Rangers seek another big bat to complement Prince
Sluggers remain on radar as Texas eyes help at DH, in outfield
ARLINGTON -- Having acquired first baseman Prince Fielder from the Tigers, the Rangers have only partly succeeded in addressing their primary goal for the winter.
General manager Jon Daniels made it clear that Texas is still looking for another big bat to fit in the middle of the lineup. The two open spots are designated hitter and left field. Brian McCann was looked at as a possibility as a part-time designated hitter and backup catcher behind Geovany Soto, but McCann agreed to terms on a five-year contract worth at least $85 million with the Yankees on Saturday. The Yankees have not made an announcement regarding the signing, and McCann will need to pass a physical before the deal becomes official.
Texas had been linked to McCann since the beginning of the offseason. In the wake of the Fielder-Kinsler trade, the Rangers have begun to be linked in various reports to almost every free agent out there, and are believed to be willing to deal one of their remaining middle infielders.
The inference being drawn from Wednesday's trade with the Tigers is that one big splash will beget many more, even though Daniels has been counseling against coming to such conclusions since the beginning of the offseason.
But it is true the Rangers certainly are not done yet with less than a week to go before Thanksgiving.
"We'd still like to add to the offense," Daniels said. "That's probably still our top goal, our top objective, but we're open to improving the club any way we can. That could be with an obvious name that everybody is talking about, or it could be in the area of adding depth, filling out the club and giving Wash [manager Ron Washington] some options. We're not ignoring the pitching staff by any stretch. We're open to a variety of ways to improve the club."
Trading for Fielder shows that. It also reinforces the idea that the Rangers are not eager to chase down one of the remaining free-agent outfielders, hand over a big contract and lose a valuable Draft pick in the process. Instead they seek alternate and creative ways to get better.
While Texas has the perception of being ready to spend big this offseason, the opposite may be true. The Rangers have told other clubs this season they want to "manage their money" better and be more protective of their assets in a Minor League system that has been hit hard by trades over the past few years.
There are five prominent free-agent outfielders still available: Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Curtis Granderson, Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz. All five were extended qualifying offers and will cost their signing team a Draft pick.
Draft picks could be especially important to the Rangers next summer. That's because the club went far over its financial allotment as far as international amateur signings this past summer, and the Rangers will be limited to what they can spend next July. In past years, Texas has been a heavy player in the international amateur market, and that has allowed the club to overcome some big injuries and setbacks to key top Draft picks.
That doesn't mean the Rangers will sit tight the rest of the winter. They still want to add offense, even if they are able to resist agent Scott Boras' full-court press on Robinson Cano, Ellsbury and Choo.
The Rangers do have a viable candidate at DH. Mitch Moreland has been pushed off first base by the acquisition of Fielder, but he could still DH if the Rangers want to go that way. Moreland has also played 45 games in the outfield in his Major League career, although all in right field. Texas has Alex Rios to play right.
"Mitch is certainly in our plans," Daniels said. "When you look at his ability to play first base, the outfield, DH and how he has performed early in his career against big league pitching. ... The industry is looking for power and we're looking for power. We're not giving up on the guy."
The Rangers also have a viable candidate to play left field. Craig Gentry played in 106 games for Texas this past season, hitting .280 with a .373 on-base percentage and a .386 slugging percentage. He also stole 24 bases and was named the Rangers' Wilson Defensive Player of the Year.
"Craig Gentry did a heck of a job for us out there last year," Daniels said. "He catches everything, tremendous defense, his bat made strides offensively."
The concern with Gentry in left is it would give the Rangers a lineup that includes four players who had a slugging percentage under .400 last year, including shortstop Elvis Andrus, center fielder Leonys Martin and second baseman Jurickson Profar.
Fielder and Adrian Beltre would be the only two who had a slugging percentage above .500.
Cruz would help tip the balance without costing a Draft pick. But somehow the Rangers still want one more power hitter this winter.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.