Offseason Outlook: Texas Rangers

The Rangers are next in our Offseason Outlook series.  Their likely commitments for 2009:

C – Gerald Laird – $1.6MM+
C – Taylor Teagarden – $400K
1B – Chris Davis – $400K
2B – Ian Kinsler – $3MM
SS – Michael Young – $16MM
3B – Hank Blalock – $6.2MM club option, $250K buyout
IF – German Duran – $400K
IF – Joaquin Arias – $400K
LF – David Murphy – $400K
CF – Josh Hamilton – $400K
RF – Nelson Cruz – $400K
OF – Marlon Byrd – $1.8MM+
DH – Frank Catalanotto – $4MM

SP – Kevin Millwood – $11MM
SP – Vicente Padilla – $12MM
SP – Scott Feldman – $400K
SP – Brandon McCarthy -$405K+
SP – Dustin Nippert – $400K

RP – Joaquin Benoit – $3.5MM
RP – Frank Francisco – $775K+
RP – C.J. Wilson – $418K+
RP – Josh Rupe – $400K
RP – Warner Madrigal – $400K
RP – Wes Littleton – $400K
RP – Kameron Loe – $411K+

Other commitments: Julio Borbon – $325K, buyout for Kaz Fukumori – $200K

Other rotation candidates: Kason Gabbard – $400K, Matt Harrison – $400K

If Blalock is retained, the Rangers have $62.8MM committed before arbitration raises to Laird, Byrd, McCarthy, Francisco, Wilson, and Loe.  So, payroll could near $70MM with the current group.  The Rangers had an opening day payroll of $67.7MM.

The Rangers had a league-leading offense this year, but also the AL’s worst pitching staff.  Pitching is clearly the offseason priority.

The Rangers have the game’s best catching surplus, with Laird, Teagarden, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Max Ramirez.  The Red Sox, Royals, Marlins, and Reds might be looking for help at the position.  It would not be surprising if Jon Daniels inquires on pitchers like Clay Buchholz, Zack Greinke, and Homer Bailey.  However, Jamey Newberg raises a good point – the ’09 rotation already has at least six viable candidates.  Standing pat with the catcher surplus this winter would not be a crime.

I’m not sure how they’d fit in, but maybe the Rangers will pursue reclamation projects like Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia.  Texas could also be an interesting longshot destination for C.C. Sabathia, if the Rangers are willing to raise payroll to secure their ace.

The offense has two question marks in Blalock and Milton Bradley.  Is it worth $6MM to give Blalock one more chance?  He’s having a strong September and could be used at first base or DH if necessary. 

Bradley presents a trickier decision.  He requires multiple guaranteed years, and he’s been an incredible offensive force this season.  He’s driving toward his first 500 plate appearance season since ’04, battling numerous injuries despite only playing 20 games in the field.  Does two years, $20MM plus incentives get it done?  Otherwise the Rangers might have to let their best hitter sign elsewhere.

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