It was just two years ago when the Texas Rangers made their second consecutive World Series appearance.
In 2012, the Rangers lost to the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Wild Card game. This season, they lost their chance at a fourth straight playoff appearance when the Tampa Bay Rays beat them at home in the final game of the regular season.
During the 2013 campaign, the offense struggled to get going. The only real constant was third baseman Adrian Beltre, who led the Rangers in hits, home runs, batting average and on-base percentage. It was the most inconsistent year for the Rangers since 2010. Of course, Oakland's "Beane Ball" had a large role in Texas missing the playoffs.
Texas has some decisions to make during free agency. Both catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto are free agents. Recently suspended outfielder Nelson Cruz will also be on the market, as well as fellow outfielder David Murphy and starting pitchers Matt Garza and Colby Lewis.
Staying in-house may serve Texas best when it comes to catchers. However, they should stay away from Cruz and Murphy. Although Cruz served as the majority of the offense before his suspension, he is a career .268 hitter and makes Ranger fans nervous when the ball is hit to right field.
Based on the 2013 lineup, Shin-Soo Choo is the best option to help bring this team back to the playoffs next season. He became a full-time leadoff hitter for the Cincinnati Reds in 2013 and had arguably the best campaign of his career.
Choo finished the year with a .285 BA, 21 home runs, 34 doubles, and finished third in runs (107) and fourth in OBP (.423). He did strike out 133 times, but also drew 112 walks.
To put that in comparison, Elvis Andrus led the Rangers with 91 runs and 52 walks, and Beltre led with a .371 OBP.
In four of the last five seasons, Choo has had at least 160 hits, 20 stolen bases, and scored at least 81 times. Although he primarily played center field this season, he has played right field for the majority of his career, and has spent time in left field. In 809 games, he has 58 assists and just 26 errors combined.
Perhaps one of the Rangers' sorest spots in 2013 was the top of the batting order. Manager Ron Washington did not shy away from changing the lineup, having 101 different orders through 143 games. According to Evan Grant, Texas had three different players with at least 100 plate appearances in both the leadoff and No. 3 spots.
Choo excelled in the leadoff role this season, and he should remain there if he decides to sign in Arlington. That would move Ian Kinsler down in the lineup, who led the team in average RISP (.314). He would be a sizable upgrade at the top of the lineup for the Rangers.
Texas has other needs as well, most notably a catcher and an offensive upgrade at first base. But this year's free-agent market is more than thin and filled with mostly pitching and aging hitters.
Yes, Choo is 31-years-old and will most likely come at a hefty price with Scott Boras as his agent. On the other hand, he would most likely come cheaper than outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, 30, and Brian McCann, who already has has over 8,800 innings behind the plate and a shoulder surgery at age 29.
In order for the Rangers to take the West back, or earn a Wild Card berth, Choo needs to be a top priority. He may just be the catalyst this offense needs to compete with the A's and Angels.
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