On the heels of the most successful season in Texas Rangers franchise history, excitement amongst baseball fans in Arlington has reached a fever pitch.
Since being dispatched mercilessly from the World Series in five games by the pitching-rich San Francisco Giants, expectations for the Rangers have grown and the hunger for victory has never been greater.
Additionally, the sudden influx of cash from the reported $3 billion, 20-year television contract with Fox Sports Southwest has ensured that the Rangers will likely be players in the free agent market for at least the foreseeable future. Since the conclusion of the 2010 season, the Rangers have been linked with numerous players throughout baseball's off-season, some realistic and others not even remotely so.
While making them a potential force in free agency, a suddenly reinforced financial standing will also allow them to avoid the fate that so often befalls many small and mid-market franchises. Far too often, many clubs must sit idly and watch their homegrown stars leave via free agency, or reluctantly trade them toward the end of their arbitration years before they grow too expensive.
This should come as welcome news to Ranger fans, as much of the core of the team is comprised of several stars in the midst of their arbitration years and headed toward free agency in the coming seasons.
With a more stable financial foundation, the franchise should be able to retain the players that they believe fit into their long-term vision, while potentially becoming an active presence in the free agent market. As players like Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz and C.J. Wilson, among others, near the end of their contracts over the next few seasons, the Rangers will possess the ability to entertain long-term commitments as they see fit.
During this off-season, the Rangers have been a busy club, as several significant players have departed, creating opportunities for youth to advance through the ranks, as well as prompting a few well-placed free agent deals to be made.
As pitchers and catchers prepare to report to Spring Training facilities in Florida and Arizona over the next few weeks, let's take a look at a few of the most significant departures from last year, as well as the new faces brought in to help defend the Rangers' American League pennant.