After another week of off-season activity the Texas Rangers are closer to, but still not finished with, completing their 2014 roster.
On Monday it was announced that the Rangers and Oakland A’s agreed on terms for a trade that sent outfielder Craig Gentry and pitcher Josh Lindbom to Oakland in exchange for highly ranked prospect Michael Choice and infielder Chris Bostick. Choice, who played in only nine games last season with the Athletics, is the leading candidate for the Rangers’ starting left fielder while Bostick will be sent down to the Minors.
General manager Jon Daniels commented, “In looking at our club and our organization, we put a priority on run production this winter…We think that Michael is a guy who fits that profile. He has hit everywhere he has been: high school, college, up through the Minors. He hits both right-handed and left-handed pitchers and really drives the ball.”
If the 2014 season were to start today, the Rangers outfield would have Ríos in right, Martín in center, and Choice in left. While some people might be excited about this setup, I am much more pessimistic. Don’t get me wrong, I love young players getting an opportunity to show off in the Majors; just look at Yasiel Puig! However, I think the Rangers organization is being a little bit ambitious by considering Choice for a starting role. Nine games is not a great enough sample size to make a judgment call on a player unless he did something spectacular during that time. If I were Texas I would not be satisfied with my lineup until I had a stronger left fielder to play on opening day. Choice has the potential to be a great player off the bench since he can play all three outfield positions if one of the starters were to get hurt. However, the real focus needs to be on either re-signing Nelson Cruz or picking up one of the other power hitting outfielders floating around like Curtis Granderson, Carlos Beltran, or Shin Soo Choo. Choice should be worked into games, not started in them.
The other great concern for the Rangers this off-season was the catcher position. General Manager Jon Daniels has already stated that Giovany Soto will be the club’s starting catcher next season, “Geo is our starter. He is going to get the majority of the time going in.” Soto will be a step down (maybe even a step and a half) from last year’s starter A.J. Pierzynski, but he isn’t a terrible player. Last season he hit .245 with 9 home runs and 22 RBI’s over his 54 games played, average numbers.
What the Rangers really needed, though, was a backup catcher incase Soto gets injured or needs a day off. Today they got one in the form of J.P. Arencibia, former catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. When asked about the acquisition of a backup catcher Daniels commented, “If Geo went down, we would want somebody who could step in and be an everyday guy.” Arencibia is expected to sign a one-year, $2 million contract with Texas. Having only hit .194 last season there is little hope for Arencibia to move up to the starter position. However, he has hit 62 home runs over the past three years so the Rangers know that he does have a little power. I would expect him to pitch-hit every once in a while and maybe catch one game a week so that Soto can rest.
The player I am much more excited for, however, is Texas’s minor league prospect Jorge Alfaro. This 20-year-old Colombian native signed with the Rangers at the young age of 16. He is currently playing for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans as he advances through the Rangers’ Minor League system. Alfaro has raw baseball talent. He can hit for contact and for power, he’s a brick wall with his quickness behind the plate, and has a rocket of an arm to gun out runners. Although still a bit premature, I am excited to hopefully see Alfaro sitting in the Rangers’ dugout this season.