Another day at the winter meetings passed without the Texas Rangers completing a trade for a starting pitcher, though there is no shortage of pitchers the club has inquired about this week.
Andrew Cashner? Check. Jordan Zimmermann? Check. Dillon Gee? Check. Travis Wood? Check. Several others? Check. Free agent James Shields? Check.
“We love Jon Lester, but we never made contact with him,” general manager Jon Daniels said Wednesday.
The Rangers, as usual, aren’t taking these meetings lying down, though their efforts after three full days of seeking rotation upgrades remain fruitless. Daniels doesn’t see that changing before he and his front-office staff check out of the Manchester Grand Hyatt on Thursday.
It’s not all about pitching for the Rangers, who need a catcher to pair with Robinson Chirinos. But it seems that way, and their commitment to bolstering the staff has left them committed to not adding a significant upgrade to a lineup that is lacking.
No matter which pitcher or pitchers from the group they have explored end up being acquired (it won’t be Shields, Daniels insists), the offense could very well go into 2015 as it did in 2014 — hoping the proven hitters stay healthy and productive while hoping young players improve and produce more than they ever have.
“If you look around the game right now, there aren’t a lot of lineups that put fear into you,” Daniels said. “That’s the nature of baseball right now.”
“We just have to make choices. The bats that are out there for the cost that we could get them aren’t that appealing, combined with the fact that we like our guys.”
The Rangers entered last spring one bat short. Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus, Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios occupied the first five spots in the batting order.
Mitch Moreland, Geovany Soto, Jurckison Profar and Leonys Martin were the question marks after Rios, who is gone with no current interest in trying to bring him back on a more affordable deal.
As things stand with more than two months before the first full spring workout, Martin, Andrus, Choo, Beltre and Fielder could be the Rangers’ first five hitters, with Moreland, Chirinos, Ryan Rua and Rougned Odor bringing up the end.
That’s still short.
“I’m not arguing with you at all, but that’s where we are,” Daniels said.
The Rangers have looked into upgrades in left field, where Rua, Moreland, Michael Choice and Jake Smolinski will compete for time. The Rangers can do better but are seeking no more than a fourth outfielder.
Atlanta has two upgrade candidates, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis, but the Braves’ asking price has turned the Rangers away as have the $14.5 million and one year of control left on Upton’s deal.
Milwaukee has former Gold Glove winner Gerardo Parra, who wouldn’t break the bank at a projected $6.4 million in his final year of salary arbitration.
“We’ll see,” Daniels said. “I like our group. That’s one of the beauties of having young players you believe in. It’s hard to write down on paper exactly what these guys are going to do, but I believe in the group. I believe in the environment that’s going to be created, the instruction. These guys are going to get better.”
Whether looking for a catcher, left fielder or starting pitcher, Daniels hasn’t found any help, but he came into the week without the expectations of doing so. He said that it could be until February or even March after spring camp is under way before the Rangers are done piecing the club together.
He greatly downplayed the Rangers’ visit with Shields, a San Diego resident. No numbers were discussed and the Rangers explained that the visit was more about building a relationship unless more resources were freed up to sign a top-of-the-market pitcher who should command no less than $15 million a year.
“I’m sure he’s going to do very well, hopefully in the National League,” Daniels said. “I don’t think anything is going to come of it. I think it’s very unlikely.”
Daniels, though, called Wednesday a good day. He said that the Rangers are close to agreeing to terms with a free-agent right-handed one-inning veteran reliever, but he didn’t name the pitcher. The deal should be done next week.
He also said that some trade talks have moved forward, though no discussions this week have reached the point where all players involved were agreed upon. The delays are a byproduct of baseball’s seemingly endless off-season, not an unwillingness to do business.
“Different clubs work at different paces,” Daniels said. “There have been some opportunities that we explored that didn’t work out, and some other opportunities that we’re working on now.
“It’s nothing I can guarantee that will come to a head, but things that seem like there’s some mutual interest.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760