In recent weeks I have repeatedly stressed that the Rangers need to pick up some power for their lineup. A really strong catcher, first baseman, or outfielder I think could be the answer.
For catchers I have discussed the acquisition of either Brian McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia as being viable options for Texas.
At first base the Rangers currently have Mitch Moreland, who could be a starter if push came to shove, but it would be great to see a little bit more talent emerge this off-season.
As far as outfielders go, things are still up in the air. If the season were to begin today Texas would start Gentry in left, Martín in center, and Ríos in right. Out of the three, Ríos is the only one I hope to see starting the 2014 season. Martín and Gentry are both still amateur players. While Martín did get the opportunity to start almost every game last year in centerfield he only put up an average performance. It was only his third year in the league so expectations weren’t too high, however, if the Rangers could find somebody better to start in centerfield I would be on-board with that. Craig Gentry is a good player to have on the bench for pinch hit situations but should not be a starter for a team trying to get back to playoffs. The biggest issue I find with Martín and Gentry is that neither of them have consistent power.
One free agent who can hit for power and in whom the Texas Rangers have expressed interest is veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran. Beltran just concluded his 2-year contract with the St Louis Cardinals making him free game on the MLB market. Beltran is a guy who could fit in perfectly as Texas’s left fielder. This past season he brought his team to the World Series by hitting .296 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI’s. While this isn’t the same Carlos Beltran we watched hit 41 home runs and drive in 116 RBI’s in 2006, he would still be a valuable improvement for the Rangers’ roster.
Having Beltran starting in left with Ríos in right and Martín in center provides Texas with a very balanced looking outfield. Beltran would play the role of veteran outfielder of the group. He doesn’t quite have the range he used to when he played centerfield, but still can make big plays both in the field and at the plate. Ríos would be the more balanced and younger star of the group. He is able to hit for power if he needs to but is really more of a singles and doubles hitter with a good glove in the field. Martín would be the youngest and most agile of the three in the field and would be able to hit for average at the plate. Combined this sounds like a pretty solid group. As far as batting order goes I would envision Martín, Andrus, Beltre, Beltran, Kinsler, Ríos, Moreland, (Catcher), (DH- maybe Profar).
While bringing Beltran to Texas does sound like a guaranteed advantage for the Rangers it is also important to recognize that other free agents could play just as well if not better. Picking up a guy like Shin-Soo Choo or Curtis Granderson could have much of the same effect as signing Beltran.
There is a lot of talk circulating about the Rangers’ being interested in signing Jacoby Ellsbury. I don’t think that signing him is in accordance with what the Rangers need to be working on this off-season. Jacoby is a great base stealer, can hit just around .300, and is a Gold Glove winner in the field. However, the Rangers already have these skills covered. Martín, Andrus, and Kinsler can all steal bases with authority; Beltre, Ríos, and Kinsler all hit just around .300; and multiple guys on the team have Gold Gloves. I think that Ellsbury is regarded as such a great player, not because his game is so much better than other good players in the league, but because he fits in so well in the Red Sox lineup. As far as the Texas Rangers’ purposes go I would not extend to Ellsbury any sort of offer unless he was willing to accept a big pay cut (doubtful).
Lastly, I think that Texas’ top priority should be to get Nelson Cruz back. Cruz hits the ball better than any of the guys I have previously mentioned and is only 33 years old. Signing him to a longer-term contract could be worth it years down the road. One great advantage about being an American League team is that one’s power hitters can play longer than their National League competitors because of the DH position. Players like David Ortiz would not still be playing baseball if they had to man a position every game. Therefore, signing Nelson Cruz to a big contract now could lock him down for the Rangers for anywhere from 3 to 7 years.
The Rangers want to see more home runs next year so I would not be surprised to see them make an off-season pickup of one of the players I have mentioned. Beltran, Cruz, the Grandy Man, and Choo are all players whom I think will be considered in order to strengthen up the Texas outfield.