Can the Texas Rangers Absorb Offseason Losses?
Andrus and Beltre will be back to anchor the left side of the infield
First Texas lost its chance to three-peat as American League Champions.
It was at the same time they were swept out of October by the A’s (taking away the western divisional crown on the regular season’s final day) and then in a one game showdown with the Baltimore Orioles (officially eliminating them from playing in the division series).
Texas took a definitive step backward at the end of the regular season and have not done much in the way of Free Agency to replace the departures of: Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, Michael Young (who was traded) and pitchers: Scott Feldman, Ryan Dempster, Roy Oswalt, Mark Lowe Koji Uehara and Mike Adams.
The main concern in Arlington this offseason is rooted in the loss of production from its superstar, Hamilton, and their productive catcher, Napoli.
The duo combined for 67 home runs and 184 RBI for a team which lead the AL with 808 runs scored.
Add in the former face of the franchise in Young and Texas finds itself needing to find a way to replace 75 home runs and nearly 250 rbi, more than a quarter of its team’s production last season (200 HR and 808 runs scored).
Replacing the offense
Texas carried its offense to a 93 win season, but fell victim to a one game playoff loss and will now have a full offseason to recover for the first time since 2009.
Though they have signed A.J. Pierzynski to help absorb the loss of Napoli (Pierzynski slugged 27 HR and drove in 77 RBI last season), he is still in his mid 30′s and it does nothing to replace the most important hitter in the lineup.
Players like Michael Bourn, Nyjer Morgan and Grady Sizemore could make sense for the Rangers and remain unsigned. Texas has Nelson Cruz and David Murphy available in the outfield corners next season and is likely to allocate most of its at bats at DH to rookie Mike Olt, who will concede third base to Adrian Beltre for at least one more season.
This also means Texas is likely looking for a more balanced approach than a 2012 campaign which saw a drop of 52 stolen bases and 8% of stolen base efficiency (a success rate dip from 75% in 2011 to 67% in 2012).
Logically, with Hamilton’s long-term commitment no longer a reality and a very deep farm system, the Rangers could go the route of signing Bourn once his price continues to come down.
Bourn would add a top of the order bat and can finally bump Ian Kinsler to the middle of the order with Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre.
With Bourn’s speed, elite defense and acceptable stolen base percentage, he could be a key table setter and help compensate for a weaker middle of the order.
The real difference will have to come from the newcomers
Top prospect, Jurickson Profar and the 16th ranked Olt are likely to make impacts throughout the season, and will have to if Texas wants to continue with an elite offense. With enormous potential in two unproven players, the Rangers have a better shot than most teams at compensating a major loss without signing someone from another team.
A bounceback season from Cruz, who slugged just 24 HR last season will also help the cause, as will added speed throughout the lineup.
The Rangers will have to decide between locking up an outfielder like Bourn for the next 3-5 years, or leaving the spot open for younger players to take it and risk not capitalizing on regaining an elite team on the bases.
Signing a player like Sizemore, no guarantee to stay healthy but certainly fast and with some pop if he can stay on the field, capable of playing elite defense in center field and available on a short-term deal, would probably offer just the right amount of risk for Jon Daniels and his staff.
With an increase in stolen bases and speed, Texas can do more with an inevitable dip in home runs, something they will not be able to replace unless they flip some prospects for a major established hitter like Justin Upton, which seems less and less like it will happen before the season begins.
Another way to compensate for a fractured offense is through a compounded defense
Young’s departure is likely to mean an improvement in the infield and the outfield should offer plenty of speed regardless of who mans center field.
Andrus and Beltre will be back for arguably the best defensive left side of the infield in baseball and a bench of Profar, Martin and Soto offers plenty of depth.
And pitching of course
With Martin Perez (41st overall prospect) likely in the fifth spot in the rotation and Colby Lewis returning from injury to provide depth, Texas should have as good of a rotation as last season with higher upside.
Dempster and Oswalt were not particularly successful trying to adjust to the American League and Perez could be a rookie of the year candidate while Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando will try to continue to build off of solid 2012 campaigns.
The Rangers will have a tough time matching the 200 home runs (4th in the AL) it hit in 2012, but that doesn’t mean it can’t approach the 800+ runs scored or the +101 run differential it posted.
Though the Rangers may be feared less for rounding the bases in 2013, better base-running, a faster lineup, superior defense and better pitching could lead to just as much success whether they pursue free agents or not before Spring Training.