Re-signing Nelson Cruz is just one chore the Rangers need to take care of this offseason.
Every team goes into the offseason with a plan laid out for what they believe it will take for them to be successful in the upcoming season. Whether it's re-signing key players who have hit the free-agent market, completely cleaning house or anywhere in between, every team has a goal in the offseason.
The Texas Rangers have a lot of decisions to make heading into the 2014 season. With a rotation that could use another solid arm or two and an offense that could use a few new bats, they have their work cut out for them. Here is the blueprint that could lead the Rangers to success this offseason.
Re-Sign Nelson Cruz
The Rangers have already tendered a $14.1 million offer to outfielder Nelson Cruz. While he may try to test free agency, Texas is off to a good start in attempting to bring the veteran slugger back.
Cruz has been a key contributor to the Rangers for a number of years. In the last five seasons, Cruz has hit 22 homers or more, including a career-high 33 in 2009. He likely would have set a new career high in home runs this season had he not served a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
The offer tendered to Cruz is just a one-year deal, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him decline the offer in an attempt to secure a multi-year deal. Regardless of whether he chooses to accept the tendered offer or attempt to get a bigger one through free agency, re-signing Cruz would be a big move for the Rangers this offseason.
Find a Serviceable Catcher
Texas just re-signed Geovany Soto to a one-year deal. According to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, the Rangers have settled on Soto as their top catcher heading into 2014, but it could be a risky move. Here are some other catchers Texas could attempt to sign who could play over Soto.
The biggest catcher on the free-agent market is Brian McCann. McCann has spent his entire career with the Atlanta Braves and developed into one of the best catchers in the league. He's a seven-time All-Star and has also won five Silver Slugger awards. Last season he hit .256 with 20 homers and 57 RBI in 102 games with the Braves, 21 points lower than his career average of .277.
If they are unable to reel in McCann, Texas could try to bring back A.J. Pierzynski or former Ranger Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Pierzynski had a successful year with the Rangers last season, but his age could factor into his return.
At 37 years old, Pierzynski has a lot of mileage for a player at his position. That being said, he still hit .272 with 17 home runs and 70 RBI. He's a highly productive player, but his age makes him a bit of a risk.
If Texas can't sign McCann it likely won't look for a large contract for any other catcher on the market. The Rangers have catcher Jorge Alfaro in their minor league system right now, and he is currently the top prospect in their organization. If they don't secure a multi-year deal with a catcher this offseason, Alfaro could be the Rangers' catcher at the end of the 2014 season.
Replace Joe Nathan
The Rangers have officially let Joe Nathan test free agency, leaving questions as to who their closer will be in 2014.
The market for closers is a small one. As it stands right now, the youngest closer is 27-year-old Chris Perez. Nothing about Perez's 2013 season should lead Texas to signing him. He posted a 5-3 record with a 4.33 ERA last year with the Indians, converting on 25 of his 30 save opportunities.
Texas could look internally for Nathan's replacement next season. The top candidate could be Wilmer Font, who did a stellar job in the minors last season for the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders and Triple-A Round Rock Express.
Font appeared in a total of 42 games last season in the minors. He posted a 2-2 record with a 1.04 ERA, striking out 71 batters in 52 innings pitched. He averaged 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings last season, holding hitters to a nice .127 average.
There is one pitcher already on the roster who could have an outside shot at being the team's closer in 2014. Alexi Ogando has pitched in 156 games in his career but has started only 48. The last time Ogando spent the majority of the season in the bullpen was 2012. That season he made 57 relief appearances. He posted a 2-0 record with a 3.43 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .211 average.
He was used primarily as a starter last season, but his ability to pitch in relief could be called upon next year. Keep an eye out for rumors involving Texas and its search for a closer, as it has a number of ways it could go with this decision.
Strengthen Starting Rotation
The Rangers already have solid starters in Yu Darvish and Derek Holland. Alexi Ogando and Martin Perez also turned in good seasons for Texas last season, but they could still use an extra arm in the rotation.
Pitcher Colby Lewis spent all of last season on the disabled list, recovering from elbow surgery and hip surgery. Now that he's a free agent, the 34-year-old righty may not find himself returning to Arlington next season. While Lewis may not be with the team next season, another pitcher who spent most of his season on the disabled list could be returning next year.
Like Lewis, pitcher Matt Harrison also spent most of 2013 on the disabled list. Harrison dealt with back pain for most of the season, recovering from surgery on a herniated disk. If Texas doesn't sign or trade for a starter this offseason, Harrison will be a welcome addition to the rotation in 2014.
Harrison's career has been on the climb since 2011 when he went 14-9 with a 3.29 ERA. He followed up his 2011 season with an 18-win season in 2012, posting a 3.39 ERA with 133 strikeouts.
Which need do the Rangers most need to address this offseason?
Price wasn't anywhere close to the pitcher he was in 2012 when he posted a 20-5 record with a 2.56 ERA, winning the American League Cy Young award that year. Last season he went 10-8 with a 3.33 ERA, but given how his season started, it could have been worse.
At the beginning of last season, Price posted a 1-4 record with a 5.24 ERA before hitting the disabled list due to a strained left triceps. Price missed most of May and all of June with the injury but bounced back with a 9-4 record and 2.53 ERA after returning in July.
If the Rangers do make a trade for Price, it will likely be a deal that involves shortstop Jurickson Profar. Texas has a crowded infield as it stands right now, with Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler already taking up the middle of the infield and Adrian Beltre playing third base. As a former top prospect, Profar has the potential to draw in a top player like Price, who could be the perfect fit in Texas' 2014 rotation.
All stats and info courtesy of ESPN.com, MLB.com, MiLB.com, BaseballReference.com, MLBTradeRumors.com, CBSSports.com, SportsIllustrated.com and SportingNews.com.
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