Despite a disappointing ending, 2010 was a fantastic year for the Texas Rangers; they won the AL West, and captured their first AL pennant in team history. However, if the Rangers want to rebound and make it back to the Fall Classic in 2011, there are a few things they have to address.
Like every team, the Rangers have questions at a few positions that must be answered during the off season.
These 10 moves could help bring the rangers back to post season success.
The Red Sox did a foolish thing, and let their all-star catcher reach free agency in a year with limited options at that position, and in an era where true catching talent is probably the hardest position to find.
The Rangers should make the Sox pay.
Current catcher Bengie Molina is 36, and has already noted he plans to retire after this season.
A player like Martinez would fit nicely into the Rangers system; he brings grit and intensity every time he steps on a diamond, is still one of the best (if not the best) offensive option among big league catchers.
Recently, he's taken great strides in his ability to call a game and gain the trust of the staff, even if he does struggle to throw out runners.
Martinez is reportedly looking for something between 4-5 years and $40-50 million. While he is 32, he has not yet shown any signs of slowing down.
Baseball guru Peter Gammons recently predicted the Sox will not resign Martinez this offseason. He believes the Tigers have the best shot at him, but a reasonable contract offer could change that.
I know what you're thinking. They can't sign Victor Martinez and play Teagarden/Ramirez/Varitek.
But it's always good to have a backup plan.
In the event that Martinez is resigned by the Sox, signed by the Tigers, or ends up somewhere else, the Rangers have a few other options to explore.
While both Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez have been anything but impressive during their time with the Rangers, it's about time to figure out if either of them can play.
If the Rangers don't end up with Martinez, and no other option emerges, next spring the Rangers could make it clear that both catchers are competing for the majority share of the time behind the plate in 2011.
Whilst the two "prospects" are amidst a "duel" for the 2011 catcher spot, the Rangers could bring in veteran Jason Varitek to mentor both players and to serve as the backup in 2011.
As far fetched and self-damaging as this plan might sound, there's a reason to it.
While it's clear that Varitek (currently 38 years of age) is on his last legs, stating that he's got nothing left wouldn't be entirely correct.
Varitek was limited to just 39 games last season due to injury. However, in just 95 at bats pre-all star break and injury, Varitek popped seven dingers, with an OPS of .871. He finished the season with a very respectable .766 OPS.
Varitek could be utilized as a backup and mentor, while providing spot starts, particularly against lefties.
Worst case scenario (other than injuries ravaging the catching core): Teagarden and Ramirez continue their poor play, the Rangers are stuck with a minor offensive threat and one of the best game callers in the game. Could be worse, right?
This move is much more cost friendly then bringing in someone like Martinez, and would give the Rangers more money for other offseason interests.
Side Note: Both John Buck and AJ Pierzynski are free agents this offseason. Personally, I don't expect Pierzynski to leave Chicago, or Buck to end up in Texas, but either could always end up on the Rangers' radar.
While the Texas bullpen was second best in the American League this year (3.38 ERA), their bullpen completely reversed roles and posted a 5.19 ERA and 22 walks during the postseason.
One of the bright spots for the Texas pen during the regular season was 40 year old left-hander Darren Oliver.
In 64 appearances, Oliver had a 2.48 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP, striking out 65 while walking just 15.
However, during the postseason, Oliver has not stayed true to his regular season form, and one has to wonder with his high age whether he'll be as effective next season.
Enter LHP Scott Downs.
Downs has spent the last six seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he's been one of the better and more consistent relievers in all of baseball.
Downs is a free agent this offseason, and it's been widely speculated that he will not return and cash in on his success somewhere else.
He has some experience closing, and would provide a reliable left-handed arm to use in lefty-lefty matchups as well as in late inning work. He would very much help bridge the gap to Neftali Feliz.
While Downs could get a bit pricey, as both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, among others, are expected to be highly interested in him, he would be a great addition to an already strong Rangers bullpen.
If Cliff Lee leaves, CJ Wilson would likely assume the job of number one starter.
Wilson also has just one arbitration-eligible year left, and it would be wise for the Rangers to lock him up before he hits free agency.
