The Rangers had one heck of a year. For the first time in franchise history, the Rangers won a playoff series, a pennant and earned a World Series appearance. The core of the ballclub is young, healthy, solid and under contract. Despite all that, general manager Jon Daniels has a number of critical moves he needs to pull off during the offseason if the Rangers are to be successful again next season.
The most obvious call for an offseason move is for owner Nolan Ryan to break open his wallet in order to keep Cliff Lee. Lee struggled in the regular season after being traded from Seattle, but his clutch performances against the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees were second to none.
More importantly, the Rangers need an established ace to anchor their pitching rotation. Lee’s presence and mentorship made a gigantic impact on the pitching rotation. C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis both made claims that the 2008 Cy Young Award winner helped mature their styles of pitching. Lee was the key to winning major games in the playoffs and was a leader in the clubhouse. If there is any one move that Chuck Greenberg, Daniels and the rest of the Rangers brass need to do, it’s to resign Lee and make him a permanent staple in Texas.
Lee isn’t the only other free agent the Rangers must take into consideration. Aging vets, catcher Bengie Molina and designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, are also eligible to go on the market. It’s a difficult question of should the Rangers should spend the required arbitration money on the two. With Molina’s potential retirement and the uncertainty of consistent play from Guerrero, justification for another season in Texas will be a challenge.
Even though Molina is considering retirement, the Rangers should definitely try to pick up his option. Despite his lack of speed and power, Molina is incredible at calling pitches and is known as a pitcher’s favorite behind the plate. He brings a sense of calm to the game like no other. With a lack of other available catchers for the Rangers, the front office should chase after Molina for 2011.
Vladdy is a complete toss up. As Game 1 of the World Series showed, Guerrero is a liability in the outfield. After being stuck in a designated hitter role, he’ll need to fight to prove that he’s still capable of bringing a big bat next season. With the addition of Jeff Francoeur, who is cheaper than Guerrero and also can play in the outfield, the outfield has a plethora of capable hitters and fielders.
It would be simple for manager Ron Washington to put anyone in the designated hitter slot. Guerrero really doesn’t have a need to fill with the Rangers anymore and most likely doesn’t have much left in the tank. It’s a hard call, but the Rangers will probably be better off without him.
The last thing that the Rangers front office should try to do is acquire another strong-armed reliever. Before getting injured, Frank Francisco, who is also going to be a free agent, was a great asset to the bullpen. As the postseason showed, Texas missed him. It’s not good enough to only have one fiery setup man for Neftali Feliz.
This year’s free agent cycle features players like Jesse Crain, Jason Frasor and Kyle Farnsworth. All are capable of throwing in the mid to high 90s and are established setup men. If the budget allows, it would be wise for the Rangers to pick up one more relief pitcher who can throw heat.
The Rangers had a fantastic season, and it should be expected that they will continue to see more success in the future. If they wish to see another American League pennant next year, however, there’s a lot of offseason work to be done.
J.D. Moore is a freshman journalism major from Honolulu, Hawaii.