Next up in the series, the Rangers. You can view all of the Needs and Luxuries posts here. A note about this series: I'm choosing teams randomly, and only those not currently alive in the playoffs.
C - Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Gerald Laird
1B - Frank Catalanotto
2B - Ian Kinsler
SS - Michael Young
3B - Hank Blalock
LF - David Murphy
CF - Marlon Byrd
RF - Nelson Cruz
DH - Jason Botts
SP - Kevin Millwood
SP - Vicente Padilla
SP - Brandon McCarthy
SP - Kason Gabbard
SP - Edinson Volquez
Setup: Joaquin Benoit
Closer: C.J. Wilson
Jon Daniels has quite a bit of work to do. Basically the Rangers need a first baseman, at least one corner outfielder, and probably a center fielder. Most teams need reliable starting pitching, none more than Texas.
The Rangers were 11th in OBP and 6th in slugging out of the 14 AL clubs this year. Their starters had a league worst 5.50 ERA, while the bullpen was a bright spot with a third-ranked 3.69 ERA.
Let's start with first base. The general consensus from what I've read is that the Rangers' long-term replacement for Mark Teixeira is already in-house. Double A third baseman Chris Davis had a monster year, and is expected to move to first base or even DH when he arrives in late 2008 or early 2009. For that reason, the Rangers will find a stopgap for first base - Brad Wilkerson, Ben Broussard, Dan Johnson, Catalanotto - something like that.
A slugging corner outfielder would be nice. Maybe John Mayberry becomes that guy, maybe not. Let's face it - the Rangers probably aren't playing for 2008, so they don't need to go nuts with stopgaps. Murphy and Byrd on the corners would be far from ideal, but they might as well get their reps in '08.
The Rangers seem to be itching to sign a big-name elite center fielder, with Torii Hunter at the top of the list. Such a move would breathe life into the franchise, and Hunter would help the team win in '09. If they get a hometown discount (ie, five years, $75MM), I'm OK with it.
The Rangers badly need starting pitching, but they'll be better next year. They're intrigued by Gabbard and Volquez in their last two slots, and have Eric Hurley on the rise. The veterans at the front are locked in, like it or not. Millwood was much better post-hamstring injury, while Padilla is just crazy. The McCarthy/Danks swap was a head-scratcher at the time, and Danks may officially pass McCarthy next year. McCarthy averaged only 4.5 innings per start for the Rangers. Even if the trade was a bad idea, they'll give McCarthy many chances to succeed.
It's hard to picture this rotation being in the top half of the AL, even if you adjust for Ameriquest. But the Rangers need to see what they have rather than waste money on the Carlos Silvas of the world.
Hmmm. Do the Rangers have a surplus of anything?
They might want to ditch Padilla and the $24MM owed to him over the next two years, but he's no hot commodity.
Benoit is a free agent after 2008, and he's already 30. Even if Wilson is to become the future closer, the Rangers should stick with Benoit in that role, pump up his value, and trade him in July. Or they should seriously consider trading him this winter.
Laird may be a luxury as well, with Salty the catcher of the future. We'll have to see how the free agents sort out and determine which teams are looking for a more defensive-minded backstop.
The Rangers really have to use 2008 to sort out what they have, rather than give precious playing time to guys who won't be a part of the next winning team. Maybe that's why they've already distanced themselves from Barry Bonds. Nor does Sammy Sosa make sense, as Botts needs a legitimate continuous shot (and don't try to sell me on the idea of Sammy providing veteran guidance).
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