A Nelson Cruz return would beef up the middle of the Rangers' lineup
Earlier today, Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com reported that outfielder Shin-Soo Choo's asking price was getting too high for the Texas Rangers. Durrett said that while the Rangers aren't "out" of discussions with Choo and his agent Scott Boras, they would be far more aggressive if the price dropped a bit.
Based on Boras' reputation and track record, that's unlikely to happen anytime soon. If the Rangers don't sign Choo, it won't be the end of the world. In fact, now that I've thought about it more, it might be better that way.
For the last couple days, I've cycled through some potential free-agent signings and trades the Texas Rangers could make to improve as alternatives to Choo. My thought process on what the Rangers should do has been turning a corner every day.
In talking with you all in the comment sections and thinking a lot more about the team's offseason situation, I have a final plan for the team. The basic idea has two components: First, the team will improve with these signings, which are mid-level and therefore not exorbitantly expensive.
Second, the team isn't sacrificing any potential stud prospects or draft picks. You'll see that part of this plan is designed to usher in the future of the Rangers while still remaining competitive. Here it is, broken down into three parts.
Sign Nelson Cruz to play in right field
According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, Boras wants a deal for Choo that will exceed the seven-year, $126 million deal the Washington Nationals paid Jayson Werth in 2010. That is simply too much, even for guy who's an on-base machine and features a complete game without a real weakness.
The alternative is Nelson Cruz, and I think the Rangers should bring him back now. Durrett has reported that Cruz is seeking a three-year deal. The Rangers have offered him two years with an option for a third.
First of all, wouldn't you like to relive lifelong memories like this one?
The argument for Cruz here is clear: He can be signed to a much shorter contract, has more power than Choo and was a fixture in the Rangers clubhouse for years. Moving Alex Rios to left field is a completely feasible option. Cruz has played in right his whole career, and Rios has the speed and athleticism to handle any outfield spot.
Cruz is 33, but if he's only signed for three seasons he shouldn't turn into a detriment. He has that middle-of-the-order power that general manager Jon Daniels is seeking. Something tells me that he truly wants to return to Texas, and because of that, I think a fair deal can be worked out.
His return would instantly improve the team at a reasonable price.
Sign Bartolo Colon
According to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Rangers are interested in free agent starting pitcher Bartolo Colon. Wilson says that the team could sign Colon to a one-year deal as a bridge to their talented young arms in the minors.
I love this idea and think Colon would be a great addition to an already solid rotation.
Colon does turn 41 in May, but if he can pitch anywhere near the level he did in Oakland last season, he will significantly boost the Rangers' staff. In 2013, he went 18-6 while posting a 2.65 ERA in 190.1 innings, according to ESPN. He is a contact pitcher and only struck out 117 batters. But a mere 29 walks in those innings demonstrates his remarkable control.
Colon also showed some impressive durability last season at his oldest age. He made 30 starts and threw three complete games. His 2013 season was one of his career-best years, and there's no reason to think he can't repeat that success in 2014.
I think he'd be the fifth starter in the Rangers' rotation, but he was probably Oakland's best pitcher last year. The Rangers should be able to sign him to a reasonable one-year deal.
Structurally, signing Colon accomplishes two things. One, it provides an effective gap to the prospect pitchers in the minor leagues, like Luke Jackson and Alex Gonzales. Those two might not be quite ready after a one-year Colon deal expires, but he will buy them more time to develop.
Two, this signing would build depth. Alexi Ogando could be moved back to the bullpen, where he has been more effective. Additionally, it would put Colby Lewis in a more comfortable position. I do not believe he is ready to rejoin this rotation and pitch every five days—his velocity just isn't there.
Sign Corey Hart to be a platoon DH with Mitch Moreland
Durrett reported in November that Hart was a possible target for the Rangers. He's starting to age a bit as well, but he's known for his power at the plate. He missed all of last season with microfracture surgery in both knees, which no doubt has lowered his price.
Adam McCalvy of MLB.com tweeted that Hart could make a decision as to which team to sign with by tonight.
Durrett suggests taking a flier on Hart for $6 to $8 million with incentives. At that price, the rewards could be well worth the risk. Because of his knee problems, he is much better suited in a first base/DH role. I'm suggesting here that the Rangers could use him as a platoon DH with Mitch Moreland. This creates a stronger bench and more options for Ron Washington.
Hart should be cheap enough for Washington to feel comfortable benching him against right-handed pitchers. If he wants a multi-year deal, or over $10 million for one year, the Rangers should walk away.
With these moves, here is the resulting 25-man roster that could suit up for the Rangers in 2014.
- CF Leonys Martin
- SS Elvis Andrus
- 1B Prince Fielder
- 3B Adrian Beltre
- LF Alex Rios
- RF Nelson Cruz
- DH Corey Hart (would play against LHPs, although he has hit RHPs well in the past)
- C Geovany Soto
- 2B Jurickson Profar
- OF Michael Choice
- C JP Arencibia
- UTL Adam Rosales
- 1B/DH Mitch Moreland (would play against RHPs)
- Yu Darvish
- Derek Holland
- Matt Harrison
- Martin Perez
- Bartolo Colon
- Alexi Ogando
- Jason Frasor
- Robbie Ross
- Tanner Scheppers
- Joakim Soria
- Neal Cotts
- Neftali Feliz
If the Rangers don't sign Hart and want to stick with Moreland at full-time DH, they could use an eight-man pen. I'd like to see either Joe Ortiz get that spot as another lefty option, or Wilmer Font as a hard-throwing right-hander.
If enough goes right—Martin continues to develop, Elvis has a solid year, Profar settles in decently, etc.—one through 25, this team can compete for the World Series.
What do you think of this plan? What do you think about potentially signing Cruz and Hart?