With the 2013 major league season almost at it's halfway point, the Texas Rangers find themselves sitting in second place in the American League West, two games behind the division-leading Oakland Athletics as of June 20.
With the trade deadline a little more than a month away, Rangers fans will soon start wondering what moves Texas will make in order to keep pace with the A's.
But what about after the end of the 2013 season?
The Rangers go into the 2013-14 offseason with offensive starters Nelson Cruz, David Murphy, Lance Berkman (player option for 2014) and A.J. Pierzynski all set to hit free agency. The offense is not the only question mark moving forward either, as pitchers Colby Lewis, Jason Frasor, Kyle McClellan and Joe Nathan (player option for 2014) all face free agency as well.
With that in mind, the Rangers will go into their offseason with a lot of questions to answer. So who exactly will the Rangers be targeting next offseason?
Jacoby Ellsbury has been tied to the Texas Rangers since last season's trade deadline. At one point, rumors had leaked that Ellsbury, along with Josh Beckett and Kelly Shoppach were nearly dealt to the Rangers in what would have been a deadline blockbuster.
So far in 2013, Ellsbury has done nothing to hurt his chances of landing a big contract at the end of the season. Ellsbury has hit .281/.347/.389 to go along with 42 runs scored while stealing a MLB-leading 31 bases as of June 20.
The big question with Ellsbury is whether or not he is still the MVP player that he showed in 2011 before suffering through a pair of injury-plagued seasons in 2012 and 2013. In 2011, Ellsbury batted .321/.376/.552 with 32 homers, 105 RBI and 39 stolen bases on his way to finishing as runner-up in the AL MVP voting.
With the Rangers potentially looking at losing two starting outfielders this offseason, Ellsbury seems to be the most logical target for a Rangers team that would love to continue to put pressure on opposing teams with speed on the basepaths.
Most likely, the Rangers will be looking at surrendering a first-round draft pick in order to sign Ellsbury, as the Red Sox would be foolish not to slap him with a qualifying offer before letting him leave. It is also likely that the Red Sox will not be willing to overpay for Ellsbury, as both sides have yet to discuss a contract extension, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com.
Choo is currently in the midst of a career season for the Cincinnati Reds, and with his contract set to expire at the end of the season, it couldn't have come at a better time.
Choo has hit .277/.425/.466 with 10 home runs, 23 RBI and 49 runs scored while batting leadoff and playing center field.
Choo is not a natural center fielder; and he was more of a square peg in a round hole when he was acquired this offseason. Choo has posted a minus-1.1 DWAR to date and is more suited for a corner outfield position for wherever he winds up next season.
Similar to Ellsbury, Choo would fit a need for the Rangers and would actually be a better fit overall for Texas than Ellsbury; especially if the power numbers stay the same moving forward.
Choo is a better fit as a three-hole hitter, where he spent the better part of his last two seasons in Cleveland. If the Rangers are either unable or unwilling to re-sign A.J. Pierzynski, Nelson Cruz or Lance Berkman, they will need to fill a few holes in the middle of the order.
Choo will most likely cost the Rangers a first-round pick as well, as it would be surprising if the Reds didn't give Choo a qualifying offer; especially if he continues to play like he has so far in 2013.
Some people may be surprised to see Lincecum on this list, but he would be a perfect fit for the Rangers.
With Yu Darvish and Derek Holland leading the rotation, Lincecum wouldn't be brought in and expected to be a top-of-the-rotation starter like he used to be. In fact, with the emergence of young pitchers Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm, along with the return of Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison from injuries, Lincecum may not even be guaranteed a starting spot in the rotation.
The tricky part here is deciding whether or not Lincecum is looking for the money now or if he wants to give himself the chance to rebuild his stock with a one-year deal in 2014. There will always be a market for quality starting pitchers, especially ones who have two Cy Young Awards under their belt.
If Lincecum wants to look for money now, he could find himself with a middle-of-the-pack team that is willing to overpay on the idea that Lincecum will revert back to his 2008-09 form. If Lincecum wants to prove he is still capable of being an ace, then signing a one-year deal with Texas may be one of his best options.
This is a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Rangers if they target Lincecum, especially if they only commit one year to "The Freak."
McCann may wind up being one of the biggest targets for the Rangers this offseason, especially if they decide not to re-sign A.J. Pierzynski or back up Geovany Soto.
McCann's average is down this season as he is batting .243, which is 35 points lower than his career average. At 29 years old, McCann may finally be starting to feel the wear and tear of being an everyday catcher for Atlanta since 2006.
McCann's veteran leadership, along with his solid bat, would play well in Arlington. The Rangers would also have the ability to put him in the designated hitter role on days when he doesn't catch, allowing McCann to keep his bat in the lineup every day.
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