01/22/2013 12:00 PM ET
Standing pat likely better than quick fixes for Rangers
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Texas has a plenty good club, but its front office knows as well as anyone that there's room for improvement. But it's one thing to want to improve and quite another to make it happen.
Fortunately for the Rangers, while there aren't a lot of compelling options left in the baseball supermarket, the ones that are out there could well help general manager Jon Daniels' team. If there are two areas where Texas could use an upgrade, they are the starting rotation and the outfield. Conveniently, there are some potential solutions to be had at those positions.
The top two free agents remaining on the market are a starter (Kyle Lohse) and a center fielder (Michael Bourn). The most tantalizing star on the trade block is a corner outfielder (Justin Upton). The Rangers might elect to play a long game rather than a short one and hold off until the non-waiver Trade Deadline for any further adds. But if Daniels wants to make late-winter waves again, he has that option.
It was almost exactly one year ago, on Jan. 18, 2012, that the Rangers agreed to a contract with Yu Darvish. They're used to doing significant work late in the offseason.
One key to remember: the Rangers are good about keeping their eyes on the long term. The goal in Arlington has never been to build a one-year wonder, but rather to establish a perennial power. As Daniels and his lieutenants weigh their options, they aren't likely to panic.
And that's an essential consideration, because in the cases of Lohse, Bourn, and Upton, it's not just a matter of money. To acquire any of the three, Texas will also have to sacrifice Minor League talent of one stripe or another.
To get Upton, of course, the Rangers will have to part with prospects. The reported deal with Seattle apparently included Nick Franklin and Taijuan Walker, both of whom ranked among MLB.com's Top 30 prospects in all of baseball.
The D-Backs don't have any glaring needs on their Major League roster, so to acquire the 25-year-old slugger, Texas would almost certainly need to deal at least one player from its trove of elite prospects, a group that includes Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt and Martin Perez.
Even if they were to acquire Upton, it's unclear just how good a fit he would be. Texas has a greater need in center field, where it is expected to use Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin, than at a corner outfield spot, where David Murphy and Nelson Cruz are the starters.
The better fits in the short term, at least, appear to be on the free-agent market. Bourn, a top-flight defensive center fielder, would represent an upgrade at that position over what Texas has now. Lohse would offer stability for a rotation with a lot of talent but little certainty.
But Bourn is a speed player who just turned 30, and with minimal power and only a decent batting eye, he's someone whose offensive game could crater quickly if his speed fades. Lohse is 34, has spent the past 6 1/2 years in the non-designated-hitter league, and the past five in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark.
Oh, and they both would require the Rangers to give up their first-round Draft pick as well as the ability to spend first-round money on subsequent selections. So they would not only cost money, but talent.
With all those yellow flags, the question the Texas front office must ask itself is whether this team is good enough, as is, to risk not making a move. The additions of A.J. Pierzynski and Lance Berkman should help cover some of what was lost when Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton departed in free agency.
Profar and Olt are ready to contribute, and just need the opportunity to do so. And while it may seem unkind, removing Michael Young's bat from the lineup should be a net positive. The Rangers had high hopes for big moves this winter, but they may not be much worse than they were at the end of the season.
The wisest move may be to keep their eyes on the long term, hold onto the assets they have, and adjust in-season. That way they can compete in 2013 without sacrificing the long term.
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.