Is Michael Bourn Rangers' Top Backup Plan After Losing Josh Hamilton?
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This has not been a good offseason for the Texas Rangers thus far.
They lost out on Zack Greinke, who signed with the Los Angeles Angels. Another pitcher Texas was reportedly looking at, James Shields, was traded to the Kansas City Royals. And an unwillingness to trade one of their shortstops likely cost the Rangers the chance to trade for Justin Upton.
Even Josh Hamilton isn't a fallback plan anymore, as it appears that he will be signing with the Los Angeles Angels. Fox Sports West's Joe McDonnell first reported that there was major interest between the two parties and Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports followed up with news that Hamilton has agreed to a five-year deal.
Where do the Rangers go from here? General manager Jon Daniels hasn't gotten the No. 1 starter for his rotation, and now he has a major hole in his outfield. But despite these disappointments, Texas still has several options available.
Outfielder Michael Bourn could be the next player Daniels pursues. He would definitely fill the Rangers' opening in center field, but is a completely different sort of player than Hamilton. Bourn stole 42 bases for the Atlanta Braves last year, batting .274 with a .739 OPS.
Where Texas has been more of a slugging powerhouse lineup in recent seasons, adding Bourn could make the Rangers more of a running team. Manager Ron Washington likes to move runners around the basepaths—four players in the Texas lineup had double-digit stolen base totals—so that style should appeal to him.
The Rangers led MLB with 808 runs scored this season and might figure they can sacrifice some of Hamilton's run production for someone who can get on base and score more runs with his speed.
But Texas may also want to replace Hamilton's power in its lineup.
If that's the case, Nick Swisher could be its best choice.
Swisher won't hit as many home runs as Hamilton, but not many MLB batters do. Last season for the New York Yankees, the switch-hitting Swisher smacked 24 home runs with 93 RBI. He batted .272 with an .837 OPS.
Swisher would also provide the lineup with some versatility, as he can play both corner outfield spots and first base.
Is it possible that the Rangers could sign both players? That seems unlikely, given that each will be seeking top dollar on the free-agent market.
But if Texas had budgeted approximately $125 million for Hamilton (no word on whether the team would have gone that high), that money could conceivably be split between Bourn and Swisher. That's presuming that each of them would get contracts worth around $75 million apiece.
Another possibility for the Rangers at first base could now be Adam LaRoche. The Washington Nationals want to bring LaRoche back and he wants to return to D.C, but the two sides haven't been able to hammer out an agreement.
The sticking point is believed to be a third year on a contract. As MLB.com's Adam Berry explains, LaRoche wants a three-year deal, but the Nats aren't budging past two.
LaRoche would definitely replace some of Hamilton's power in the Rangers' batting order. He would also be a left-handed, middle-of-the-order bat to go with Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz in the lineup. The first baseman had a great season for the Nationals last year, slugging 33 home runs with 100 RBI. He batted .271 with an .853 OPS.
One reason the Nationals might not want to give LaRoche a three-year deal is because he's 33 years old.
But the Nats also have other options at first base, including Michael Morse and Tyler Moore. It's also possible that Ryan Zimmerman could eventually move over to first when top prospect Anthony Rendon is ready for the major leagues.
The Rangers might be willing to give LaRoche three years, knowing that he could move over to designated hitter by the end of the deal if necessary.
Yet if Texas wants to play both Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar in its middle infield next season, second baseman Ian Kinsler will likely move over to first base, as reported by ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett.
With that, the Rangers obviously wouldn't have a need for LaRoche and could focus on signing an outfielder. Signing Bourn or Swisher seems to be of a higher probability under those circumstances.
If getting a left-handed power bat is most important, the Rangers could also pursue catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Pierzynski hit a career-high 27 home runs with an .827 OPS this season. Does he have another year like that in him at the age of 35?
According to ESPN's Buster Olney, Texas has told Geovany Soto that he will be the starting catcher. But that was before Hamilton signed with the Angels.
While losing out on yet another player has to be a bitter disappointment for Daniels and the Rangers, there are enough alternatives remaining for Texas to still put together a strong offseason.
Those options are swiftly disappearing, though.
However, with the improvements that the Angels have made to their roster, the Rangers can't stand pat and expect to stay ahead of Anaheim in the AL West. The gap has closed considerably and Daniels needs to do something to keep the Angels—and the Oakland Athletics—at a distance.
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