The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Rangers prepare to welcome new teammates

By Benjamin Whiting/reporter

The MLB offseason has officially begun, and the Texas Rangers have a number of questions to address, either through free-agency or trade.

Highest on the Rangers’ priority list is deciding who will play center field next year. Marlon Byrd proved capable defensively and put up surprising offensive stats last season, but the team plans to move him to right or left field if they can sign a more established center fielder.

At the top of the market is Torii Hunter. The 32-year-old outfielder is coming off one of his best seasons for Minnesota, setting a career high in RBI and winning his seventh consecutive Gold Glove. Texas has made it clear that Hunter is the first choice, but several other players will draw the team’s attention.

Aaron Rowand just finished perhaps his best overall season, setting career highs in multiple offensive categories. Corey Patterson and Coco Crisp are two other options—Patterson as a free agent and Crisp through trade with the Boston Red Sox.

If the team decides to stick with Byrd in center, it will have an open spot in either left or right field.

Among the free agents for those positions is Kosuke Fukudome, a Japanese star looking to make the transition to the major leagues.

Fukudome had an outstanding season in 2006 as the Central League MVP, but he was hampered in 2007 by an elbow injury.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s status is also an important aspect of Texas’ offseason. Where the Rangers ultimately decide to play Saltalamacchia next season will impact several other positions and the players the Rangers will need to fill them.

After arriving in the Mark Teixeira trade last summer, Saltalamacchia split time with Gerald Laird at catcher as well as playing several games a week at first base. If Saltalamacchia returns to his original position at catcher, it will leave Gerald Laird without a consistent source of playing time as well as a gap at first base.

The Rangers could attempt to sign Sean Casey as a replacement at first, or they could bring back Brad Wilkerson.

Neither player was impressive last season, however, and moving Frank Catalanotto from left field to first might prove to be the best option.

Leaving Saltala-macchia at first base is not necessarily a better option though since he struggled defensively at the position last year, committing nine errors in 24 games with the team. Also, Saltalamacchia’s bat loses value at first base, which is traditionally a stronger offensive position than catcher.

Finally, Texas needs to address the role of closer for next season. Akinori Otsuka may be the most likely candidate for the spot, provided he can return healthy from the forearm tendonitis that ended his season last year. Eric Gagne and Mariano Rivera are also free agents who could provide veteran production at the position, but the money they would demand may exclude them from the Rangers’ considerations.

Instead of attempting to land a premier closer from those available, Texas seems inclined at this point to use a player from within the organization and settle for a less expensive reliever to satisfy their desire for an experienced pitcher. Luis Vizcaino, Scott Linebrink and J.C. Romero are among those who could elicit offers from Texas.

Whomever the Rangers decide to pursue, they will be able to do so without worrying quite as much about the monetary side of things.

The team was scheduled to pay the New York Yankees $21.3 million over the next three seasons as a part of the agreement reached when Texas traded Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees four years ago.

When Rodriguez recently opted out of the remainder of his contract, it removed the Rangers’ obligation and freed up the money for other use.

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