Offseason Outlook: Texas Rangers

The two-time defending American League champions will focus on acquiring pitching this offseason.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

The Rangers fell three wins short of a World Series win in 2010 and one strike short of a championship in 2011. There's no time for second-guessing or self pity in Texas, however. GM Jon Daniels will attempt to assemble another pennant winner this offseason by bolstering the team's pitching depth.

It's not that the Rangers struggled to prevent runs relative to other clubs in 2011. Only four American League teams allowed fewer runs than the Rangers, but with their top starter on the brink of free agency, they'll likely search for rotation depth this offseason.

The search could be quick, if they re-sign C.J. Wilson or move Neftali Feliz to the rotation, and it could be drawn out if they bid on Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish or explore deals for other free agent starters. Wilson said recently there's a "great chance" he stays in Texas and the Rangers do have some interest in retaining him. But Jon Heyman of SI.com reported in October that the Rangers probably won't offer the left-hander $75MM, a figure Wilson could probably surpass on the open market. The 30-year-old established a career high in innings (223 1/3) while improving on rate stats such as ERA (2.94), K/9 (8.3), BB/9 (3.0) and ground ball rate (49.3%). Some teams may hesitate to offer substantial contracts because of his postseason struggles, but now that the Yankees locked up C.C. Sabathia, there's no denying Wilson is the top MLB pitcher available.

Darvish is the other available pitcher with top-of-the-rotation potential. Though it's not clear how his ability will translate to the Major Leagues, there's no doubt he'll draw substantial interest from MLB teams. Daniels scouted the 25-year-old in person and the Yankees, Blue Jays and Nationals are also frequently mentioned as potential suitors. Agents told MLBTR's Tim Dierkes they predict that obtaining Darvish will require a commitment of at least $100MM.

With $71.45MM already committed to next year's payroll and an expensive arbitration class that will cost roughly $30MM to retain, the Rangers' payroll will almost certainly surpass $100MM in 2012. It's unclear how much the Rangers can spend this offseason — their new TV deal doesn't kick in for another three years — but their attendance increased substantially in 2011 and they played deep into the postseason. It seems likely they'll surpass their '11 payroll of $92MM by a significant margin in '12.

The Rangers have an affordable alternative to Wilson and Darvish in their own bullpen. They entertained the idea of moving Feliz to the rotation in the spring and they're again considering making the 23-year-old a starter. Instead of spending tens of millions on Darvish or a free agent, the Rangers could place Feliz and his electric arm on the mound every five days. The successful conversions of Wilson and Alexi Ogando to the rotation showed the Rangers can and will turn select relievers into starters. However, Feliz is something of an unknown in either role, after a mixed 2011 campaign.

Ogando, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis will return to the rotation in 2012 and Scott Feldman could join them if necessary. It's a solid group that has helped the Rangers reach the World Series in consecutive seasons, but expect Daniels to pursue top-of-the-rotation starters aggressively. If elite arms such as James Shields become available in trades, the Rangers will probably have interest.

If the Rangers move Feliz to the rotation, they'd likely look to restore bullpen depth and might explore a free agent market that features many shutdown relievers. Adams, Mark Lowe, Yoshinori Tateyama and Koji Uehara will return to the bullpen, so the Rangers won't be desperate for relief help, especially from the right side. In fact, Uehara, an imperfect fit in Texas' homer-friendly park, could be trade bait. Southpaws Darren Oliver and Mike Gonzalez hit free agency, so the Rangers are likely to pursue left-handed relief this offseason. If they offer arbitration to Oliver, a Type A free agent, he would likely accept. He told MLB.com he's leaning toward returning in 2012 and it's hard to imagine any team surrendering a draft pick for a 41-year-old reliever, so accepting Texas' offer would be in his best interest.

