If you're a fan of a Major League Baseball team, the moment your team records its last out, your mind starts to wander towards next season and how to fix all the things that went wrong with the season that just ended.
For Rangers fans, it's the same thing every year. Pitching problems.
If you wander into Ameriquest Field, it's almost comical to look at the banners down the first-base side that read: A.L. West Division Champs 1996, 1998, and 1999. That is it. They have the distinct honor of being the only MLB franchise to not have ever won a playoff series since the team's inception in 1970.
There has got to be a way to right the ship, and for the Rangers, it all starts and ends with pitching.
This past season, the Rangers finished second in the A.L. West, a cool 21-games back from the Angels. Offensive production was no problem. Milton Bradley finished third in the A.L. in batting, and Josh Hamilton has become one of the premier power hitters in all of baseball.
The Rangers scored 901 runs this year, good for first in the majors, and after doing the math, it comes out to a little over 5.5 runs a game. Obviously the bats and firepower have been well addressed, and the team is young and thriving at the plate.
On the flip side of that coin is the pitching. The Rangers gave up a major-league high 967 runs and went through so many starting pitchers I can't even figure out an exact number The "ace" of the staff is Kevin Millwood, who made $10.3 million for his 5.07 ERA and will be turning 34 in a few months.
The good news for Texas fans is that there is a solution. The Rangers have a bevy of young talent behind the plate, and when there's a list of teams that need young catching, now is the best time to parlay that talent into re-energizing the pitching staff.
Currently, the Rangers have FOUR catchers who could start for most major-league teams. Why not trade two of them and pick up two solid starters?
For 2009, name Taylor Teagarden the No. 1 catcher, with Gerald Laird being the backup, then trade Max Ramirez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Red Sox, Tigers, and Padres could all improve their team with some young above-average catching.
All the Rangers have to do is trade for an above-average starting pitcher, say a guy like Bronson Arroyo, Kyle Lohse, or, stretching it, Clay Buchholz. Now it's time to hit the free-agent market.
Ignore big-name field players, such as: Carlos Delgado, Mike Cameron, and a washed up Vlad. Go after just one big-name starter who has shown consistency over the years. Among those available target guys like Derek Lowe, Mark Mulder, Jon Garland, or even Ryan Dempster.
After it's all said and done, this is your 2009 starting rotation: Derek Lowe, Vicente Padilla, Kevin Millwood, Bronson Arroyo, and Kasan Gabbard. That is a rotation that can compete! The Rangers also have a promising farm system of pitchers that includes Derek Holland, who pitched four games in the AAA playoffs for Frisco, with an ERA of .069, 29 K's, and zero HRs allowed.
Signing and trading for some veterans while holding on to their top, young, pitch prospects might just be what this organization needs to jump-start their winning ways and shed the franchise's tag of being the only major-league team not to win a playoff series in the past 38 years.