Texas Rangers

Here’s where Rangers, Daniels might look for help before spring training

Jon Daniels, back from his family vacation, has plenty of time and plenty of targets to fill out the Rangers’ roster before spring training.
Jon Daniels, back from his family vacation, has plenty of time and plenty of targets to fill out the Rangers’ roster before spring training. AP

The holidays are over, and Tuesday marked the day when real life resumed for many. Not all, as some were charged with keeping the Dallas-Fort Worth area running in the final week of 2017, but many.

That includes Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, whose family skiing vacation came to an end with a plane ride home to DFW Airport. The guess here is that Daniels didn’t put away his smart phone, but hopefully he didn’t ski and text.

His work in preparing the 2018 roster isn’t done, even though, conceivably, the Rangers could head to spring training with what they’ve got. Starters? Five of them. Relievers? Yes, seven or eight of them. Position players? Twelve or 13 of them.

Though this clearly is not an all-in off-season for the Rangers, they still have the ability to maneuver. Yes, they have the ability to do so at the top of the market, which isn’t as lofty as it was even a month ago.

The Rangers might not have to go all-in to get a top free agent.

While the top free agents stew as teams try to wait them out, their prices are thought to be on the decline. The only top, top, top free agent to commit is Wade Davis, who will test his great stuff in Colorado as the Rockies’ closer.

Yu Darvish’s latest suitor is, reportedly, the New York Yankees. They definitely need a starter and have money, but Darvish doesn’t seem like a fit. He would fit with the Rangers, as has been written over and over again.

Possibly one more over in there.

With pitchers and catchers reporting Feb. 14, there is still ample time for Daniels to make the additions the Rangers need. What are those? Thanks for asking.

Starting pitching

Here’s the rotation as it stands: Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Doug Fister, Matt Moore, Mike Minor. That’s four lefties, but only three will be healthy to start the year after Perez’s mishap with a bull. At this point, the fill-in would be right-handers Austin Bibens-Dirkx or Matt Bush.

Even if Perez hadn’t broken his right/non-throwing elbow, the Rangers would still be looking for rotation help. They have the flexibility of moving Minor to the rotation. In theory, they could move Perez, who can be hell on lefty hitters, to the bullpen.

In addition to Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn remain available. So is Andrew Cashner, who loved his one season with the Rangers. If the prices of Darvish, et al, are falling, so is Cashner’s.

There are also lower-tier options such as Miguel Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill, Chris Tillman and John Lackey, and Jeremy Hellickson and Clay Buchholz. Those guys are all right-handed and have experience. Oh, and this apparently is the key element this off-season, they won’t break the bank.

They’ll just break other things, like won-loss records. 

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Relief pitching

Bold prediction: If the Rangers do nothing else to upgrade their bullpen this off-season, lefty Jake Diekman will be the closer on Opening Day. The job one 2018 day might belong to righty Keone Kela, but his inability to stay healthy is keeping him from taking the job.

A few quality free-agent relievers remain available, and they might have missed their big payday by failing to sign during the run at the winter meetings. The exception is Greg Holland, whose market has been set by Davis’ signing.

The Rangers were never going to go there.

Addison Reed, Matt Albers, Matt Belisle, Seung-Hwan Oh and Sergio Romo could be had at various prices, and each has had varying amounts of success in his career. Reed and Albers are coming off terrific seasons. 

Catcher

The Rangers have 4  1/2 catchers (Isiah Kiner-Falefa is listed as an infielder, but is focused on catching) on the 40-man roster and will add more before spring training begins, if for no other reason than to add bodies to catch all those springtime bullpens.

But Daniels seems interested in finding someone a little more experienced than Brett Nicholas, Jose Trevino and Juan Centeno and with the ability to play every day should Robinson Chirinos hit the disabled list.

Ryan Hanigan, Chris Stewart and Carlos Ruiz could be of interest. Ruiz caught Hamels for years in Philadelphia. 

Outfielders

The company line this off-season has been if the Rangers are to add an outfielder this off-season, it would be a defensive-minded center fielder who would push Delino DeShields to left field and keep Joey Gallo at first base.

Lorenzo Cain was thought to never be a Rangers target, and he probably still isn’t. But the free-agent starting pitchers aren’t the only ones to see no movement in their market.

Cain tops the list of available center fielders. He’s a defensive specialist and can do more with his bat than DeShields. It would be prudent of Daniels just to check in and see where things stand with Cain.

Also still available? Carlos Gomez, and the Rangers love him as a person and teammate and he loves the Rangers. It’s kind of like the Darvish situation in that both sides have mutual interest, but it works only if the price is right for the club.

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