Final roster spot remains atop Texas' to-do list
Extension for GM Daniels expected to be completed this winter
FRISCO, Texas -- Jim Thome has re-signed with the Twins. Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg said he understands Thome's motivation."He really enjoyed the experience there, enjoyed his teammates and his manager and opted to stay with what was familiar and known to him," Greenberg said. "We respect that." The Rangers tried to sign Thome, a left-handed hitter. He could have been a part-time designated hitter that would have allowed Michael Young to alternate between first base and DH. He also could have been the Rangers full-time DH, with Young pushing Mitch Moreland aside at first. Instead, Thome is headed back to Minnesota. The Rangers are ostensibly left with Young at designated hitter and Moreland at first base, although Young will back up defensively at multiple infield positions. If so, the Rangers could use another bat. A right-handed hitter would seem to make sense, given that Moreland is left-handed, but that didn't seem to keep them from pursuing Thome. "We like our club," Greenberg said Saturday at Dr. Pepper Ballpark, where the Frisco Roughriders were holding an open house for their fans. "We're comfortable where we are going into Spring Training." The Rangers have said that before this winter, but it did not preclude them from going out and making other moves. It is unlikely that Greenberg, club president Nolan Ryan, general manager Jon Daniels and the rest of the front office will hibernate for the rest of the winter. "Nolan and J.D. and their team are always looking for ways to improve the club," Greenberg said. "We're very comfortable with the way we're going into the season but, as last year demonstrated, there are a lot of ways to improve the ballclub. As needs present themselves, we will continue to be vigilant." At any point during the offseason, it is easy to round up the usual suspects of players still available through the free-agent market, sort through them and see who might still be of interest to the Rangers. Designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero remains unsigned and would like to come back to the Rangers after hitting .300 with 29 home runs and 115 RBIs this past season. The Rangers said they broke off discussions with Guerrero after signing free agent Adrian Beltre with the intention of moving Young to a primary role of designated hitter. Re-signing him at this point would likely mean moving Young primarily to first base. That may or may not have been the intent with the pursuit of Thome. Manny Ramirez, another candidate, remains unsigned -- and the Rangers did claim him on waivers at the end of August last season. The White Sox ended up winning the claim. Also unsigned are Troy Glaus, a right-handed hitter who can play first or third base, and Marcus Thames, another right-handed hitter who can play first and the outfield. He could fill the same role that Jeff Francoeur did at the end of last season. Andruw Jones, who was with the Rangers in 2009, could be headed to the Yankees but remains a possibility. What is clear is that the Rangers have a need for one more veteran on a four-man bench that includes outfielder David Murphy, utility infielder Andres Blanco and catcher Matt Treanor. The need appears to be for a right-handed hitter who could play either some first base and/or the outfield. The leading candidates on the current roster are right-handed-hitting outfielder Craig Gentry and left-handed-hitting first baseman Chris Davis, who could push Moreland. Much might depend on what the Rangers have left to spend this winter, but Greenberg said the club is not operating under a fixed budget. He insisted there is flexibility, depending on what might arise, but the payroll will still be significantly larger than it was in 2010. "If you work around a set number, it can lead to mistakes," Greenberg said. "We like our club, we like the way it's put together, both on the field and from a payroll perspective. But it's not fixed on a particular number, because that's when you can fall into the trap of spending just for the sake of doing so. As you make those decisions, you have to look at the implications for future seasons. We're not going to fix on a particular number for this season." The Rangers are still looking at five looming arbitration cases that could impact the payroll significantly. Outfielders Josh Hamilton, Murphy and Nelson Cruz and pitchers Darren O'Day and C.J. Wilson are all expected to exchange arbitration numbers with the club on Tuesday. The Rangers will likely focus on one-year deals with each player to avoid a hearing and then possibly resume long-term discussions in certain cases, particularly those of Hamilton and Wilson. "We want to keep the core of our team intact," Greenberg said. "When, and on what terms and what circumstances it makes sense for our organization to do that, is a subject that I know J.D. and [assistant general manager Thad Levine] spend a lot of time considering. So if there's an opportunity to do it with terms that make sense, they have my full support in going ahead and doing it." Greenberg also reiterated that the Rangers plan on extending Daniels' contract at some point this winter. He has been saying that since the World Series, and insisted there is no ulterior reason why it hasn't been done yet. "It will be soon," Greenberg said. "There's nothing to infer from it not being done. This has been a most unusual offseason between taking over the team late, the extended playoff run, hiring key members of the front office, some unusual circumstances in free agency that have continued to this day. It doesn't mean anything. "What is meaningful is that there's a spirit of absolute trust and kinship that all of us have. I understand why it's a matter of great interest to everyone else, among our group there is no concern. It's a testament to how comfortable everyone is that we can focus on the other things that were more pressing." Most of those matters have been addressed. The Rangers' shopping list for the offseason is almost complete. But that one spot left on the roster still seems to preoccupy the Rangers. and they may have one more big move left.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.