Power Hitters the Rangers Can Grab to Replace Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli
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With Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli heading elsewhere as free agents this winter, the Texas Rangers have lost two guys who combined to hit 67 home runs in 2012.
The Rangers need to add some power to their lineup, and Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News says that's precisely what they aim to do:
Spoke with a source today who said both the Rangers and Mariners prefer power over speed as they look to add a hitter.— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) December 20, 2012
With Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com and Jim Bowden of ESPN and SiriusXM reporting that the Rangers have agreed to terms with A.J. Pierzynski, who hit a career-high 27 home runs in 2012, their need for power has been partially filled.
But only partially. The Rangers still have work to do to completely replace the power they've lost this winter, and to do so, they must consider all their options on both the free-agent and trade markets.
Since the Rangers have a fair amount of money to spend and a deep collection of desirable trade chips, the good news is that there may be plenty of doors out there still open to them.
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Cody Ross and Fenway Park proved to be a match made in heaven. Ross posted a .807 OPS and hit 22 home runs in his first (and likely only) season with the Red Sox in 2012, with 13 of his 22 homers coming at home.
Ross is now on the lookout for a multi-year contract, and T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com says that the Rangers have him on their radar. He could play right field in Texas, with Nelson Cruz taking up the DH spot left vacant by the trade of Michael Young.
Ross is a classic pull hitter whose swing wouldn't play quite as well in Texas as it did in Boston, but he has a decent enough track record of success. He's had four seasons in which he's played in at least 130 games, and he's hit at least 20 home runs in three of them.
All he has to do is get the ball in the air. Ross has a career HR/FB rate of 12.9 percent, according to FanGraphs, and his HR/FB rate has topped the 10.0 threshold in three of the last four seasons.
If the Rangers would rather target a lefty hitter with power to take Hamilton's place, there's one guy they can sign instead of Ross.
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Adam LaRoche picked a darn good time to have a career year.
Sullivan says that LaRoche is yet another player on Texas' radar, and it may have a legit shot at signing him with talks between LaRoche and the Washington Nationals said to be at a stalemate, according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com.
Because he's 33 years old, signing LaRoche to a multi-year contract would certainly come with some risk. The Rangers can be less worried about LaRoche's power, however, as his power surge in 2012 wasn't necessarily a fluke.
LaRoche has always been a dependable power hitter. He's topped 25 home runs in five of the last seven seasons, and he owns a .482 slugging percentage for his career. Per FanGraphs, his HR/FB rate is routinely right around 15.0 percent.
If the Rangers would prefer to go a little younger and a little more versatile than LaRoche, there's one obvious option for them on what is quickly becoming a shallow free-agent market.
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Nick Swisher was waiting patiently for Josh Hamilton to set the market with his new deal. Now that he has, Swisher is making the rounds.
The word from Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com is that the Rangers are in on Swisher, who could play right field and/or first base for them. As a switch-hitter who can hit pretty much anywhere, he'd also bring some versatility to their lineup.
Swisher's power isn't as immense as Hamilton's, but it's nothing if not consistent. Swisher has hit at least 20 homers in each of the last eight seasons, averaging 26 per season in his four years with the Yankees.
Like Adam LaRoche, Swisher's HR/FB rates tend to be right around the 15.0 mark (see FanGraphs). He doesn't really have Yankee Stadium to thank for his power production as a Yankee, as he actually tended to be a better hitter on the road than he was at home.
Because Swisher's production is like clockwork and he still has a couple prime years left in his 32-year-old body, he's easily the safest signing the Rangers can make after losing Hamilton and Mike Napoli.
If they're after a hitter (or hitters) with more potential, however, they're going to have to turn to the trade market. And if they do, they're going to have to aim high and leave no stone unturned.
Since the Rangers have lost a superstar outfielder and there are no superstar outfielders left on the free-agent market, the only place they're going to find one is on the trade market.
Jacoby Ellsbury, anyone?
Ellsbury entered the offseason as a candidate to be traded with free agency looming next winter, but Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com has heard from Red Sox GM Ben Cherington that the club has no intention of trading him.
