Just more than two months remain until pitchers and catchers report for spring training, plenty of off-season time for the Texas Rangers to put together a 2016 roster to defend their American League West roster.
These days, in the era of the qualifying offer, teams can even make quality additions after report dates.
But it appears as though the four West teams that finished behind the Rangers last season aren’t waiting to put their teams together, while the Rangers haven’t been nearly as active since the hot-stove league fired up in early November.
The Rangers said they don’t have much work to do and not much money to make a significant addition. That’s why they are hoping for Colby Lewis instead of trying to woo Zack Greinke before he struck it rich with Arizona.
General manager Jon Daniels also said that he doesn’t alter the course based on what a division foe is doing. Not even Yu Darvish in 2012 was a knee-jerk to the Los Angeles Angels signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.
“We would have wanted Darvish whether they signed those guys or not,” Daniels said. “I pay close attention to it, but not in the sense that it’s going to change what we’re going to do.”
Seattle has been the busiest of the West teams, with Oakland also lighting up the transactions wire. Those clubs, fourth and last in 2015, needed upgrades.
Toward the top, second-place Houston and the third-place Angels got busy late in the winter meetings. The Rangers? Well, they bolstered their bullpen in November by acquiring Tom Wilhelmsen and agreeing late Wednesday with Tony Barnette.
A case can be made that each of those four clubs has gotten better. A case can be made that each has more work to do to catch the Rangers.
Houston’s season-ending rotation has a hole in it, and the Astros could get former Rangers pitcher Yovani Gallardo to fill it. The all-or-nothing offense remains so, but will have full seasons from Carlos Correa and Carlos Gomez.
The Angels need more offense than Yunel Escobar, defensive whiz Andrelton Simmons and the host of light-hitting left fielders they have acquired can provide. Their bullpen has problems in the middle innings.
Seattle has swapped out a bunch of parts — Wade Miley for Hisashi Iwakuma, Steve Cishek for Carson Smith, Joaquin Benoit for Wilhelmsen — and not necessarily for the better, but the Mariners have gotten better at first base (Adam Lind), center field (Leonys Martin and Nori Aoki) and catcher (Chris Iannetta and Steve Clevinger).
Oakland is in revamp mode again, with the bullpen overhauled and changes made across the infield. But a case can be made that Yonder Alonso won’t be better at first base than Ike Davis or that Jed Lowrie is an upgrade over Brett Lawrie. The rotation is still a question behind Sonny Gray.
The Rangers, meanwhile, still need to address the rotation. Lewis is the favorite, though Daniels said that the Rangers will continue to explore trades for young, controllable starters.
Daniels expects to add a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder to the mix, possibly native Texan Justin Ruggiano, but the Rangers are also short on depth in center field and at catcher. They would also prefer it if their righty-hitting outfielder could play first base.
Those aren’t major moves, and there are a few reasons that Daniels has expressed this off-season — not many moves needed and not much money to make them.
That’s OK as far as the defending West champs are concerned.
“This year we had a good club,” Daniels said. “We’re not looking to shake it up. We’re not looking to make major changes. We’ve had some brainstorming where we talked about bigger things, but when it gets down to it we’re not trying to make major changes to the team right now. We like the group we’ve got.”