1) Free up cash by trading Michael Young
- Sign Adam Everett and Alex Cora to share shortstop duties
Yes, I know Michael Young has been the one mainstay for the Rangers since 2001, but with Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler among others leading the way now, the Rangers could use the $16 million owed to him in each of the next five years towards improving the team today.
You can split the playing time between Adam Everett and Alex Cora which will be a good tandem. Although these two aren’t that great at the plate, a little infield defense will definitely help their pitching staff.
There are a lot of teams out there who might take on a contract like Young’s. It would be a tricky trade, but if Texas was willing to pay a portion of the contract, they could get some prospects or pitching in return.
2) Add two decent starting pitchers
- Sign Randy Johnson and Paul Byrd
Speaking about pitching, it’s time to upgrade. Big time. Kevin Millwood is obviously not getting it done. I don’t know what options they have with him but I really don’t think he’s suitable to be a major league starter anymore. He could possibly be a long relief pitcher but they have a lot of money tied up to Millwood.
Their No. 2, Vincente Padilla, might still have something in the tank. The rest of the staff is filled with young pitchers and/or injured ones. Both Randy Johnson and Paul Byrd were solid last year and with the Texas’ offense behind them, they could easily get 10 wins.
Johnson is only a type-B free agent, so although they will be giving up a draft pick, it isn’t as crucial as if it was a first rounder or sandwich pick. It wouldn’t cost the Rangers any picks to sign Byrd. I feel that both of them still have a little bit left and could give this team consistent starts.
A rotation of Padilla, Johnson, Byrd, and your choice of two between Brandon McCarthy, Scott Feldman, and Matt Harrison could be sufficient enough. All you really need with the Rangers’ offense are pitchers that can keep a team in the game.
And for the latter innings, they have Frank Francisco and Joaquin Benoit who both somewhat stabilized their bullpen over the past few months of the 2008 season.
3) Fix the logjam at catcher
- Trade Max Ramirez
Why Ramirez instead of Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Taylor Teagarden? Teagarden looks like the real deal, blasting six home runs in 47 at-bats in his first big-league season. I know it’s only a small sample size, but I like the sample.
As for Saltalamacchia, he has had a lot of experience over the past two years but none of that has been with consistent playing time. I feel if he is given tons of playing time, he will get his bat going like everyone expects him he should.
I do feel all three of these players will be productive major league players and Max Ramirez may turn out better than Saltalamacchia or Teagarden, but for the next few years, it would be more beneficial for the Rangers to keep Saltalamacchia and Teagarden.
The only downside of trading Ramirez is that he isn’t well known as the other two and may not be ready for the big show right now. This may put a damper on a team's plan to slot one of these three players into their vacant catching position.
- Convert Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a first basemen while sharing duty at first base with Chris Davis
Saltalamacchia would be better suited especially if he stays in Texas to play at first base and be the Rangers’ designated hitter. Look at the career of Ivan Rodriguez, there is no doubt that the years catching almost every game in Texas has put a toll on his body (granted their might have been other factors to attributed to Rodriguez’ decline).
To get Saltalamacchia the at bats needed, he should be the designated hitter part time so Davis still gets the playing time he deserves. Davis did play 32 games at third base last year while committing three errors.
With Hank Blalock’s status up in the air, Davis should play more at third in 2009 until Blalock shows he is healthy and can play better everyday
- Have Gerald Laird and Taylor Teagarden share time at catcher
Yes, Taylor Teagarden looked great last year but I believe that you still need to slowly get him into the grind of a 162-game season. Gerald Laird is a great catcher to work with into this transition. And if Teagarden looks ready to take over permanently around July, Laird could get the Rangers some value in a trade to a contender.
4) Find a corner outfielder
- Sign Rocco Baldelli
With Josh Hamilton roaming center and David Murphy filling up one of the corners (granted he comes back from his injury at full strength), the Rangers have a very solid two-thirds of their outfield. As for the third piece, why not go after Rocco Baldelli.
For one thing, he can be had for a decent price range, compared to other outfield names on the market right now. This isn’t a slight to Baldelli, but his injuries over his career really have brought down his value. You just never know what could happen.
Personally, what Baldelli showed the past two months was nothing special, but it was solid. He still is good defensively and would mesh very nicely with Hamilton and Murphy. With an offseason to improve his strength, Baldelli could become an everyday player for once in his life, if he can stay healthy.
A lineup including Kinsler, Baldelli, Hamilton, Murphy, Teagarden, Davis, Blalock (if can stay healthy), and Saltalamacchia should definitely be near the top in the American League.
5) Shore up the late-inning defense
- Sign Doug Mientkiewicz
Adding some depth to the bench should be priority. Doug Mientkiewicz coming off the bench late in games could be very beneficial and it won’t cost a lot to snag him.
In addition, he hit a respectable .277 in 285 at-bats. Mientkiewicz proved in 2004 that he can come in late in the game and perform defensively while adding a hit every now and then.