Editor's note: Yahoo Sports will rank every team in Major League Baseball from 30th to 1st before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues with the Texas Rangers.
2013 record: 91-72
Finish: Second, AL West
2013 payroll: $137.2 million (8th of 30)
Estimated 2014 opening day payroll: $139.8 million (10th of 30)
Yahoo Sports offseason rank: 3
Rangers in six words: Credo: What would Nolan Ryan do?
Ever think you'd see the day when the Rangers had plenty of pitching, but were, you know, short a bat or two?
It happens. You attack a flaw in the organizational DNA for so long, one morning you wake up with a desperate need for Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo.
For all the Rangers' offensive muscle over the years, the last monster season they had from a first baseman was 2006, that belonging to Mark Teixeira. They tried Chris Davis, though clearly for not long enough. They went through Justin Smoak, then Mitch Moreland.
Meantime, surplus developed among middle infielders, and as luck would have it the Detroit Tigers – just two years into a nine-year, $214 million commitment – were thinking Fielder could not be part of their plan. In November, the Rangers swapped second baseman Ian Kinsler for Fielder and $30 million, so they'd picked up Fielder at the reasonable rate of $138 million over seven years.
[Related: No. 4 Red Sox: Is a repeat possible? ]
As Kinsler had done most of the leading off for the Rangers and Nelson Cruz was a free agent, GM Jon Daniels went looking for a corner outfielder with top-of-the-lineup capabilities. Scott Boras had one of those. For $130 million over seven years, the Rangers added Choo, who comes with a left-handed bat (the Rangers were just average against right-handed pitching in 2013), 20-home run power, 20-steal speed and a .423 on-base percentage.
They also acquired 24-year-old Michael Choice, who might be big-league ready when Alex Rios' contract runs out after '14, and signed catcher J.P. Arencibia to share time with Geovany Soto.
The Rangers, in consecutive seasons, were stunned by the Oakland A's and then thumped by the Oakland A's, in spite of winning 93 and 91 games in those seasons. So it is with some hesitation that we rate the Rangers ahead of the A's now, particularly as so much of the Rangers' 2013 season was built on 17 wins against the Houston Astros. (The A's won 15, so call it a push.)
Still, this remains the organization of solid young arms, and Yu Darvish, and Adrian Beltre, and Elvis Andrus, and now Fielder and Choo. The trade of Kinsler means Jurickson Profar has a regular place to play. And, if winter ball was any indication, Neftali Feliz is fully back from Tommy John surgery, which is partly why the Rangers let closer Joe Nathan walk. (He stopped in Detroit.) Well, Feliz and Tanner Scheppers and Joakim Soria. Any one of them could be ninth-inning capable.
Left-hander Derek Holland fell over his dog, injured his knee, required surgery and isn't expected in the rotation until July. It's a tough way to lose a 3.42 ERA over 213 innings, particularly as Alexi Ogando was a regular on the disabled list last season with shoulder and biceps issues, and Matt Harrison was collecting surgeries like bobblehead dolls.
Holland will be back. Ogando says he is healthy. The bullpen is deep and capable. Darvish is a beast. Martin Perez won 10 games in 20 starts and is just starting to find his way. Robbie Ross has great stuff and is expected to transition back into a starter.
Besides, the Rangers should have plenty of offense while the rotation sorts itself out. The addition of Choo allows Leonys Martin to remain in the nine hole. The Rangers had a decent on-base percentage out of their leadoff hitters. Choo's was nearly 90 points higher. He might even match Cruz's 27 home runs.
The Rangers will run with Andrus, Martin and Choo. They'll hit over most of the lineup, with plenty of power. And they'll get the pitching right, because anymore that's what they do in Texas.
The last they saw of Prince Fielder in Detroit, he had four hits – three of them singles – in a six-game ALCS setback against the Boston Red Sox. The year before, Fielder had one hit – a single – in a four-game World Series debacle.
That wasn't why he was traded. Presumably, it made the decision slightly easier.
He hit 55 home runs and had 214 RBI in two seasons there. He didn't miss a single game. Twice he was an All-Star. He hit .295.
Something wasn't quite right, however, and maybe it was personal and maybe it was professional, so Fielder arrives in Texas with an agenda, a new fan base to win over, and an October to make right. The ballpark should treat him well enough that 40 home runs – he hasn't done that since 2009 – would not be a surprise. There will be men on base, just like in Detroit. And Fielder, still just 29, could once again be as big as he should be. As big as he wants to be.
The rotation thin,
Rangers have but one excuse:
Dog ate my lefty
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