The Texas Rangers will be making some moves this offseason, and they'll need to be chasing after free agents from the start.
In recent years, the team has been atop the rankings in team batting average. They finished 2012 with the second highest, and 2011 and 2010 with the highest team batting average in the MLB.
What about in 2013?
The Rangers are in the lower half of the top 10 at .262. There has also been an abundance of games where the hitters didn't show up while Rangers starting pitching has dominated. With ace Yu Darvish on the mound, the Rangers have struggled to get a single run on the board several times.
This offseason it's simple: The Rangers need to add at least one above-average hitter to the lineup.
However, before getting to that point, the Rangers need to assess their own players entering free-agency. Both A.J. Pierzynski and Nelson Cruz are players that should be brought back. B/R's Joel Reuter has both players returning to the Rangers in his predictions for the top 50 free agents. Matt Garza is also another player that Reuter predicts to land back with the Rangers.
Assuming that those three players re-sign with the Rangers, here's a look at free agent names the Rangers should be chasing this offseason.
For the Rangers, going after Jacoby Ellsbury is dependent on how far the front office believes Leonys Martin has come along. Even though Martin has made strides this season, hitting .260 with eight home runs, Ellsbury is a proven All-Star and true lead-off hitter that the Rangers could use.
Ellsbury is also a two-time AL stolen base leader and should end up with the most stolen bases when this season ends. Watch Ellsbury steal five bases in one game in the embedded video.
But besides stolen bases, signing Ellsbury equates to adding an everyday contributor. Winning a Silver Slugger in 2011, Ellsbury is currently just three points off from being a career .300 hitter. Being consistent and a proven hitter is the type of player that will help prevent collapses that the Rangers are prone to.
Interest in Ellsbury has been there for the Rangers as well. At the 2012 MLB trade deadline, Ellsbury was discussed in a trade to the Rangers, but no official offers were made.
At the end of the day, what's important to realize here is that the Rangers need to win now. Ellsbury in center field gives the team the best chance to win and continue winning over the next couple of years, whereas Martin could become a .300 hitter four to five years down the road.
Consider Ellsbury an All-Star upgrade to Martin.
There is a seven-time All-Star available this offseason, and his name is Brian McCann. The Rangers need to chase down this catcher fast.
If the Rangers can re-sign Pierzynski, bringing in McCann would solidify the backstop and make way for a rotational designated hitter. He currently switches off at catcher with Evan Gattis for the Atlanta Braves, which limits his playing time in the NL. But coming to the AL, McCann has the option to hit in the DH position while he's not catching.
McCann averages 20 home runs a year in seasons in which he plays 100 games or more (Has played in 99 games as of September 25). He's also an above-average hitter with a career batting average over .275. McCann brings to the table what former Rangers slugger Mike Napoli bought to the table for the club: Exceptional hitting and a powerful bat. See the embedded video.
Do Not Chase List
On the other side of things, here are the players the Rangers shouldn't go after.
For starters, don't get wrapped up in going after Roy Halladay. Halladay recently left a game in which he topped out at 83 MPH. A huge cause for concern for pitchers, this arm fatigue in the former two-time Cy-Young winner could restrict him from being at full health for quite some time.
Don't chase Robinson Cano. It would be a terrible offseason if Jon Daniels spent the entire time trying to sign Cano. After switching agents and signing with Jay-Z and Roc Nation in April, Cano will not only go where the money's at, but he'll go to one of the larger markets.
The easiest prediction is that Cano stays with Jay-Z in New York. But, don't be surprised if Cano takes more in Los Angeles, a team that isn't afraid to spend these days. At the end of the day, with Kinsler, Andrus and Profar, giving an A-Rod type offer to Cano just isn't worth it.
Other names to shy away from include: Jason Bay, Travis Hafner, Phil Hughes, Josh Johnson, Paul Konerko, Andy Pettitte, Kevin Youkilis.
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