When the Texas Rangers made the decision during the off-season not to empty the bank to bring back free agents Ian Desmond and Carlos Beltran, some of us winced.
Both Desmond and Beltran were solid, veteran additions to the Rangers clubhouse last season.
But Beltran, who signed a one-year, $16 million contract with the Houston Astros, is about to turn 40. And Desmond hit the lottery with the five-year, $70 million deal that the Colorado Rockies offered him.
Instead of shopping over the winter, however, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels chose to play the cards he already had.
And what looked like a couple of holes in the lineup is now a crowd.
Shin-Soo Choo says he’s willing to DH or play right field — whatever manager Jeff Banister needs. The rest of the equation has steadily fallen into place.
Healthy now after four visits to the disabled list last season, Choo wants to show Rangers fans what Choo is all about — high on-base percentage, line drives to the gaps and patient at-bats.
If Banister thinks the 13-year veteran enhances the lineup more by being its designated hitter than anchoring right field, Choo said Friday that he accepts that.
“I think Banny still believes I can play in the field, and I myself believe I can play there,” Choo said. “I may not play Gold Glove-type defense, but I can still play. Whatever makes the team better, I’m happy to do it.
“My goal, Banny’s goal, every single player’s goal is the same — to win the World Series. So why not? That’s why I’m here, to help the team.”
Desmond made the American League All-Star team after batting .322 in the season’s first half. He struggled down the stretch, though, and batted .237 after that.
Carlos Gomez, whom Banister saw sparkle firsthand in the National League, has not only capably plugged the center field vacancy, but he also appears to be the manager’s choice to lead off on Opening Night.
After Friday’s split-squad win over the Indians, Gomez is batting .333 with a 1.101 OPS — a small spring sample, to be sure, but worthy of the praise he’s received.
When Choo is the DH, Nomar Mazara will usually be the right fielder. And both Banister and Daniels have to like their options for solving the logjam that remains in left.
Delino DeShields has been given a long, lingering look this spring, and he has responded with poise, five stolen bases and a .361 on-base percentage. He may end up as the club’s fourth outfielder, but he has earned playing time in either left or center.
The wild card will be Jurickson Profar, native of Curacao, who has starred for the Netherlands team in the World Baseball Classic, batting .522 while playing center field. A noteworthy chunk of his production came against international heavyweights Cuba and Japan.
If nothing else, Profar, who just turned 24, is establishing himself again as one of the game’s top young players. Daniels suddenly has a golden-ticket trade piece to deal, if he wants.
So far, though, Daniels’ faith in the cards he stuck with has been rewarded. For now, the Rangers’ outfield cup runneth over.
And Choo knows that a key to that is up to him.