The Yankees and Red Sox were the only two clubs to score more runs than the Rangers last season and all of Texas' starting position players are under team control in 2012. There's room for improvement at first base and in center field, however. Led by Mitch Moreland, Texas' first basemen posted a .271/.331/.422 line in 2011, which was 23rd in MLB in OPS. Moreland's an effective hitter against right-handed pitching, but the Rangers, a team with World Series aspirations, may be looking for more thump from a traditionally offensive position. While Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols would represent a tremendous upgrade, don't expect the Rangers to spend on a luxury when more pressing needs exist on the pitching staff. Manager Ron Washington can simply rest Moreland against left-handers while playing Michael Young and Mike Napoli.

Free agent switch-hitters Coco Crisp and Carlos Beltran may intrigue the Rangers as center field options if they're interested in upgrading over internal candidates such as Julio Borbon, Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin. Grady Sizemore might interest the Rangers, who showed their willingness to gamble on injured stars when they signed Brandon Webb last offseason.

After erupting for 30 regular season homers and a 1.046 OPS, Naploi is an extension candidate as he enters his final season before free agency. The Rangers could also consider locking up Nelson Cruz or Elvis Andrus, two arbitration eligible players. Even though Josh Hamilton signed an extension last offseason, he's just a year away from free agency.

The Rangers' World Series loss was undeniably painful, but it shows Texas is doing many things right under Daniels and team president Nolan Ryan. By adding pitching this offseason, the Rangers would establish themselves as favorites to win the AL West and begin another playoff run. Maybe next time, it will end with a championship.


51 Responses to Offseason Outlook: Texas Rangers Leave a Reply

  1. Triple Hawpes Brewed 4 years ago

    The offseason outlook for the Braves wasn’t nearly this long. I feel cheated.

    • bglaszcz 4 years ago

      The Braves didn’t make the World Series…or the postseason…

      • Triple Hawpes Brewed 4 years ago

        Or choke twice when they were one strike away from winning their FIRST EVER World Series title. Apparently they choke a lot, considering they’ve done it before (they were one strike away twice before this year as well).

        • Choke a lot? This is their SECOND time even being in the WS, and have never been a strike away from it before this season.

        • no they just choked the wildcard to get into the playoffs

  2. The Rangers need relief pitching bad.  Feliz will go to the rotation and Tateyama and Uehara can’t be depended on.  Lowe is not a sure thing either.  They need a closer to replace Feliz and two quality arms for the pen.  Right now the only guys that I feel good about in the pen for 2012 are Adams and Feldman.

    • Lowe is good. He was coming off of a long DL stint. He shouldn’t have even been on the postseason roster.

    • iheartyourfart 4 years ago

      as someone who watched adams with the padres for years, i’m convinced he can be a dominant closer

  3. garylanglais 4 years ago

    This offseason for the Rangers is going to have drastic consequences for the next two offseasons.  If they go out and spend on CJ, Darvish, other pieces (Closer, 1B?) etc, its only going to take away funds to pay the core guys who are in line for big deals in the next two seasons.  After next offseason is Hamilton and Napoli.  After ’13 comes Kinsler (assuming TEX picks up $10m Club Option after next season) and Cruz.

    Napoli, Cruz and Kinsler especially are in line for significant pay raises.  Only relief comes after ’13 when M. Young’s $16m comes off the books.  If the Rangers go out and spend this offseason I think that points directly to Hamilton playing somewhere else come 2013.  This is the most entertaining team situation to watch this offseason.

    • It’s not like the Rangers don’t have the money to get everything done.

      • garylanglais 4 years ago

        Sure the new TV contract with Fox Sports Southwest allows them more financial flexibility but dont think they’re going to start increasing payroll to $120-130m range. 

        • Daniels has emphasized that his main goal is to keep his core of players together to have a team that can contend for several years. I don’t think he would jeopardize future contracts for core guys by potentially over spending on a pitcher(s). He’s a pretty smart guy. Gotta have faith in him.

