11/02/10 1:43 AM ET
With core intact, future looks bright in Texas
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
The American League West champions for the first time since 1999, the Rangers showed the depth of their resources in dispatching a pair of AL East powers -- the Rays and Yankees -- before the offense ran dry at the hands of a remarkable collection of Giants pitchers.
"The chemistry's going to stay here for a while," said Josh Hamilton, a leading AL Most Valuable Player Award candidate. "We're going to have some guys who won't be back, but the core will be here.
"To have that on a consistent basis is going to be pretty special. We're the best team in the American League, and the core is going to be back. So there's no reason why we shouldn't be back."
There are a number of issues to be resolved over the winter, notably the status of free-agent left-hander Cliff Lee at the front of the rotation and designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, who holds a mutual option for 2011, in the heart of the lineup.
"I don't know," Guerrero said when asked if he'd be back. "We'll see what happens. I like it here. This team has a good future."
That nucleus will be intact, as Hamilton indicated. He is joined by emerging stars Nelson Cruz in right field, shortstop Elvis Andrus and established All-Star infielders Michael Young and Ian Kinsler. Quality role players abound with a strong cast of arms, both in the rotation and the bullpen.
The catching situation is fluid, with neither Bengie Molina nor Matt Treanor signed for 2011. But Taylor Teagarden has 104 games of Major League experience behind the plate, free agency has several appealing possibilities, and the Rangers have attractive pieces to offer in trade if neither Molina nor Treanor returns.
The big decision, of course, involves Lee and how high it would be wise to go in the bidding on the 32-year-old southpaw.
If Lee prices himself out of the Rangers' range, one possibility to fill a rotation spot works at the back end of the club's bullpen.
Neftali Feliz, the brilliant young closer, began his professional career as a starter and wouldn't be averse to returning to that role.
"I'll start or close, whatever they want," Feliz said. "Either way, it will be OK with me."
Feliz would have to rebuild stamina as a starter, but he certainly has the repertoire to excel in that role. There are those who believe he could have the potential impact of a Pedro Martinez, one of Feliz's heroes growing up in Azua, Dominican Republic.
Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson both showed the stuff and heart of front-end starters in postseason play, elevating their stature. Tommy Hunter, Feliz and Derek Holland or Scott Feldman could join Lewis and Wilson in a deep, solid rotation.
Feliz, in that scenario, would have to be replaced in the ninth inning. The Rangers could pursue Rafael Soriano, the best closer headed for free agency, or Brian Fuentes. Alexi Ogando could be an in-house candidate with his impressive heat.
"I think we've accomplished certain goals, but there's definitely some areas we can do better," general manager Jon Daniels said. "I mean, the way I look at it is, the previous two years, [the Angels] won 197 games, and we won the division this year with 90. I think we're going to have to be better to win the division next year, better than we were this year. So there's certainly a challenge there.
"A lot of our upper-level better young players have either graduated to the big leagues, so I think some of the internal improvement will come from full years ... guys like Ogando and [first baseman Mitch] Moreland and Hunter, and some of these other guys that played a good role for us this year but weren't here the whole year.
"And then, obviously, we'll sit down and look at other opportunities to get better."
The Rangers are banking on their new success creating a culture of winning, featuring a superstar in Hamilton and a supporting cast of superb talent in all areas.
"We have a great future as an organization," club managing partner and CEO Chuck Greenberg said. "This is the beginning of an era. We are moving confidently and aggressively into a very bright future as an organization and a community."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.