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The Rangers are poised to pounce

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports

Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason of every MLB team before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series is in reverse order of team quality and continues at No. 11 with the Texas Rangers.

2009 record: 87-75
Finish: Second place, AL West
2009 final payroll: $68 million
Estimated 2010 opening day payroll: $67 million

OFFSEASON ACTION

In early December, general manager Jon Daniels made the bold and potentially flammable trade that sent rotation anchor Kevin Millwood(notes) and $3 million to the Orioles for reliever Chris Ray(notes), saving enough money to sign free agent Rich Harden(notes), a talented yet fragile right-hander.

The risk was viewed to be great. After all, Millwood is sturdy and dependable. Harden has all kinds of great stuff, but questionable durability.

Except, in the past two seasons, Harden made 51 starts, pitched 289 innings and had a record of 19-11. Millwood made nine more starts, threw 367 1/3 innings and was 22-20. The innings aren't insignificant. But, in Texas, even post-Hicks, the money is, and so is Harden's strikeout stuff.

It might not work, but you can't hate the strategy.

Beyond that, the Rangers let go of outfielders Marlon Byrd(notes) (the Cubs signed him for $15 million over three years) and Andruw Jones(notes) (White Sox, $500,000 guaranteed), and brought in Rangers killer Vladimir Guerrero(notes) (subtraction by addition, if nothing else) to serve as DH, leaving them an outfield of, from left to right, Josh Hamilton(notes), Julio Borbon(notes) and Nelson Cruz(notes).

They also signed left-handed reliever Darren Oliver(notes), effective and very underrated in Anaheim for the past three seasons, and shortstop Khalil Greene(notes) to fill the Omar Vizquel(notes) role.

REALITY CHECK

The franchise celebrates its 50th season, beginning with the 1961 Washington Senators, and its total number of postseason victories is one. Not series. Games.

(A HSD cap tip to the boys of '96, who beat David Cone and the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS, only to lose the next three. And the next three to the Yankees in '98. And the, uh, next three to, right, the Yankees, in '99.)

Anyway, a decade later, the Rangers again possess the pitching talent and depth to challenge in the AL West, made more difficult because of upgrades in Seattle and Oakland, but eased by what should be a weaker Angels team.

Daniels has been around for four seasons, and in the past three the Rangers have gone from 75 wins to 79 to 87. The pitching staff has come slowly, as has the farm system, but they're both healthy and the foundation for an organization that expects to contend.

It could happen, too. The offense, particularly if Guerrero believes he has something to prove to the Angels and Hamilton can stay on the field, can be better than the unit that hit 224 home runs and was seventh in the AL in runs last season.

Next: Florida Marlins