        • Greg Dunn 4 years ago

          I know this post was made before the owners mentioned anything – but they’ve stated they’re willing to do just that, and increase the payroll to 120-130.

    • Jim 4 years ago

      I disagree.  Money is no longer an issue.  While we don’t have Yankee money, we do have a fantastic TV contract and owners with very deep pockets.

  4. Darrell Crawford 4 years ago

    I am not so sure that Feldman doesn’t deserve another look at the Starter Position, not as an Ace of course, but he did deliver some good stuff in the Post-season and may have regained some of his former ability.

    • TXHC 4 years ago

      When Feldman has his cutter and his sinker both working he’s pretty solid.  Definitely good enough to be a mid to back of the rotation guy.  He’ll get his chance.  They’ll do it the same way they’ve done it the past few seasons.  One or two guys will probably be guaranteed a rotation spot, and everybody else will fight it out for the final spots.  The best guys will make it.  And the best of the rest will go to the pen.

  5. mistermonkey 4 years ago

    Man, sign Crisp for CF for a year, bat him 9th, and you have one of the best offenses/defenses in history: Kinsler/Andrus/Hamilton/Beltre/Young/Cruz/Napoli/Moreland/Crisp (+Torrealba, Murphy on bench). With Ogando/Feliz/Lewis/Holland/Harrison in the rotation, and Uehara/Adams/Feldman/Lowe/Tateyama in bullpen, it’s pretty disgusting for non-Rangers fans. An embarrassment of riches. And they could probably still afford a legit closer like Madson or Bell, or at least sign a cheaper option like Broxton or Nathan or Cordero. I’m jealous!

    • TXHC 4 years ago

      I would love to take a flyer on Broxton and Sizemore.

  6. mondaymorninggm 4 years ago

    ya, i’d spend now on a closer because the market is flooded and prices are down. the starting free agents are going to be OVERPAYED. put feliz in and sign a badass like madson.

  7. JacobyWanKenobi 4 years ago

    I want to see what Napoli does next year; he set some career highs this year, and had about 100 less ABs than in 2010. He also cut the strikeouts down by quite a bit.

  8. Lunchbox45 4 years ago

    I have the Rangers signing Fielder and Papelbon and moving Feliz to the rotation to fill CJ’s void.

  9. Jim 4 years ago

    L. Martin will be the CFer.  He’s going to be a stud.

    I think one thing they will def do is try to find another RH bat for the bench. That was an issue in the WS.

  10. I think the Rangers need stability at the top of the rotation: I say let’s go after Darvish, let CJ walk and also move Feliz to the rotation. Grab a right handed bench/utility type (Mark Derosa sounds good) and a lefty for the bullpen to replace Oliver. Mike Adams can close, and I believe they should move Ogando back into the 8th inning role. Here is what they will look like.

    Rotation: Darvish, Lewis, Holland, Harrison, Feliz

    Bullpen: Feldman, Tateyama, (lefty) Koji, (lefty), Ogando, Adams

    PERFECT…. you reading this JD?

    In all seriousness though I will trust what Daniels does. The guy is a baseball genius

  11. Pretty sad that you would say, that, tell that to the players.

  12. RealityGM 4 years ago

    I think Feldman should be in the starting rotation and Feliz kept in the bullpen as the closer.

  13. I should say I will not be upset if they resign CJ. He had a fantastic last couple of years. As for Feldman, I think if you put him in, you replace Harrison or Ogando with him. Feliz needs to be tried as a starter.

    • sloppybones 4 years ago

      Feliz has no confidence as a pitcher and throws 90% fastballs. Yeah thats EXACTLY who I want in the Rangers rotation pitching in one of the most hitter friendly parks of America. 

      • Where do you get no confidence? If you look at Feliz he is not very prone to the long ball? I see no reason that he wouldn’t be a great starting pitcher. Hell, I’d rather have him walk people over 7 innings instead of 1. Did you think CJ was gonna fall flat on his face when he converted too?

