With free agency in the near future, general manager Jon Daniels can pursue a couple of bats that would fit perfectly in the Texas Rangers lineup.
First, to assess the Rangers lineup, the 2013 squad lacked the run production left behind by Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young. This team finished eighth in the MLB in both runs and RBI. The 2012 Rangers ended the season first in both categories.
Positions that the Rangers could improve on include both the corner outfield and infield. Moving forward, there is not a guarantee that the Rangers will re-sign their production from the 2013 season. Big names such as Nelson Cruz and A.J. Pierzynski are not yet locked up.
As for being perfect, the Rangers are looking for a bat that can do one of the following: hit for a .300 batting average, hit at least 20 home runs and hit for over 100 RBI.
With that in mind, here's a look at bats that would fit perfectly in the Rangers lineup.
The main takeaway here with Brian McCann is that he has the power that Napoli once provided. Notably, McCann is a lefty and would be able to take full advantage of the porch in right field.
McCann would also fit nicely as a five-hole. He saw a lot of time from that spot with the Atlanta Braves and as well as from the cleanup position.
McCann averages 20 home runs a year, has hit for a .301 average before and has driven in over 90 runs multiple times. Putting McCann in the 2013 lineup instantly makes that team a playoff contender instead of a pretender.
Ellsbury would be a nice upgrade in center field, and he would be the ideal leadoff hitter. In the 2013 regular season he stole 52 bases and hit close to a .300 average.
While Ian Kinsler has been a valuable leadoff hitter, bringing in Ellsbury gives Kinsler a better chance to drive in runs. How about a lineup consisting of Ellsbury, Andrus, Kinsler and Beltre? That would be an All-Star studded top of the lineup.
However, this depends on what the Rangers think of the rising Leonys Martin. Martin still has a lot to prove, and while he does have the ability to be a perennial leadoff hitter, he lacks consistency. Let's say Martin is ready to emerge as an All-Star in 2014. Then why not have both Ellsbury and Martin in the lineup?
Could the Rangers have a reunion with former outfielder Marlon Byrd?
Byrd, now 36, had an excellent year with both the Mets and the Pirates in 2013. He hit for a batting average of .291 and had 24 home runs with 88 RBI. The power is there, and he could be a solid six-hole.
However, he struck out a career-high 144 times. He's also toward the end of his career, and that could be a cause for concern for the Rangers. The power that Byrd brings would help the Rangers, and he would fit perfectly late in the lineup. But the Rangers are unlikely to take a chance on an aging outfielder coming off a nice year late in his career.
Kendrys Morales is a bat that would fit perfectly in the Rangers lineup.
After a breakout year in 2009 in which Morales hit for a .306 average with 34 home runs and 108 RBI, Morales was on his way to more of the same. But a 2010 freak accident after a walk off home run ended his season, and he didn't return until 2012.
Morales can DH sixth or seventh, but has the power to make it to the heart of the order. That's something the Rangers need since Lance Berkman couldn't provide it in 2013. Morales is capable of hitting 20 or more home runs and can drive in close to 100 runs. Any doubts? Check out his power in the embedded video below.
The options for bringing in a free agent bat are thin. The Rangers need to sign Cruz and Pierzynski while going after some of these other free agent names. By building around the likes of Beltre and Kinsler with young players such as Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar, there is no question that the Rangers have a bright future.
Just two seasons removed from back-to-back World Series runs, the Rangers are still very close to making another run. McCann seems to be the go-to option, but a player such as Morales can easily make a huge difference.
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