Because that's coming straight from a GM, however, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Cherington would accomplish little by telling the world that Ellsbury is available, and saying that he's not going to be traded doesn't mean he's not listening. ESPN's Buster Olney said that Cherington indeed was willing to listen as of earlier this month.
The Rangers could be the team that blows Boston away with an offer for Ellsbury. They showed interest in acquiring him at the trade deadline this year, and they could be motivated to go get him now because of his enormous potential in a contract year.
The hope would be that Ellsbury would stay healthy and get back to where he was in 2011. He posted a .928 OPS, hit 32 home runs, stole 39 bases, won a Gold Glove and finished second in the MVP voting.
The red flag about that season is how his power came out of nowhere. Per FanGraphs, his HR/FB rate was 16.7 after never climbing above 7.0 in a full season, and his ISO went from the low .100s to .230.
If the Rangers would rather acquire somebody with a better track record, they can do better.
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Over the last three seasons, Carlos Gonzalez has compiled a .918 OPS and hit 82 home runs with 66 stolen bases.
And since CarGo is only 27 and locked up through 2017 at reasonable rates, why on earth would the Rockies want to trade him?
Indications are that they indeed would rather not. ESPN's Jayson Stark has reported that CarGo drew plenty of interest at the winter meetings, but that the Rockies rebuffed all interested parties.
He's worth discussing anyway, however, because the Rangers are one of the few teams in baseball with the young players to make Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd reconsider his stance on trading Gonzalez.
In shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar, the Rangers have one of the top trade chips in all of baseball. If they were to dangle him in front of the Rockies, they could seize a chance to move All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to third base while replacing him at shortstop with a future All-Star.
The Rangers could also offer the Rockies third base prospect Mike Olt, who could play at the hot corner alongside Tulo, and they could offer young lefty Martin Perez to sweeten the deal.
The odds of a deal actually being done here are admittedly very slim, though, and that has just as much to do with the Rangers as it does the Rockies.
Gonzalez's career numbers are great, but Coors Field has a lot to do with that. He has a 1.054 OPS for his career at Coors Field, and just a .735 OPS on the road.
The Rangers are better off targeting a different Rockies outfielder.
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It's very unlikely that the Rockies will trade Carlos Gonzalez this winter. Michael Cuddyer, on the other hand, could be packing his bags fairly soon.
The Rockies are desperate for pitching, and Troy Renck of The Denver Post has indicated that Cuddyer is one of two players they could be willing to move for an arm or two (the other being Dexter Fowler).
Cuddyer was limited to 101 games in his first season with the Rockies, but his production while he was healthy was fairly typical. He posted an .806 OPS and hit 16 home runs, and he only hit two more home runs at home than he did on the road.
Cuddyer proved during his time with the Minnesota Twins that he doesn't need a park like Coors Field to post solid power numbers. He would surely do just fine if he were to transition over to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and the Rangers would get to keep him for two years at only $10.5 million per season.
The price to acquire Cuddyer wouldn't be nearly as high as the price to acquire Gonzalez. The Rangers could satisfy Colorado's desire for pitching by trading them Derek Holland, but they could also keep him and build a deal around Martin Perez instead.
If the Rockies want more than that for Cuddyer, there are other trade targets the Rangers can turn to.
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It still feels like Corey Hart is one of the most overlooked sluggers in baseball. Since 2007, he's hit more home runs than Hanley Ramirez, David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman and Joey Votto.
Come next offseason, Hart will be testing the free-agent waters for the first time. Between now and then, he's slated to make $10 million in 2013.
This idea may not be current anymore now that many of the top free-agent starters on the market are spoken for, but the Brewers could always acquire a pitcher for Hart in a trade with the Rangers if they're still desperate to land one.
Not that it would be simple for the Rangers to make such a trade. Trading several years of Derek Holland for potentially one year of Hart wouldn't make sense, and Martin Perez may not be appealing enough for the Brewers to say yes. If the Rangers were to get their heart set on Hart, they'd have to get creative.
And he may not be worth the trouble. Hart has plenty of pop in his bat, but his career home/road splits are very alarming. He has a .629 slugging percentage at home for his career, and a .393 slugging percentage on the road.
Hart's power could translate just fine to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, but the Rangers are likely to aim a lot bigger if they're going to take a risk.
