For the Texas Rangers, it’s time to move on … but with whom?


Now that Zack Greinke and James Shields are out of the question, will Justin Upton be the next near-miss for the Texas Rangers? (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

I was almost sure when Zack Greinke signed on the dotted line, the logo in the corner of the contract would be that of the Texas Rangers.

So, as I sat at a family dinner Saturday night and watched Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel accept the Heisman Trophy award, I didn’t expect to arrive home later that night and find out the top free agent wasn’t signing with Texas. Instead, Greinke decided he wanted the money offered by the Los Angeles Dodgers instead of the more likely long-term success offered by the Rangers.

With the top free agent off the market, Rangers fans are wondering “what’s next?” and throwing out any number of names connected with Texas since the offseason began.

The name topping that list was 31-year-old Tampa Bay right-hander, James Shields … until news broke late Sunday night the Rays had traded Shields, along with Wade Davis, not to the Texas Rangers but to the Kansas City Royals in return for outfielder Wil Myers, pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery, and infielder Patrick Leonard.

With Shields off the board, especially with Greinke now in the mix with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the options are few and far between. But, for the sake of argument, we’ll talk about those options anyway.

Jim Bowden of ESPN mentioned the possibility of L.A. making Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang or Ted Lilly available, two of who have American League experience (Harang, Lilly). We saw how not having that experience affected Ryan Dempster when Texas acquired him prior to July’s trade deadline.

Would any of those names interest the fan base here in Texas? I’ve watched Harang with the Cincinnati Reds, and pitching in a ballpark where the ball flies isn’t exactly the best place for him.

If this were five or more years ago I might have had interest in Lilly but now, at just short of 37 years of age, that interest just isn’t there.

Speaking of pitchers older than 35, the New York Mets seem open to trading R.A. Dickey, and since he came out of the Rangers’ system, it makes sense he would want to return to Texas. Do you believe the NL Cy Young Award winner can have the same success in Texas that he had in New York? Engaging in trade talks with the Mets comes with the same set of problems that the Rangers would have with the Rays and Shields.

We talk a lot about pitching needs, especially the lack of depth in the bullpen with Koji Uehara signing with the Boston Red Sox and Mike Adams all but gone — though they hope to have replaced him with Joakim Soria, a guy who’s already gone through two Tommy John surgeries.

Arguably the biggest, most glaring hole, is the lack of a solid catcher going into 2013. Mike Napoli signed a three-year deal with the Boston Red Sox and although Geovany Soto is back for one year, he’s not exactly a guy who gives fans a warm fuzzy. Although, Yu Darvish had a big turn around when Soto was acquired from the Cubs, but I’ll stop just short of giving him all of the credit.

Before we start jumping off the Rangers bandwagon, as a lot of people have after learning of the Shields trade to Kansas City, let’s wait and see how the rest of the offseason shakes out. It doesn’t look good right now, especially watching the Royals improve while Texas still stands quietly without making much noise with some of the top names out there.

Maybe the Rangers didn’t believe in Shields coming to Texas, and maybe they didn’t believe Greinke could do more than what he did with the Los Angeles Angels. At least not enough for them to invest more than $150 million or a few top prospects for either player.

What about the trade talks surrounding Justin Upton or those surrounding knuckeballer, and defending NL Cy Young Award winner Dickey?

I’m not sold on either player, but I’m not the one making the decisions, hence the chance Texas took on former Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Brandon Webb. A risk that ended up not paying off.

Josh Hamilton seems to be the only likely scenario at the moment, although I’m certainly not counting out the Philadelphia Phillies, especially with Michael Young now in the mix, or the Seattle Mariners. I just believe the Rangers make too much sense for Hamilton to not end up back in Arlington for another three years or more.

We continue to talk about a potential trade that would send Upton to Texas but my response to that rumor is this: If the Rangers want Upton as bad as some say they do, wouldn’t they have completed the trade by now? I’ll take it one step further, if they wanted Upton that bad, wouldn’t they have acquired him before the July deadline? Or is Arizona’s asking price really that steep?

Another name that came up in the past is Chicago Cubs right-hander Matt Garza. While his name hasn’t come up this offseason, and for good reason, don’t be surprised if some begin to mention it again. Garza is coming off surgery, but recovering from injury sure didn’t stop the Rangers from acquiring Soria and Joe Nathan (combined for three Tommy John surgeries), as well as the aforementioned Webb. Apparently, the Rangers like to roll the dice.

Jake Peavy. Just for the sake of bringing him up. Is he absolutely unavailable? Tad bit. But I brought him up anyway. You’re welcome.

A few other names I would be interested in hearing are guys like Bronson Arroyo or Sean Marshall of the Cincinnati Reds. I’d add Mat Latos to that list, but seeing the kind of haul San Diego got in return for sending him to the Reds, that possibility is worse than Jerry Jones giving up the general manager role with the Dallas Cowboys.

This name was brought up on Twitter on Sunday (and although I really didn’t give it a second look at the time, I wonder if I would give it a second look knowing I’d probably feel better about giving this guy the starting job than Geovany Soto): Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

While we’re on the Boston Red Sox, I might wonder aloud if the Sox would consider making Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz available.

There are any number of names I could throw out just to get the conversation started. What we don’t know far outweighs what we do know about the Texas Rangers and their plans moving forward. What we do know is there are a significant number of holes that need to be filled.

The only questions left: How do they fill them and who do they fill them with?

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