Additions: Hank Blalock (exercised option), Omar Vizquel, Andruw Jones, Kris Benson, Brendan Donnelly, Eddie Guardado (re-signed), Jason Jennings, Derrick Turnbow, Greg Golson, Elizardo Ramirez, Guillermo Moscoso, Adam Melhuse
Subtractions: Milton Bradley, Ramon Vazquez, Gerald Laird, Chris Shelton, Franklyn German, Sidney Ponson (midseason), John Mayberry
GM Jon Daniels gave the middle finger to free agency this winter, signing players only on minor league deals (he did come close on Ben Sheets though). The main offseason change was the losses of Bradley and Laird. For Bradley the Rangers received the 44th pick in the June draft, and for Laird they snagged two pitching prospects from Detroit.
The ’08 Rangers led the AL by a wide margin with 5.56 runs scored per game. The ’09 squad won’t match that, but CHONE projections and the lineup analysis tool suggest the team could score 5.07 per game with good health. That would’ve ranked fourth in the league.
The problem, of course, is the pitching staff. It was the worst in the league in ’08 and doesn’t look much better for ’09. The Rangers have the best farm system in baseball, but advanced pitching prospects Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland can’t be expected to lead the staff as rookies. The bullpen will have a somewhat different look in ’09, but it’s a crapshoot.
The Rangers did not profile well defensively last year, ranking 11th in the AL according to The Fielding Bible II. There are gains to be made by switching Young to third base and using Andrus or Vizquel at shortstop.
If the Rangers allow runs like they did last year, they’re looking at 68 wins. But just with better defense at a few positions and a couple of halfway decent starting pitching performances they could trim 100 runs allowed and win 77 games. They still seem a long shot for .500 ball though.
Bottom line: Knowing the fruits of his top-ranked farm system won’t be realized in 2009, Jon Daniels held off on spending money this offseason. Veterans such as Blalock, Guardado, Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Frank Catalanotto, and Marlon Byrd may serve as midseason trade bait.