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Texas Rangers' Alternative Option If They Lose Out on Shin-Soo Choo

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Texas Rangers' Alternative Option If They Lose Out on Shin-Soo Choo
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind of the Toronto Blue Jays

Well, the big free-agent market has come down to Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz. As the last big-name hitting free agents left, their markets have likely been determined.

According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal's column, it is expected that Choo will receive a deal close to that of Jacoby Ellsbury's seven-year, $153 million payout.  Rosenthal reports that the Rangers aren't confident in their chances to land Choo, even though other team executives still hold them as the favorite.

Rosenthal says the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners are also very interested and likely have a bit more money to throw at Choo. 

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports
Shin-Soo Choo is highly coveted and could be exorbitantly expensive

So, Rangers fans: Let's assume that Jon Daniels does not sign Choo. If that is the case, it is no doubt because he simply wants too much money, beyond the value Daniels has placed on him.

Here is an alternative solution that I thought of. This is by no means what Daniels is guaranteed to be thinking, but instead is just a suggestion. Keep in mind that this is a cheaper option than signing Choo by himself. 

The Toronto Blue Jays have the power that Daniels covets.

 

Trade Mitch Moreland, Alexi Ogando, Cody Buckel and Luis Sardinas to Toronto for Edwin Encarnacion. 

Here's how this might work. Toronto would immediately want some power in return for Encarnacion. Moreland provides that and is still young and affordable. He can also slide right into the first-base spot and offers above-average defense for the position—better than that of any first baseman the Jays currently have.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Alexi Ogando has trade value for the Rangers

In Ogando the Blue Jays would get a pitcher who, if they want to use him as a starter, immediately bolsters their rotation. He also has the versatility to be a lights-out reliever or a long man out of the bullpen. Ogando has nice trade value because of his ability to pitch in all three roles effectively.

The Blue Jays need middle infield help. Their youngest infielder on the major league roster is Ryan Goins, who is 25. Shortstop/second baseman Maicer Izturis is still solid defensively but is aging and is not a threat at the plate.

My thinking on Sardinas is this: If Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar are both young and signed long term, when will the club ever use Sardinas? The Rangers have committed to Profar, and I just don't think Sardinas will see major league playing time for several years.  

Buckel is a promising pitching prospect, but the Rangers have better ones in their system, like Luke Jackson and Alex Gonzales. Buckel seems expendable and just might be a final piece that could make the deal happen. 

In Encarnacion, the Rangers receive another monster power source, who is still young. He hit 36 home runs and drove in 104 RBI last season, while hitting .272.  

Here's a snippet of his excellent 2013 season, just in case you need to see him to believe in him:

Check out the POWER

As a feared power hitter, his strikeout rate was only 11.6 percent last year, per ESPN. He walked 20 more times than he struck out in 2013.  Because of it, his OBP was a very solid .370. 

Encarnacion is very affordable.  According to Baseball-Reference.com, he is signed for two more years at $19 million and has a 2016 team option for $10 million with a $2 million buyout. He would be an amazing acquisition for Texas because of his high productivity for a relatively low price.  

He would slide right into the DH position perfectly. He has experience playing both first base and third base in his career. When either Prince Fielder or Adrian Beltre need a rest—which would be very rare—Encarnacion could fill in decently for a game or two. 

 

Addressing Left Field

This move does not address the left-field situation. If the Rangers were to make this move, they will have completely filled their DH hole.  Two conceivable options for left field would be to either start newly acquired Michael Choice or possibly sign Nelson Cruz to a cheaper deal.  

I think the Rangers can get Cruz for less than the four-year, $75 million deal he's seeking. If he doesn't lower his price significantly, he may not be employed next season. It's hard to even see Seattle paying that price. 

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Choice figures to be a huge part of the Rangers in a few years

Choice would be the far cheaper and younger option. While I'm not sold that he will explode out of the gates, he should at least replace Craig Gentry's offensive production at the plate. He could even approach Leonys Martin's eight home runs and 49 RBI production from last year. That would be incredible for the Rangers. 

The point is that even acquiring both Encarnacion and Cruz would almost certainly be cheaper than signing Choo by himself. In this scenario, the Rangers are filling two holes rather than just one.  

Yes, it might take a little more than what I suggested to land Encarnacion. But Daniels should be comfortable starting with that offer. It's two major league players and a high- and mid-level prospect.  That should at least get the conversation going. 

Power isn't cheap, but this move, combined with their excellent pitching, could jump the Rangers into the driver's seat in the American League.

With Encarnacion in the fold, here is the lineup I'd like to see the Rangers field in 2014:  

  • CF Leonys Martin (he'll lead off unless the club signs Choo)
  • SS Elvis Andrus
  • 1B Prince Fielder
  • 3B Adrian Beltre
  • DH Edwin Encarnacion
  • RF Alex Rios
  • C Geovany Soto
  • 2B Jurickson Profar
  • LF Michael Choice

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
For the right price, a Nelson Cruz return could be great for Texas

WHOA.  That 1-6 could be the best in baseball. Now here's what it might look like if the club were to sign Cruz to play in the outfield:

  • CF Leonys Martin
  • SS Elvis Andrus
  • 1B Prince Fielder
  • 3B Adrian Beltre
  • DH Edwin Encarnacion
  • LF Alex Rios
  • RF Nelson Cruz
  • C Geovany Soto
  • 2B Jurickson Profar

Moving Rios to left field and filling in Cruz in right is possible. That'd be the best lineup in baseball, with Michael Choice and JP Arencibia on the bench. Several layers of protection between the 3-6 spots. Pitchers really couldn't intentionally walk any of the middle of that order.

Keep in mind that this is all just speculation. But I do believe this deal is possible. The Rangers have the money, flexibility and prospects to make some combination of an offer appealing.  

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