Offseason outlook: Texas Rangers outfield
Another season of Texas Rangers baseball has come to an end with the dream of the franchise’s first World Series championship yet again crushed. Unlike the last few seasons, the Rangers were unable to secure a post season invite ending a run of three straight playoff appearances.
The Rangers will be very busy this off-season as the team will try to retool its current roster before the window of opportunity closes on the group’s core players. This is part one of a three-part series examining possible moves the Texas Rangers may make this off-season.
Headed into the offseason the Texas Rangers outfield will have several options. With Jeff Baker, Nelson Cruz and David Murphy all hitting the free agency this offseason, don’t be surprised if none of the players return.
- David Murphy: It is no secret that this was a season David Murphy would love to forget. Headed into 2013, Murphy was coming off career-high marks in just about every offensive category. Hoping to command high dollars in free agency, Murphy drastically hurt his stock by the dismal 2013 campaign. Murphy started the season as the regular left fielder, but by the end of the year, he had lost the majority of his playing time. The 31-year-old may seek a multi-year deal with a team that will allow him another shot at the starting lineup. Murphy doesn’t figure to fit in to the Rangers long-term options.
- Nelson Cruz: Cruz may be one of the more coveted free agents this offseason. At 33, Cruz may seek to find a new team that will allow him a few more seasons to play in the outfield before transitioning into a full-time DH. With the acquisition of Alex Rios from the Chicago White Sox, Rios provides an upgrade over Cruz in the outfield seemingly taking Cruz’s position in right field. No doubt the Rangers would love to bring back Cruz and his 27 home runs; he will most likely get a better offer from another team in free agency.
- Jeff Baker: Jeff Baker has bounced around several different Major League teams over the last few years and next year may not be any different. Although Baker was used primarily against left handed pitching he appeared in 74 games this season. He is only 32 years old and may like to check the market to see if there are any teams they may be able to offer him a legitimate shot at a starting role because if he were to return to Texas, he would probably be used in the same capacity.
Now that we have clearly explained what is happening in the Texas Rangers outfield, let’s explore what could happen in that same outfield. And, this could be interesting.
- Curtis Granderson: Granderson will most likely break the bank in free agency as the market for his talents will most likely be very deep. Teams will be lining up to bid on the outfielder’s services if the Yankees decide to let him test the open market. Although Granderson has only hit over .270 twice in his career, and strikes out at an alarming rate (1167 times in 1187 career games), teams will be attracted to his power numbers and defense. Granderson’s home run totals may be a little inflated by playing in a hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, he still was able to hit 40+ homeruns twice in the last three seasons and he possesses above average defense in the outfield. Granderson would supplant speed into the Rangers’ lineup and would be able to take aim at the short right field porch at the Rangers Ballpark.
Shin-Soo Choo: In 2013, Choo was an on-base machine posting an on-base percentage of .423, ranking 4th in Major League Baseball. At 31, Choo still runs well enough to play centerfield if the Rangers entertained the idea of replacing Leonys Martin or could move him to left field giving manager Ron Washington some flexibility in his lineup. Choo’s left-handed bat would add a little more pop to the lineup (averaging roughly 20 homeruns per season) and also has experience leading off which would allow the Rangers to drop Ian Kinsler down a few spots in the order. Choo made more than $7 million this season and with agent Scott Boras, expect the asking price to be steep.
- Carlos Beltran: At 36, Beltran may be an option for the Rangers in the short term but wouldn’t figure into the Rangers long term plans. The switch hitting outfielder would give the Rangers a little bit more flexibility with the lineup being able to hit from both sides of the plate but for his career, outside of two games, he has played mostly center and right field. Beltran is aging and would most likely need days off or games at DH to keep him fresh. Beltran won’t be in as demand on someone like Choo, so he may be more likely to join the team, if the Rangers decided to pursue him.
If the Texas Rangers outfield decide to again split time between center fielders Leonys Martin or Craig Gentry, then you may hear the team rumored pursuing some, if not all, of the free agents listed above. Some other cost saving options the Rangers could pursue could include moving forward with Gentry as the starting left fielder. This would save the team money as well as give the lineup more speed and defense but would hinder the club’s slugging ability.
Also the team could experiment moving 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler to left field. This would indeed solve two problems for the Rangers, the need for another outfielder as well as creating room in the lineup for star prospect Jurickson Profar.
Stayed tuned for the second installment of the three part series that will highlight Texas Rangers infielders.