        • sloppybones 4 years ago

          How about from everytime I watch him take the mound. Or from him blowing the WS the first time we could have won it. Or his interview about how he’d rather remain acloser for the rest of his career. The guy struggled almost more than half the season. He has no confidence in becoming a starter. Btw CJ has more than 2 pitches.

          • John McFadin 4 years ago

            You really need to look at a scouting report on Feliz before you say anything.  He has more than 1 ++ pitch.

          • sloppybones 4 years ago

            I never said he didnt? What I said was he throws 90% fastballs. Which tells me right there he doesnt have enough confidence to throw another pitch such as his breaking ball or his change up. 

          • John McFadin 4 years ago

            Hmmmmm, could it possibly be because 95% of the closers in this league can get away with just throwing their fastballs?  No, nevermind, I highly doubt that. /sarcasm

          • sloppybones 4 years ago

            Dude if Feliz were able to rely on his fastball Bengie Molina wouldnt have told him to use his other pitches to mix it up earlier in the year when Feliz was horrible. If he were able to rely on his fastball the Rangers would have won the WS. Dont give me that crap. A 98-100 mph fastball over the plate can only be effective for so long. 

  14. SundanceFW 4 years ago

    Moving Feliz to the rotation this year would be a mistake. My Rangers should sign CJ. He’s a VERY RARE team drafted, team farm developed SP who has proven he can win in the ridiculous heat and pitcher-hostile Ballpark. He’s not a true ace (which showed during a pitching slump in the post-season), but keeping him sends a great message to Holland and top SP prospects on track to arrive in Arlington by Sept 2012 or Opening Day 2013.

    With CJ, the Rangers have 6 guys who’ve won 13 or more games (counting Feldman, but not Webb).

    For my 30 seasons as a fan, I’ve often said the Rangers need to do 1 of 2: either get a bonafied ace or get 5 guys who are #2 or #3 quality. In 2010, they got the ace, and Cliff Lee was the final piece to getting to the WS. In ’11, with Lee gone, Ogando and Harrison stepped up to complete a rotation with 5 guys who could be #2 or #3 on most clubs.

    So for ’12, acquire an ace-ish SP (Sheilds, Darvish, or Jurrjens – a great trade opp with ATL wanting a SS and TEX armed with Andrus and Profar) and move SP depth back to shore up the pen. Let Feliz continue to build confidence in his slider and a third pitch while racking up saves behind Adams and Ogando (whose SP success I don’t trust as much as I did CJ’s after his first year from transition). Oh, and BTW, don’t bet against Holland becoming a 20-game winning ace in 2012.

    With pitching set, the Rangers need 2 things. 1.) More production out of 1B. 2.) More production in the 2 hole. Both could be achieved with the acquisition of the right mid-lineup first baseman and moving Young back up to the 2 hole as DH and uber-utility man (think basketball’s 6th man award here).

    The right 1B depends on how they acquire another front-line arm. If the sign an arm, then they should trade for a 1B… or vice versa. If Votto is really attainable, TEX should ship Ogando, Profar, and 2-3 other prospects to CIN to park his MVP lefty bat and plus glove in Arlington for the rest of his likely HOF career. Then, they should sign Darvish.

    Bottom line, while this WS was crushing for the Rangers and us fans, it’s absolutely amazing how easily this team can improve significantly after back-to-back AL Championships!

    • TXHC 4 years ago

      It’s done this way by design.  Jon Daniels is awesome.

  15. $3081341 4 years ago

    1. Sign a Closer (Pap, KRod, Bell, or Broxton)

    2. Trade for Votto

    3. Add some versatility to your bench. 

    As always your first priority should finding another Ace & consider letting CJ walk (unless he wants to give you a fatty hometown discount). If you can do that, great. Thats step 1, then everything else moves down 1 step. After you find an Ace, go get yourself a top flight closer, see what Cincy wants for Votto (or maybe Alonso for that matter), add a lefty to your bullpen, then add some depth & versatility to your bench. How high can the payroll get, can anyone say $120 mill? If you can add Votto to your lineup, a top flight closer to anchor your BP, plus a true ace to your staff, thats an A++ offseason, yes it can & should be done. Do your thing JD!