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It's no big secret that the Rangers covet Justin Upton and that they tried really, really hard to get him earlier this winter.
"I would say with all the areas we've addressed, I would say it's highly unlikely that we move Justin," said Towers, via MLB.com.
So there's that. But since a GM said it, believe it at your own peril.
You can believe Ken Rosenthal instead, who has heard that executives around the league still expect Upton to be traded this winter. The D-Backs risk watching his trade value take a dive if he underperforms again in 2013, and they may be asking for that to happen after messing with his head by putting him on the block only to pull him off for the umpteenth time.
There's still a deal to be made for Upton. Rosenthal heard from one exec last week that Towers may still jump at a chance to acquire Elvis Andrus even after acquiring DiDi Gregorius, and he's still expendable as long as the Rangers keep Jurickson Profar in town.
Upton's career has been up and down, but he's the kind of player who's worth taking a risk on because of his 30-30 potential and team-friendly contract. He's owed less than $40 million over the next three years.
If the Diamondbacks refuse to budge on Upton for anything less than Andrus, the Rangers could always ask for one of their other outfielders.
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The Diamondbacks aren't in a position to sell high on Justin Upton after the season he just had, but they certainly are in a position to sell high on Jason Kubel.
Kubel had a fine season for the Diamondbacks in 2012, posting a .833 OPS and hitting a career-high 30 home runs. He's a defensive liability, but the power the Rangers need is definitely there.
Buster Olney speculated that Kubel could be a Plan B for the Rangers if they can't land Upton, and their odds of getting him may be higher than their odds of getting Upton. It helps that the D-Backs seem to be more willing to move Kubel than Upton, as Steve Gilbert of MLB.com suggested last week.
A potential trade for Kubel is harder to figure than a potential trade for Upton, as the Rangers wouldn't give up Andrus or Profar for him and the Diamondbacks would be wasting their time if they were to ask. The Rangers could base a deal around a pitcher, but the D-Backs already have plenty of those.
One idea would be to package a deal around David Murphy, who could take Kubel's place in Arizona and replace some of the production the D-Backs would be losing if they were to trade him. Murphy is a free agent after 2013, but Kubel himself only has one guaranteed year left on his deal.
Kubel would be a candidate to hit upwards of 30 home runs with regular playing time at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and the Rangers would surely choose to exercise his 2014 option if he were to provide the power they're looking for.
If doing business with the Diamondbacks doesn't get any easier with Kubel on the table, the Rangers should try calling Kubel's old team about one of their outfielders.
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The Twins scored the best value deal of the offseason when they signed Josh Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract last winter.
Willingham went on to post an .890 OPS and hit 35 home runs, an impressive total seeing as how he was playing half his games at a ballpark in Target Field that is traditionally unkind to hitters.
Now, everyone and their uncle wants Willingham. Earlier this month, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reported that the Twins had received a ton of phone calls about Willingham from teams with excess pitching to offer.
This was after the Twins traded Denard Span for pitching, but before they traded Ben Revere for pitching. With young pitching acquired and their outfield depleted, it's even harder to imagine them trading Willingham now than it was before.
The Rangers may be able to sway them, but this is a case where the pitcher going the other way would most likely have to be Derek Holland. He's young enough to fit right into Minnesota's rebuilding process, and the Twins wouldn't have to worry about him going anywhere. Holland's contract is good through 2016 with options for 2017 and 2018.
If the Twins were to do a deal for Holland, the Rangers would be getting a guy who has hit only four fewer home runs than Hamilton over the last two seasons. And if he can hit 35 home runs while playing half his games at Target Field, he may be able to do better with regular action in Arlington.
If the Twins say no, the Rangers could target an outfielder with even more pop in his bat.
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Curtis Granderson has hit more home runs than any other player in baseball over the last two seasons, an impressive feat for a center fielder who doesn't look like a slugger to the naked eye.
Nonetheless, the Yankees aren't entirely committed to holding on to Granderson for the long haul. He told Ken Davidoff of the New York Post this week that he expects to hit free agency next winter, and he may be traded before then.
