Even a team that is rebuilding, as the Texas Rangers are, must plunge into free agency to complete its roster for the upcoming season.
Teams designed to lose -- or those that give themselves only an outside shot at contending – have holes, too. It’s hard to find 25 players for Opening Day, not to mention the additional depth pieces needed to get through a season.
The Rangers have mapped out a plan for free agency, just as they did last off-season ahead of the official declaration of the rebuild and after the 2010 season on the heels of their first World Series appearance.
They missed out on left-hander Cliff Lee in 2010 but scored a Hall of Famer in third baseman Adrian Beltre.
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They missed out on Shohei Ohtani in December but hit on one of their other top targets, Mike Minor. In fact, Plan A was Ohtani and Minor, hence the idea to use a six-man rotation.
There’s no Ohtani-type this off-season, but there might be some Minor-types. That’s the kind of deal the Rangers are seeking under the radar as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Dallas Keuchel create the biggest blips.
Players due for free agency this off-season became free agents after the final out of the World Series, and they are free to sign with any team beginning Saturday. There might not be a dash to starting line, but players who waited last off-season paid dearly late.
The Rangers, who struck early last year by signing Doug Fister in November, could be in a position to do that again this year. They have plenty of work to do for their 2019 rotation, and they probably will sign a reliever or two.
Here’s a look at potential targets who might be a fit:
RHP Nathan Eovaldi: One of the unsung heroes of the Boston Red Sox’s October run to the World Series, Eovaldi is a two-time Tommy John survivor who is now throwing 100 mph. His price tag might soar because of his prime-time performance, but his injury history could allow him to fall into the Rangers’ price tag. The 28-year-old is from Alvin, and the Rangers have had a little success in the past with a pitcher from Alvin High.
RHP Marco Estrada: The spring fling with Darwin Barney and the half-season of Jesse Chavez proved that the players are over the whole Rangers-Toronto Blue Jays scuffle from 2016. Estrada was a key cog for the Blue Jays in 2015 and 2016, but struggled the past two seasons. He is a candidate for a bounce-back year, and could provide innings and veteran stewardship.
RHP James Shields: Flash back to the winter meetings of 2014 in San Diego. The Rangers met with the then-free agent at his home in the area, knowing full well they had no intentions of signing him. However, they wanted to tell him how much they liked him and hoped something could be worked out down the road. Well, they’re both down the road, maybe too far, but Shields logged 204 2/3 innings in 2018 for an abysmal Chicago White Sox team.
LHP Wade Miley: Another pitcher the Rangers once coveted in the 2014 off-season, Miley appeared to be at the end of his career before dialing up a nice, albeit shortened, season for the Milwaukee Brewers. Like Shields and Estrada, Miley is at his best when keeping the ball on the ground. He does it with a sinker and changeup, and saw his fastball command tick up this season.
LHP Drew Pomeranz: Here’s another rebound candidate, and a youngish one at that. He had the best season of his career in 2017 with the Red Sox but was fairly awful in 2018 as a starter and then a reliever. A biceps injury contributed to him throwing only 74 innings. Pomeranz, who turns 30 in November, can be a strikeout pitcher, and the Rangers want to add more pitchers like that.
LHP Yusei Kikuchi: He’s no Yu Darvish, Ohtani or Masahiro Tanaka, but Kikuchi will garner interest this off-season and is likely to be posted by the Seibu Lions in Japan. He had the best season of his career (1.97 ERA) in 2017 and was effective (3.08) ERA in 2018. The Rangers have scouted him but don’t believe he is a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. If the money doesn’t get crazy, the Rangers could be in on him.
LHP Martin Perez: One of the most frustrating pitchers in recent Rangers history, and maybe one of the most frustrating since 1972, wants to be a starter and wants to stay with the Rangers after an injury-filled season that offered very few highlights. The Rangers demoted him to the bullpen for much of September to get a look at him in that role, and weren’t expected to exercise a club option this week. Maybe a relief chance is all the Rangers offer Perez, but, again, they really need starters.
LHP Derek Holland: The loveable lefty found himself again this year in San Francisco, turning an opportunity to start into a permanent spot in the Giants’ rotation. Holland was durable, making 30 starts and logging 171 1/3 innings, and he posted his lowest full-season WHIP since 2013. The 32-year-old, who was drafted by the Rangers in 2006, might have parlayed his rebound season into a multi-year contract.
LHP Jake Diekman: If his July 31 interview following his trade from the Rangers to the Arizona Diamondbacks was any indication, Diekman really loved his time in Arlington and wants to come back. The Rangers helped him improve his life as he underwent surgery to correct ulcerative colitis, and on Tuesday he became a father for the first time. He’s not a bad pitcher either.
RHP Drew Storen: The one-time MLB closer missed 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery late in the 2017 season. But he’s throwing now and fits the mold that Daniels likes to gamble on. The risk should be low financially, and the reward could be a reliever to help set up closer Jose Leclerc or someone to close games if Leclerc is deemed more important earlier in games.