Entering the hot stove season, the Texas Rangers will gear their moves towards reclaiming the AL West and once again returning to the World Series.
Whether they are the team making the waves or not, the courting of All-Star slugger Josh Hamilton should keep the Rangers at the forefront of signing rumors this winter.
After losing both the division title and Wild Card Round, Rangers fans will hope for redemption in 2013, but that is not enough. Here are five reasons the Rangers must make moves this offseason.
On Friday, John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus first tweeted (h/t CBS Sports):
Although Hamilton was extended a qualifying offer, he will still likely garner a great deal of attention from teams around the MLB. Conversely, Hamilton is one player and $175 million can go a long way for the Rangers.
In 2012, Texas was at or near the top of the league in both runs and home runs.
Josh Hamilton accounted for 21.5 percent of the team’s total home runs and 16.4 percent of the team's total RBI. Only Adrian Beltre challenged that production in both of those categories.
Hamilton may be just one player, but he is one player who will leave a large void that the Rangers will be hard-pressed to fill.
For the first time in two years, the Rangers will not enter the season as defending AL West champions. That title belongs to the Oakland Athletics.
In the second half of the season, the Athletics surpassed the Rangers by compiling the most runs and home runs in the major leagues.
It remains to be seen how long the A’s can sustain this sabermetric offense. However, what is certain is that their core of players—which took the Detroit Tigers to five games in the ALDS—will return in 2013 to challenge the AL West.
Also in the West, the Rangers will have to contend with the Angels and their young center fielder, Mike Trout.
With Torii Hunter testing free agency and Dan Haren being bought out on the final year of his contract, the Angels figure to be looking younger in 2013.
Along with Trout, the Los Angeles will likely try to retain pitcher Zack Greinke moving forward. They also have a pretty good first baseman named Albert Pujols hitting in the middle of their lineup.
Behind this core group, the Angels are poised to match other teams in the West move-for-move this winter.
When he was offered the extension, Washington had just led the Rangers to their second-consecutive World Series appearance. It was also their second-consecutive World Series loss.
Washington and the Rangers are on the precipice of breaking that threshold and winning their first World Series in franchise history. That window is rapidly closing, however.
The Athletics are just one example of the growing competitive parity in the American League. Going into the last two weeks of the season this year, the Rangers led the A’s by five games, yet lost five of their last seven games head-to-head.
Certainly fluky plays occurred, but performances like that can get a coach fired by other organizations. Washington’s seat will remain cool for the moment, but, if he has the pieces to work with, expect the scrutiny to sharpen in focus.
With two years remaining on his contract, Elvis Andrus is ripe for trading.
In a year with a weak free-agency market, particularly at shortstop, Andrus can offer immediate impact to a team willing to trade for him.
They are not overwhelming numbers, but Andrus’ .286 average and 85 runs are absolutely impactful. More than that, his speed resulted in 21 stolen bases in 2012.
He's also fairly reliable with the glove, making just 16 errors in 153 games this season.
Andrus’ value could yield a player that would help round out a lineup that will evolve in 2013. This is not to say that he will move, but expect there to be talks throughout the offseason.
Once an All-Star-caliber shortstop, Michael Young saw the majority of his at-bats as a DH this season.
In the last three years, Ranger fans have seen Young move from shortstop to third base to first base before finally being relegated to a DH role in 2012.
That would be fine, if Young could hit like a DH.
In 275 at-bats as a designated hitter, Michael Young had just four home runs and 30 RBI. In 2012, he only had eight home runs total.
It is true that Young has lost a step defensively and that Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre are better defensive options at their respective positions, but when Young’s bat falters the way it has, he becomes a liability.
Moving Young to first base also steals playing time from a younger Mitch Moreland, who—although only marginally better—did hit 15 home runs in 2012.
Moreland deserves a more defined role, at least coming out of spring training. It's time to say goodbye to the Rangers' veteran infielder.