Daniels exploring options in Nashville
Rangers GM has sights set on Hawkins, Gagne and Casey
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Rangers have yet to acquire a significant player at the Winter Meetings, but they do have clarity on which players they are pursuing.The Rangers are looking at free-agent outfielders Milton Bradley and Corey Patterson, relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Eric Gagne and first baseman Sean Casey. Right now, that group represents the Rangers' best hope of filling their three primary needs: outfield, relief pitching and first base. "We made some headway into what is realistic and what is not," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "Right now, we're flushing some options out and getting clarity on what different costs would be. We've had some discussions with some free agents, making offers and counter-offers. There are things out there we could accept, but we're not necessarily doing that. We're still working on them." The Rangers have made an offer to Hawkins -- a one-year deal with a club option. His agent, Larry Reynolds, is looking for a two-year deal. The Rangers were also hoping to meet with agent Scott Boras to discuss Gagne, but an initial meeting on Tuesday night was postponed. They were going to try again Wednesday night. Daniels made it clear that the Rangers would be interested in signing both Gagne and Hawkins. Gagne would be the Rangers closer while Hawkins would join right-handers Joaquin Benoit and Frank Francisco and left-hander C.J. Wilson as a setup reliever. "We'd like to sign more than one reliever," Daniels said. "We have [depth] and some quality arms, but we'd like to add to that." Daniels is also planning to talk to Boras about Patterson. The Rangers have placed a premium on finding a strong defensive center fielder, and Patterson is high on their list in that regard. The Fielding Bible ranks him the sixth best defensive outfielder in the Major Leagues over the past three seasons behind Andruw Jones, Nook Logan, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Beltran and Joey Gathright. Patterson has spent the past two seasons with the Baltimore Orioles after all or parts of six seasons with the Chicago Cubs. He was their No. 1 selection (third overall) in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft, but has yet to develop into an offensive force.
He does have 168 career stolen bases with a career high of 45 in 2006 and 37 last season. But he has a career on-base percentage of .298, including .304 last season, although he did have a strong second half, hitting .313 after the All-Star break.Bradley can also play center field, but the Rangers are looking at him as a corner outfielder. Much will depend on his health after undergoing surgery on his right knee at the end of the season. Bradley suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament during an argument with first-base umpire Mike Winters and there is no definitive word if he'll be ready for Spring Training. "We're trying to get our arms around when he will be ready," Daniels said. Bradley has a reputation for having a mercurial temperament that has resulted in a number of altercations with fans, umpires or managers. But manager Ron Washington knows Bradley well from their year together in Oakland in 2006 and is a strong supporter. "If Milton Bradley is available to the Texas Rangers, then Ron Washington would certainly want him," Washington said. Daniels said the Rangers looking into Bradley's past will be a part of the decision-making process. "Anytime you get a player -- real or perceived -- that has anything that's a yellow flag ... just like Sammy [Sosa] last year," Daniels said. "We heard things through the grapevine that turned out to be not true. He did everything we asked him to do. We're not going to go off perceptions. We're going to do our homework." The Rangers have been in touch with the representatives of Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, but there has been little in the way of movement in that regard. The Rangers still don't know if he'll play in the United States next year or will stay in Japan. The Rangers have investigated a number of center-field scenarios and there was some discussion about the possibility of making a deal with the Mariners for outfielder Adam Jones. But Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi is adamantly opposed to making that kind of deal within the division. "You don't want to see Adam Jones kicking your tail for the next 10 years," Bavasi said. The Rangers and the Mariners have been in discussions about first baseman Ben Broussard. But right now, the Rangers appear to be focused in on Casey, a free agent who hit .296 with four home runs and 54 RBIs in 453 at-bats for the Tigers last year. Casey's power has been down the past three years, but he is a left-handed hitter who has a career batting average of .291 against lefties. That means he would not require a right-handed platoon partner, unlike Broussard, Mike Lamb or Frank Catalanotto. The Rangers also like Casey's reputation for being a leader in the clubhouse. "He's a big makeup guy who could do us some good in the clubhouse," Daniels said. "Either through free agency or trade, we feel we will be able to address first base for 2008." The Rangers did make one trade on Wednesday, sending little-used center fielder Freddy Guzman to the Detroit Tigers for first baseman Chris Shelton.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.