Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason plans of every MLB team before the Dec. 3-6 winter meetings. Our series continues with the Texas Rangers.
2007 record: 75-87
Finish: Fourth place in American League West
2007 opening-day payroll: $68 million
Life as a tweener stinks. No longer are the Rangers promising enough to entice free agents without having to overpay. And with an owner burned by huge deals in the past, they seem hesitant to shell out the necessary dollars needed to rescue this franchise.
Actually, that starts with player development, and after the trade of Mark Teixeira at the July deadline, the Rangers have restocked their farm system rather well. Yet general manager Jon Daniels has overseen a pair of losing seasons in his regime, and missing out on Torii Hunter – Texas' No. 1 target this offseason – was the latest disappointment. Texas offered Hunter $75 million for five seasons. The Angels gave him $90 million. Texas had an advantage: Hunter lives in a Dallas suburb. The Angels nullified that advantage.
So the Rangers turn to other options. They want Aaron Rowand to patrol center field, though, again, they may find his cost excessive and his desire to become a Ranger tepid. Outfielder Kosuke Fukudome is high on their list too, though he may stay in Japan and he projects more as a corner outfielder. Trade options for veteran center fielders and prospects exist, and catcher Gerald Laird may be the chip to get them.
Why the Rangers don't focus on starting pitching likely has more to do with the market than their need. Fifteen different Rangers started games last season, and their collective ERA of 5.50 ranked 29th. Aside from Kevin Millwood, himself an injury risk, their projected rotation is rather awful: Vicente Padilla (whose contract they already regret), Brandon McCarthy (still waiting to fulfill all that promise), Kason Gabbard (a precision lefty who's not very precise) and Edinson Volquez (ditto McCarthy).
Losing Hunter hurt, sure, but losing to the Angels poured salt in the wound. The defending AL West champions, a model franchise in nearly every respect, had plucked the local guy right out from under them. He never even gave the Rangers a chance to counter.
Such is life for Texas today. Once a paragon of consistency – steroid-fueled consistency, yes, but consistency nonetheless – the Rangers have broken down into a team with different ERA leaders each of the last five seasons: Milwood, Padilla, Kenny Rogers, Ryan Drese and John Thomson. The vaunted DVD trio – Thomas Diamond, Volquez and John Danks – has yielded, respectively, Tommy John surgery, a demotion last year to Class A and, via a trade, McCarthy.
Help is on the way. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whether at catcher or first base, is a switch-hitting stud. Ian Kinsler has pop and plays an excellent second base. Taylor Teagarden established himself as perhaps the best catcher in the minor leagues this season. And there are plenty of arms in the minors too, with Eric Hurley on the cusp and 19-year-old Kasey Kiker having blown away Midwest League hitters, though where have we heard that one before?
Consistency starts at the top, and the Rangers must play respectably this season to vouch for Daniels' progress. He got nothing out of Alfonso Soriano two years ago. He gave away Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young for next to nothing soon after that. The Teixeira deal included Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz, who need at least two more years of seasoning. A few minor deals aside, he doesn't have much going.
Only the best GMs succeed in situations such as Daniels'. Now is his time to prove he's among them.
NEXT: Toronto Blue Jays