After their late-season collapse and early exit in the Wild Card round, big changes could be in store for the Rangers, including the possible, if not likely, departure of Josh Hamilton. They definitely won't take their disappointing season lying down though and figure to be extremely active on the free agency and trade market.
Before Texas can start rebuilding themselves into World Series contenders, they need to take care of things in house first. First and foremost, they must decide whether or not to bring back Josh Hamilton. In 2012, the Rangers went as Hamilton did and he was so up and down that Texas might decide that they just want to get off that ride. To a lesser extent, the Rangers will have to make the same decision with Mike Napoli, who figures to be very expensive despite his disappointing 2012 campaign. In all, Texas could be in the market for a new centerfielder, catcher and first baseman this off-season.
The Rangers have plenty of questions to answer on the pitching side as well. They have been looking for a premium starting pitcher for over a year now and after so many near misses, one has to think they will make sure they don't report to training camp with an elite pitcher fronting the rotation.
In relief, Texas is strong but will have to plug some holes since Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, Mark Lowe and Scott Feldman will all be free agents. They have internal candidates to replace some of those relievers, but that is a lot of arms to replace without wading into free agency on some level.
Reports already strongly suggest that the Rangers intend to go hard after Zack Greinke to give their rotation a true ace and a little more stability. The rival Angels outfoxed Texas to land Greinke at the trade deadline, so you can bet that the Rangers would love to return the favor this winter. After Greinke, there aren't any options that meet Texas' lofty criteria. Lesser options like Anibal Sanchez and Jake Peavy don't seem to interest Texas much based on the early rumblings coming out of the rumor mill.
When it comes to hitters though, Texas has plenty of alternatives available to them. The Rangers figure to be major players in the sweepstakes for Michael Bourn or B.J. Upton to fill their void in center field. They could opt to go a cheaper route though and pursue Torii Hunter who they reportedly covet for abilities both on the field and in the clubhouse.
At first base, Texas could get creative and pursue Nick Swisher, who is an outfielder by trade, but has experience at first. Or, they could roll the dice on native Texan Lance Berkman and add him to their rotation of 1B/DH types. At the same time, it would be no surprise if Texas stood pat and plugged in prospect Mike Olt at first base instead.
What seems to be of more concern for Texas though is finding a fallback option at catcher in case they do not bring back Mike Napoli. There are already reports that they are scouring the market for starting caliber catchers and back-ups as well. The only free agent that really makes sense as a starter is A.J. Pierzynski, assuming Texas can make peace with some of his character concerns.
One thing the Rangers aren't lacking is trade pieces. With one of the best farm systems in the league, they've got prospects aplenty with Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt as the crown jewels. What gives Texas even more flexibility is that they could also opt to put their faith in Profar and instead move All-Stars Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler. With so many valuable assets at their disposal, their isn't going to be a single available player that Texas doesn't have the goods to acquire. It is more a question of them deciding which player is worth them going all-in on.
If Texas strikes out on Greinke yet again, they could use their ample trade assets to pursue an ace on the trade market. Speculation has run rampant that the Rangers could get together with the Rays to arrange a deal for James Shields or maybe even David Price. There has also been plenty of talk that Texas could make another run at yet another pitcher that once spurned them in Cliff Lee.
From the lineup perspective, Texas could aim just as high. Justin Upton seems like a logical replacement for Hamilton in the outfield and in the middle of the lineup. It would be a gamble for the Rangers too, especially since it could mean moving Nelson Cruz in a separate deal.
Where things could get very interesting is if Texas makes the bold move of engaging in challenge trades with their top prospects. Already there is speculation that they could do an elite prospect swap of Jurickson Profar for Toronto's elite catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud.
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