Rangers no longer want to just fill holes
Club planning to pick up elite players or give young guns a shot
12:00 AM CDT on Wednesday, October 3, 2007 By EVAN GRANT / The Dallas Morning News
ARLINGTON Ė The Rangers officially put the 2007 season to rest Tuesday afternoon, with a post-mortem media gathering to rehash the team's issues and address the plan going forward.
That plan: It's all or nothing.
That doesn't necessarily apply to the club's hopes but rather to the kinds of free agents or trade acquisitions the Rangers will seek this winter. General manager Jon Daniels said the club plans to get out of the business of simply signing veterans to fill holes. Instead, he indicated, the Rangers will either add elite-level players to fill holes or give opportunities to their own young players until such elite talents become available.
"We expect to win, and I don't think you have to take a black-or-white approach that it's either 'building' or 'contending.' Arizona and Colorado certainly didn't pick one of the two," said Daniels, alluding to the pair of young NL playoff teams that have been built primarily from within. "What I don't want to do is acquire mediocre free-agent players who would block some of your younger talent from getting their chances."
Such an approach means also looking at the talent in the minor leagues and assessing whether giving a free agent a contract now would block a talented player in a year or two.
The philosophy makes it more likely the Rangers will pursue a center fielder on a long-term deal and that right field and first base, two other holes identified by manager Ron Washington and Daniels, would either be filled from within or on inexpensive short-term deals.
The center-field market will be crowded with free agents such as Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand and Mike Cameron and possible for-trade talents such as Coco Crisp and Rocco Baldelli. The Rangers' top center-field prospects are Engel Beltre and Julio Borbon, and both are probably at least three years away. The combination of the market strength and the Rangers' need makes center field a spot where a long-term deal makes more sense.
Conversely, the market for power-hitting corner infielders and outfielders is significantly less attractive. The most intriguing name might be Cincinnati left fielder Adam Dunn, who has an option for 2008. The Reds could pick up the option, then deal him.
But the Rangers don't necessarily feel the need to get a long-term answer at either spot, with John Mayberry Jr. and Chris Davis (who could move back from third to first) excelling in the minor leagues. David Murphy, perhaps a Rusty Greer starter kit, might present the best cost-effective option. Nelson Cruz, who failed two auditions this season but who has fewer than 500 career at-bats, could also get a longer look.
The club might opt to go younger at spots like DH. The Rangers could be presented with either paying more for Sammy Sosa on a one-year deal or giving Jason Botts, with only 244 major league at-bats, a full-time job.
"We're going to continue to do things in a manner where we infuse our young players and give them chances," Daniels said. "If we go for [free agents], we're going to pick guys who fit in with the where we are going."