Wilson was phenomenal in his first year as a full time starter, going 15-8 with 3.35 ERA, 1.25 ERA, 170 SO's, and 204.0 IP's.
Wilson is 30, and should have some good years left ahead of him. His price probably wouldn't be through the roof if the Rangers offered him a multi-year contract right now, either.
Bringing back Wilson past 2011 would be a smart move.
Josh Hamilton is entering his second year of arbitration, and the Rangers have him fully under their control through 2012.
However, Josh Hamilton has earned a new contract.
An injury plagued 2009 kept extension talks under wraps. However, in 2010, Hamilton made the case for why he deserves a long term deal.
Hamilton led the Major Leagues with a .359 batting average and a 1.044 OPS. He also hit 32 HR's and 100 RBI's. His season could translate into an AL MVP or Gold glove, as he is a legitimate candidate for both.
While injuries are a question with Hamilton, there's nothing solid to suggest that injuries will continue to hamper him in the future. And he's definitely proven that when he is healthy, he's one of the best players in the Major Leagues.
Re-signing him isn't a necessity, as they still have him under control for the next two seasons, but it would be a smart move. Josh Hamilton has emerged as the leader of the Texas Rangers, and rewarding his stellar play would be a good show of faith for an organization trying to capitalize on their success.
It also should help put fans in the seats, although the Rangers might not have that problem next year regardless.
While Vladimir Guerrero defied pretty much everyone's expectations in 2010, the Rangers would be foolish to bring him back for $9 million in 2011.
His final state line - .300 avg, 29 HRs, and 115 RBI's - is very deceiving when you consider the fact that Vladdy hit just 9 HRs and 40 RBIs with an OPS of just .748 after the all star break. His abysmal post season should seal the deal when it comes to whether or not the Rangers should bring him back.
There are a few options at DH that the Rangers could consider.
Probably the biggest name that could become available this off season is Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers. Prince has just one year left on his current deal, and becomes a free agent in 2012. It's all but certain that he won't be back in Milwaukee.
The time is right for the Brewers to trade him now. Waiting until the 2011 deadline could backfire if Adrian Gonzalez becomes available. His presence would trump Fielder's when it comes to big name teams willing to shell out the prospects.
However, questions of Fielders "off year" and quite large girth, combined with the free agent first baseman market of Adam Dunn and Carlos Pena have definitely hurt Fielder's value. There's no NL team who would trade for him, and there are only a few AL teams with a hope of extending him past next season.
However, the Rangers are one of those teams.
The Brewers have already made it clear that they're looking for starting pitching who'll make an impact in 2011. While it doesn't look like the Rangers would be willing to move players like CJ Wilson, Tommy Hunter, or Colby Lewis, the Rangers have a number of solid pitching prospects waiting in the wings.
Pitching prospects like Martin Perez, Tanner Scheppers, and Wilmer Font could all be names that are tossed around.
From what I've heard of Perez, he's the next Johan Santana in the making, so I don't see the Rangers being too inclined to move him,
However both Scheppers and Font had somewhat questionable years in the minors this year, and despite their talent, could find themselves on the move.
The Rangers also have players along the lines of Derek Holland, Scott Feldman, Michael Kirkman, and Matt Harrison who are all potential starters next year. One or more of them could be used as trade bait. One thing is abundantly clear: the Rangers have great depth when it comes to pitching.
Players like Corey Hart or Jose Bautista could find themselves on the move before the trading deadline in 2011, and are potential options at the DH position.
The Red Sox haven't yet extended David Ortiz or picked up his option, and while it's been widely speculated he'll be back with Boston, if he became available he would certainly be a good option.
Manny Ramirez is also a free agent, and while I wouldn't necessarily suggest any team sign him, he could be a potential avenue for the Rangers.
Unless the Rangers plan on waiting even longer for Chris Davis, they'll need to address the DH position in some form or another.
First base for the Rangers has been a problem ever since they dealt Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves in 2007.
However, a likely candidate for the job has emerged: Mitch Moreland.
