After losing a five-game lead with nine games to play, the Rangers enter what figures to be a very active offseason. The team that went to two consecutive World Series and held first place in the AL West for virtually all but the last day of the 2012 season is likely to change significantly.
"I think it's a natural time to kind of reassess where we are, get back to what we're good at -- making good baseball decisions," general manager Jon Daniels said. "Get back to some of the elements that have added to the excitement here for the last few years, the energy, the athleticism and the dynamic players we've had."
The biggest single decision of the offseason revolves around outfielder Josh Hamilton. The Rangers announced five days after the season ended that the club would not make a "pre-emptive" contract offer to Hamilton to try to keep him from free agency and would let him test the market. Daniels also acknowledged that rarely do free agents who hit the open market return to their previous clubs.
But as enormous as replacing Hamilton's 43 homers and 128 RBI may be, it is hardly the only project facing the Rangers. In addition, the Rangers have no catchers under contract, are two starters shy of a rotation, might have to move one key late inning reliever to the rotation and face the possibility of losing two others to free agency.
The potential loss of Hamilton also allows the Rangers to potentially change the overall makeup of the club. It's going to be impossible to replace his offensive production with a single player, so the Rangers might eschew some power for speed and athleticism and a beefed-up pitching staff.
Without Hamilton and the other free agents, the Rangers have about $85 million committed for 2013. It gives them at least $40 million to work with on the free agency market.
If the club opts to split center field between in-house candidates Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin, much of the free agent money could be earmarked for an ace-type free agent pitcher (such as Zack Greinke) and would still leave room to upgrade the offense at first base or DH, two spots where the Rangers were well below the league average in offensive production.
The Rangers also face a conundrum of talent in the middle infield that must be sorted out. It could lead to either second baseman Ian Kinsler or shortstop Elvis Andrus, who can be a free agent after 2014, possibly being traded.
The Rangers called up 19-year-old infielder Jurickson Profar in September and believe he is ready to contribute at the major league level. Profar could play either second or short, giving the Rangers the ability to trade either Kinsler or Andrus to further strengthen the overall roster. One other possibility: moving Kinsler to the outfield and trading right fielder Nelson Cruz, who can be a free agent after the 2013 season.
Whatever the case, the Rangers are likely to endure their most drastic makeover since before this run of success started in 2010.