish, Andrew Cashner and perhaps that starting pitcher they still badly want to add.
So, it makes sense that the Rangers would continue to try to find an affordable, controllable center fielder, despite adding Gomez, and an affordable, controllable rotation arm.
The Chicago White Sox, though, have reset the trade market for those positions after shipping out left-hander Chris Sale and center fielder Adam Eaton the past two days for seven prospects, four of them ranked in the top 40 in the game.
The Rangers can’t afford that kind of minor-league currency after dealing 15 prospects the past two years.
4 Former first-round picks the Rangers traded last season ahead of the trade deadline
Daniels might have to go beyond his comfort zones by becoming a more liberal spender of owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson’s money and by considering trading major-league players.
Slugging first baseman Edwin Encarnacion is still available via free agency and is getting cheaper. Mike Napoli, as always, would be a good fit. The Rangers will have to go to market value to extend Darvish, say five years and $150 million.
Right-handers Jeremy Jeffress and Keone Kela are attractive to other teams, and the Rangers have bullpen depth. Shortstop Elvis Andrus and his significant contract have never been more moveable and might never be again.
Another year of part-time play could further strip Jurickson Profar of his status as a trade piece. Joey Gallo needs regular at-bats so that he can start figuring things out at the big-league level and the Rangers can figure out if he’s going to figure things out.
The winter meetings come to an end Thursday, but the off-season hasn’t even reached the midway point. Daniels still has time to juggle the roster for 2017 and the future.
Well, the future is starting to look tricky.