According to Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com, Granderson is one of a couple players the Yankees are willing to take offers for. But if they do trade Granderson, they would probably only do it for a player who could help them keep some of the considerable power they'd be parting with.
Like with Jason Kubel, it's not immediately apparent what the Rangers could offer the Yankees. One thing they could do, however, is offer the Yankees Nelson Cruz with a controllable player (such as defensive whiz Craig Gentry) as an attachment. The swap would essentially be a power righty bat for a power lefty bat, with both players set to hit free agency in 2014.
Granderson hit just as many home runs as Josh Hamilton in 2012, so theoretically, the Rangers wouldn't be losing anything in replacing Hamilton with Granderson.
If the price is too high or the Yankees prove to be unwilling to part with Granderson, there are a couple more readily available sluggers the Rangers could trade for.
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The Nationals already have more than enough talent on their roster. If they re-sign Adam LaRoche, they'll officially have too much talent.
If LaRoche stays on as Washington's first baseman, there will be no room for Mike Morse in the club's starting lineup. As it is, Jayson Stark said the Nationals started shopping Morse as soon as the Denard Span trade was completed.
Morse doesn't really have a natural position, but he certainly has plenty of power in his bat. He hit 31 home runs in 2011 with a .550 slugging percentage, and he hit 18 home runs with a .470 slugging percentage in 2012 despite battling injuries much of the year.
Morse's power production technically went way down in 2012, but it's a good sign that he actually hit the ball out of the park at a better rate than he did in 2011. Per FanGraphs, Morse's HR/FB rate increased from 21.2 percent to 23.4 percent.
The Rangers would have a significantly easier time acquiring Morse than they would any of the other trade candidates on this list. The Nationals won't be in a position to play hard to get if they re-sign LaRoche. They'll be in a position to take the best deal they can get.
The Rangers wouldn't part with any of their top prospects to get Morse, but they could be willing to offer the Nationals bullpen help. Jim Bowden has suggested that's all it would take to get Morse.
There's another slugger out there the Rangers could target who's even more readily available than Morse.
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The Cubs are trying to move as far away from the Jim Hendry era as they possibly can. Indications are that they'd love nothing more than to rid themselves of Hendry's biggest misstep.
The Cubs want Alfonso Soriano gone. So much so, in fact, that Jon Heyman has said that the Cubs are willing to pick up $26 million of the $36 million still owed to Soriano.
After what Soriano did in 2012, that doesn't sound like such a bad deal. He hit over 30 home runs for the first time since 2007, and he even had a decent year defensively in left field (see FanGraphs).
Soriano is going to turn 37 in January, but he may still have some gas left in his tank. His success in 2012 was owed largely to his switch to a lighter bat early in the season, which allowed him to reclaim some lost bat speed. If he continues to use a lighter bat, he could keep the power coming.
If the Cubs were to pick up $26 million of the $36 million owed to Soriano over the next two years, the Rangers wouldn't be able to get him for nothing. They'd likely have to give up a pitcher, most likely one of the two left-handers whose names have been mentioned over and over in the previous slides.
If Soriano were to come to the Rangers and hit 60 or so home runs over the next two seasons, that wouldn't be such a bad trade.
If the Rangers want to blow everyone away, however, there's only one slugger they should be targeting.
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The Marlins want everyone to believe that Giancarlo Stanton isn't going anywhere. According to Jon Heyman, the Marlins would much rather build around Stanton than jettison him while he still has years of controllability left.
Danny Knobler has heard that there Stanton has a price tag anyway, and Joe Frisario of MLB.com wondered after Josh Hamilton signed whether the Marlins would consider doing business with the Rangers for Stanton.
It would take a lot for the Rangers just to get Miami's attention. "A lot" in this case may be an offer based around both Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt, two potential superstars who the Marlins could build around.
If an offer of the two of them is good enough to get the Marlins to listen, the Rangers could proceed to add more players from their deep farm system. They're one of a handful of teams in baseball that can put together a trade proposal impressive enough to the point where the Marlins would be foolish to say no.
In return, the Rangers would be getting a hitter with 93 home runs in 373 big league games and the highest HR/FB rate in the majors since 2010 (see FanGraphs).
There is no better slugger for them to target than Stanton.
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