Work To Be Done This Winter
“Next season”. A phrase that is repeated by sports fans all over the world which brings hope that the failures of one year will bear fruit in the next. Rangers fans have been spouting out this expression since late summer when the Cole Hamels trade and after a small taste of the post season this year, fans are dreaming about what 2016 has in store for the club. However, before “next year” can become “this year” there is still a lot of work to be done this offseason by Jon Daniels and the rest of the front office staff. The list below is just a short list of things to keep an eye on for the Rangers this winter.
Offensively speaking, left field was the most non productive part of the lineup in 2015. Collectively the team split .225/.295/.393 between twelve different players. The .225 batting average and .295 on-base percentage ranked the worst on the team and the .393 slugging percentage was the second worst (behind center field). Josh Hamilton and Delino DeShields both played the 34 games in left field but with Delino shifting to center, the question remains with what to do with left field position. Hamilton will be given an opportunity to find a spot in the everyday lineup but with a team that is left-handed hitting heavy, the club will be in the market for a right-handed power bat to fill this void. The Rangers may need to get creative on the trade front to address this need as according to Baseball Prospectus the 2016 free agent class appears to be very thin. However names like Justin Upton, Torii Hunter and Austin Jackson may garner some interest. Yoenis Cespedes will be the biggest fish in free agency but by most accounts, will be too expensive for the Rangers to have serious interest.
Many hope that the starting rotation will help the team return to a second AL West title and a long postseason run. Once Yu Darvish is able to return from Tommy John surgery, the rotation could be one of the best in baseball with a Hamels, Darvish, Holland trio. However, questions will remain at the back of the rotation before and after the return of Darvish. While you can almost certainly count on Martin Perez being the fourth or fifth starter on the team, the club will have to figure out how to replace Yovani Gallardo and Colby Lewis who are both expected to hit free agency. If the club is unable to bring back either player, internally the Rangers could look at Chi Chi Gonzalez, Nick Martinez, or even Anthony Ranaudo.
After an extremely disappointing 2015 campaign, it appears that Leonys Martin’s future with the club may be in jeopardy. With DeShields emerging as a quality leadoff hitter and serviceable center fielder, Martin has now found himself expendable. He will be eligible for arbitration this offseason and MLB Trade Rumors expects that Martin will be offered a contract worthy of roughly $1.6MM. If last season was any indication, the Rangers will have limited funds to spend this winter and could look at moving Martin to free up additional salary. Teams may take a gamble on Martin and hope that he may be able to find his offensive stroke. Still only 27 and an above average center fielder, there is little doubt there would not be interest amongst other clubs if the Rangers try to shop him. If he returns to the team, his role may be limited to a platoon fourth outfielder.
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