Feb 26, 2014, 4:11 PM EST
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. First up: The Texas Rangers.
The Big Question: Were the bold moves bold enough?
The past two offseasons seasons saw the division rival Angels make huge additions in Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. Those moves didn’t work and, indeed, those moves are cited as part of the reason the Angels have fizzled. Too much star power, not enough depth, they’ve said. It takes more than the big moves to make a contender. So why should the Rangers’ big offseason moves — trading for Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo be any different?
Because they fit a heck of a lot better with the Rangers than those other guys fit with the Angels, that’s why. The Rangers needed on-base ability at the top of the lineup. They needed someone with pop from the left side who can take advantage of the short porch in right down in Arlington. Choo and Fielder supply that in spades. Indeed, Choo is one of baseball’s true on-base machines, and the fact that Jon Daniels and Ron Washington have committed to batting him leadoff is going to mean good things for the lineup. Getting Prince Fielder out of Detroit — and getting him in shape — will do wonders as well. It’ll be hard to find anyone the baseball punditry says will have a better bounceback year than Fielder.
Yes, the Rangers had to give up Ian Kinsler to snag Fielder, but havung Jurickson Profar move into a regular, everyday role at second base is a nice fallback option. If he plays to his potential, the Rangers could have another star on their hands. If he falters, at least his glove should be solid.
Unlike the Angels, the Rangers were not a team trying to patch over several holes with a couple of high-profile signings. They were a strong team who needed a push over the top after falling a couple games short for the AL West title the past two seasons. With Choo and Fielder they should get it.
What else is going on?
- Injuries to the rotation are going to go a long way towards determining the Rangers’ fate. Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison and Martin Perez make a nice 1-2-3, but Harrison’s early-spring back issues are worth watching and not having Derek Holland around for the first half of the season due to knee surgery is a big problem. If Harrison is OK and Holland can step in when he’s healthy, the rotation should be OK. If both of those guys are gimpy much of the year Ron Washington is going to lean heavily on Alexi Ogando, Nick Tepesch and Tommy Hanson, and all of those guys are question marks. There’s a lot of depth here, but there’s also a chance that Texas is sporting a rotation with way too many 4-5 guys as the season wears on.
- The closer spot could be an all-or-nothing proposition. With Joe Nathan gone we have Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria vying for ninth inning duties. Both are not too far-removed from dominant pitching and even less far-removed from Tommy John surgery. If one bounces back to his old form, the Rangers have a closer. If both do, they have a two-headed monster in the late innings which could shorten games.
- A.J. Pierzynski is in Boston, leaving catching duties to Geovany Soto, who has been a backup the past couple of seasons, and J.P. Arencibia, who was one of the worst offensive players in all of baseball last year. Each is capable of so much more than they’ve done recently. It’ll be interesting to see if either of them can regain lost form.
- Ron Washington’s contract was just extended through 2015. Seems like a late and somewhat short vote of confidence compared to how these things usually go for guys with a couple of pennants under their belt. If the Rangers, after taking on Fielder and signing Choo, underachieve this season, it wouldn’t be at all shocking to see Wash on the hot seat.
Prediction: That seat shouldn’t be too hot, though. The lineup is stacked. If the rotation doesn’t implode, this is one of the best teams in the AL. First place, AL West.
Jan 31, 2015, 10:10 AM EST
While MLB still needs to give their approval, it appears that Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada is one step closer to finally signing with a team.
Jan 31, 2015, 8:56 AM EST
Buxton repeats as MLB.com’s top prospect despite an injury-plagued 2014.
Jan 30, 2015, 10:50 PM EST
Neal Cotts battled numerous injuries and nearly called it quits before the Rangers signed him to a minor league deal in 2012.
Jan 30, 2015, 9:40 PM EST
Joe Kelly has some bold words for non-believers.
Jan 30, 2015, 8:30 PM EST
Yasiel Puig meant it in a good way!
Jan 30, 2015, 7:20 PM EST
The Rockies addressed their depth on Friday, signing reliever Rafael Betancourt and utility infielder Omar Quintanilla to minor league deals.
Jan 30, 2015, 6:10 PM EST
The Red Sox are willing to trade reliever Edward Mujica, according to a report.
Jan 30, 2015, 5:11 PM EST
This is gonna turn some heads.
Jan 30, 2015, 4:55 PM EST
MLB has been suspending guys by the truckload lately.
Jan 30, 2015, 4:26 PM EST
He hit .293 with 21 homers and a .930 OPS in 102 games last season, topping 200 plate appearances for the first time at age 31.
Jan 30, 2015, 4:10 PM EST
A couple of pitchers who don’t profile well in a hitters’ environment for a couple of catchers who have shown a little at the plate. Advantage: Braves.
Jan 30, 2015, 3:49 PM EST
Ogando posted a 3.12 ERA in 381 innings from 2010-2013.
Jan 30, 2015, 3:07 PM EST
The lack of a DH and the health of Miguel Cabrera are the determining factors.
Jan 30, 2015, 1:04 PM EST
Baker has struggled to regain his form after missing all of 2012 following Tommy John elbow surgery.
Jan 30, 2015, 12:30 PM EST
And he’s not selling jeans here.
Jan 30, 2015, 12:19 PM EST
He’s back on the open market.
Jan 30, 2015, 11:21 AM EST
“Operation Foul Ball” was actually a thing.
Jan 30, 2015, 10:49 AM EST
Paulino was once a young power with lots of upside, but injuries have repeatedly derailed his career.
Jan 30, 2015, 10:20 AM EST
LaHair looks destined to go down as one of the least successful All-Stars of all time.
Jan 30, 2015, 9:57 AM EST
He’s entering the final year of his contract.
- MLB.com names Byron Buxton as baseball’s top prospect for second straight year 3
- Yasiel Puig says the Cardinals are the Dodgers’ “principal rivals,” not the Giants 76
- Jayson Werth to serve five days in jail for reckless driving 47
- Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list is out 39
- Great Moments in Media Arrogance: Marshawn Lynch edition 173
- Nationals sign former Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen 11
- Ichiro Suzuki’s deal with the Marlins is worth $2 million 35
- Orioles acquire outfielder Travis Snider from Pirates 37
- Great Moments in Media Arrogance: Marshawn Lynch edition (173)
- Rob Manfred, new Major League Baseball commissioner, suggests ban on defensive shifts (118)
- Why “Deflategate” would never happen in baseball (96)
- The Yankees are going to try to get out of paying A-Rod his contract incentives (83)
- Yasiel Puig says the Cardinals are the Dodgers’ “principal rivals,” not the Giants (76)