Moreland hit .348 in throughout the playoffs, with 1 HR and seven RBI's, while posting a very healthy .900 OPS.
Justin Smoak is gone, Chris Davis is a huge enigma. Mark Teixeira ain't walking through that door.
However Moreland is looking like a very solid player, and he has the backing of Ian Kinsler, who said: If he [hasn't solidified his role], everyone should be fired.
Sometimes the best move is the move that isn't made.
Ian Kinsler has never played more than 144 games in his five year career. He set a new low with just 103 games and 391 ABs in 2010.
Michael Young is 34. Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton have both had recent injury history.
Sounds like the Rangers need some solid util options. Sounds like they need Bill Hall.
Last year with the Red Sox, Hall appeared at every position other than catcher and first base.
Offensively, he finished with 18 HRs and 46 RBIs, while batting just .247. Fairly pedestrian numbers, right? Wrong.
Hall was initially brought in to be the Red Sox utility man in 2010. However, the Red Sox have a reputation of not using their bench as frequently as other teams, and Hall was having trouble finding plate appearances. The at bats he did get were sporadic, and he struggled as a result.
However, a slew of Red Sox players, including 2B Dustin Pedroia, went down over the season, and Hall was one of the biggest beneficiaries.
From the month of July on, Hall slugged 12 of his 18 home runs. He slugged over .500 in both July and August (.507, .528).
From July on, Hall was averaging Home Runs at such a frenetic pace that he would have been four shy of his '06 mark (35) given the same number of plate appearances.
The Red Sox declined Hall's $8 million team option, and Hall is probably looking to translate his success into a decent contract for a man of his history and maybe even a starting job.
Depending on the level of interest he receives, the Rangers could be a nice fit for Hall as a reliable fielder at multiple positions and a decent hitter with very high power upside. Given the injury history of many of the Rangers starting players, Hall would be a great choice.
Sometimes managers, regardless of their capabilities, just don't fit with an organization.
Other times, managers fit flawlessly, and are completely in tune with what an organization is trying to do.
Just like Ron Washington.
SInce coming to the Rangers in 2007, Washington has completely restocked the farm system, successfully implemented Nolan Ryan's pitching strategies, and gained the trust of his team.
He also led the Rangers to their first ever World Series appearance and first playoff appearance of the decade.
There's not really much to say here. Washington just seems to be the manager for Texas. The Rangers have already said extending him is the number one priority of the off season, and it would be a shock if 2011 rolls around and Washington does not have a new deal.
In recent history, has there ever been a player in the MLB whose future is so closely tied with the future of his organization?
I don't think so.
Is this shaping up to be "The Decision" baseball-style?
God, I hope not.
The impact Lee has had on the Rangers has been enormous. CJ Wilson pitched well, Colby Lewis pitched well,Tommy Hunter pitched well. Lee deserves a lot of the credit for bringing an air of confidence to the otherwise unexperienced staff down the stretch run.
Lee embodies exactly what Nolan Ryan has been preaching about pitching ever since he first joined the team. He rarely walks batters, has pinpoint control, goes late into games and eats up innings. Lee is the quintessential workhorse.
It would be a shame to see him go.
The Rangers would likely have to endure bidding wars left and right; every team with an opening is likely to at least inquire about Lee. If Lee receives the offers from teams like the Yankees and/or Red Sox that some people expect, Lee could very well be the highest paid pitcher in the history of baseball.
However, locking up Lee for multiple years would forever change the landscape of the AL West, making the Rangers the favorites for the near future.
Despite his two world series losses, Lee remains one of the dominant postseason performers in all of baseball. Lee is worth the money.
The Rangers should try to sell him on the strong team that they have built around him, and the very real possibility of another deep playoff run. They should point out that making a career in the AL East would be more harmful to his career ERA than the time it takes to adjust to Arlington. They should point out how he has become the leader of the staff and a leader on the team, and his style of play fits exactly with the style of baseball the Rangers play. They should point out how they have one of the best young closers in the game, so on the rare occasions he doesn't go nine innings, the lead is safe.
And most importantly, they should offer him a nice, healthy contract.