  16. rangersvoice 4 years ago

    I see the Rangers signing one big name FA this offseason. It will either be a SP (Darvish or  Wilson) or it will be Prince 1b. The Rangers will also make one big trade – for either an elite SP (Jurrjens or Shields) or for Votto 1b.

    I think Jurrjens/Shields/Votto would cost us Sheppers or Perez plus Profar and one other.

    I’d like to point out that the 2013 FA starting pitching class is fairly deep. I don’t see the Rangers going over board in signing this year if they can’t get a SP at the right price be it a trade or FA signing.  BTW: Shields is a FA after next season so he won’t cost as much in trade as Votto/Jurrjens would.I would hate to see either Sheppers or Perez get traded b/c all indications point to them being legit potential aces. Sheppers reminds me of Kershaw and Perez reminds me of Santana in his prime with the Twins. I see the Rangers treading carefully with their money and prospects considering Hamilton, Kinsler, Cruz, and company will be FA within the next two years.

  17. hopefully rangers let cj walk i do not want them to be on the hook for his contract when hes in his late 30s!!!

  18. Triple Hawpes Brewed 4 years ago

    The Braves franchise has 3 actually. 3 > 0. I’d rather not make it there at all, than be one strike away twice and be a laughingstock for the entire world. Talk to me when the Rangers win a WS and aren’t a joke.

  19. Triple Hawpes Brewed 4 years ago

    Oh and might I remind you that the Cards beat the pathetic Rangers w/o their #1 starter, a top 5 pitcher? The Rangers “ace” by comparison: 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA. LMAO Rangers are a complete joke, period.

  20. HC_Grindon 4 years ago

    Hmm, trash-talking vicariously through the team you had a 10 game lead on in September.  How utterly douchetastic.

  21. Jeff 4 years ago

    Sad thing is the two teams are good trade partners- Braves could really use Andrus, who is worth JJ + a decent prospect.

  22. TXHC 4 years ago

    LOL.  A braves fan calling the Rangers a joke?  Please.  Thanks for the Teixeira trade by the way, it’s working out pretty nicely.

  23. Triple Hawpes Brewed 4 years ago

    I’m trash talking a team that we provided a starting SS, SP, and closer for and still couldn’t get it done.

  24. If I’m the rangers there is no way I send Andrus back to the Braves. Maybe send Jurickson Profar (who could be better than Andrus) for JJ

  25. John McFadin 4 years ago

    As has been said before so many times it’s ridiculous, keeping Feliz in the pen is such an enormous waste resources, it’s sad.

  26. SundanceFW 4 years ago

    What makes anyone think Feliz can start? He only has 2 pitches, and barely has the mental makeup to make it through an inning. Can’t imagine him making it through a lineup more than once in a game without getting shelled, especially with his propensity for walks!

  27. John McFadin 4 years ago

    So, because he had trouble with walks in 2011, but not 2010 or 2009 in the MLB, he now has a propensity for walks?  Did you forget who the best starter on the Rangers was in spring training?  Also, are you being serious when you say he only has 2 pitches?

  28. SundanceFW 4 years ago

    That’s right. His second full season, and even his coaches admitted he was lost out there for a bit. He stopped trusting anything but his fastball for a long stretch, and his opponents’ OBP spiked. And, yes, he only had 2 pitches that he trusts – speed and a deadly slider when he’s on. My key point here is – it’s mental. That’s the most important thing at the MLB level, especially as an SP. Besides, we need him where he is.

  29. John McFadin 4 years ago

    If you honestly believe a closer is more valuable than a SP, then I really have nothing more to say.

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