As the Texas Rangers wait for the postseason to finish up and the offseason to get in full swing much of the attention has focused on how they can replace Josh Hamilton's production in the lineup. While 2012 was a season of ups and downs for Hamilton, he still turned in one of the best offensive seasons in the game, hitting .285 with 43 home runs and 128 RBIs. While Hamilton could still re-sign with the Rangers, the writing is on the wall and the Rangers will be looking at replacing a significant amount of run production.
The truth is that there is not going to be another player on the open-market that can provide the type of production that Hamilton can and that is not a problem. They could try to accomplish a trade for another outfielder that is a major run producer, but that is not necessary either. That is not where the Rangers need to have their focus this offseason. The Rangers need to once again have their focus on starting pitching and they have a better opportunity than ever before to bolster the rotation.
Last season looked very promising on paper with the signing of Yu Darvish and the move of Neftali Feliz into the rotation. Darvish got better as the season went along and he showed that even if he never becomes an "ace" in the big leagues, he should at least be a very good #2. That is not a knock on Darvish as there are very few aces in the big leagues. They do not come around often and if the Rangers have found one in Darvish, this club could be in even better shape than expected over the next five years.
Darvish was not the only starter for the Rangers who looked great in 2012. Matt Harrison had the best season of his career, going 18-11 with a 3.29 ERA in 213.1 innings of work and showing the potential to be an inning eating, ground ball inducing workhorse. Harrison will never be a top end of the rotation starter, but he is exactly what a team needs in the middle of the rotation. Harrison could fill the role that Colby Lewis has over recent years, but in a potentially better fashion and from the left side.
Outside of Darvish and Harrison, the rotation was extremely shaky. They lost Lewis and Feliz to season ending injuries and while they are both under contract for 2013, they will not be available until the second half at the earliest and there is no indication of the type of role that they will be able to fill. Scott Feldman and Roy Oswalt are both free agents and were looked at as more of long-men rather than starters, with neither of them likely to re-sign with the Rangers as both desire to be starters. Ryan Dempster was also acquired at the trade deadline and while he has expressed that he would like to stay in Texas, it seems unlikely that the Rangers would spend money there.
That leaves the Rangers with two other lefties who should factor into the Rangers' plans. Derek Holland had a disappointing season as he went on the disabled list with fatigue issues and then never found consistency. Holland went 12-7, but had a 4.67 ERA in just 175.1 innings of work. The worst part of all of it was that he allowed 32 home runs, which ranked him fifth in the league for most allowed. The Rangers also have Martin Perez who has long been expected to be a fixture in the rotation, but has not lived up to his hype for a few years now. Perez could make his way into the rotation, but he is no longer expected to be the ace that many thought he could be.
What all of this means for the Rangers is that they really need to add at least two starting pitchers. There are some solid names available as free agents, such as Kyle Loshe and Jack Peavy, but Zack Greinke leads that list and the Rangers should be involved. There should be some decent starters available via trade and the Rangers can be involved as well as anyone.
The Rangers could look at moving Robbie Ross or Alexi Ogando into the rotation, but that would impact a bullpen that could already be losing Koji Uehara and Mike Adams. This is definitely an offseason where the moves made within the rotation will impact the bullpen and vice versa.
The Rangers need depth in the rotation and there are many ways to go about getting it. Some trades should be expected with one of the lefties being the most likely to be traded. The Rangers should look at moving Harrison, Holland or Perez if the return can be an impact starter who could fall in somewhere right behind Darvish. That trade could give the Rangers a rotation of Darvish, two of the lefties, the arm acquired in the trade and then a solid free agent signing could finish it off nicely. They would then have Lewis and Feliz returning after the break and could make some efforts to have Ogando or Ross ready in case somebody went down. There are also players like Justin Grimm and Cody Buckel who are coming along nicely in the minors and could be called on in 2013 if needed. That is if neither of them ends up being dealt in the offseason.
There are many ways to go about fixing the current state of the Rangers and many moves should be expected this offseason for both pitching and position players. Moves are needed in both areas, but the focus should be on pitching. While replacing guys like Hamilton and Mike Napoli will not be easy, pitching is needed to win in October and the Rangers already have a few position players ready for the big leagues that can potentially be impact players.
John Bowman is a lifelong baseball and Texas Rangers fan that loves to ponder the deeper aspects of the game. Some of his first baseball memories involve Arlington Stadium nachos, Charlie Hough's knuckleball, dirt on Pete Incaviglia's uniform and the voices of Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel as he fell asleep.
- Sports & Recreation
- Yu Darvish
- Josh Hamilton