By John Bowman
The Texas Rangers offseason may have officially began on Saturday, but today is when things will really start moving at 1000 Ballpark Way. This is an offseason that should be action packed and will no doubt have plenty of story lines along the way, but as the offseason gets moving, here are the top-five pressing issues for the Rangers.
Are any changes needed with Ron Washington?
This does not necessarily mean will he be fired or not, but will there be any different expectations placed on Washington heading into 2013 than in the past. Sometime this week it would seem that Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels will be sitting down with Washington to talk about the past year and the year ahead. There should be some good dialogue to help everyone make sure they are on the same page. All three of them need to make sure they are on the same page moving forward and as long as they all can agree on the plan, there should not be any problems with Washington staying around for at least one more year. However if there is any disagreement about the plan moving forward, this could be where we see friction between Washington and the front office begin to take place.
What do they do with Josh Hamilton?
Many reports make it sound like this decision has already been made and most likely it has, however if a clear plan with Hamilton has not been laid out, it needs to take place now. It really seems that there is no way Hamilton is coming back to Texas, but the Rangers need to establish within the organization if there is any way they would want it to take place and what all of that would mean. They need to factor in Hamilton’s production in the lineup and if and how it can be replaced, they need to put a value on that with all of his issues factored in. He is heading to the backside of his career, has many off the field issues and has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. These are all issues that impact his value and the Rangers need to know without a doubt how they are going to handle it. If there is anyway the Rangers have not already moved on, I will be amazed.
What is the plan for Michael Young?
This needs to be one of the first things that are decided, because it can effect so many other aspects. This should be a big part of the discussion between Washington and the front office when they finally sit down. Washington handled Young his way during the 2012 season, but that did not prove that successful. They need to decide is Young going to continue to be used on a regular basis in the field and is his bat able to provide enough production at DH. Their hands are tied with a $16 million paycheck and ten and five rights which give him the right to veto any trade, but the main issue is how will Washington handle his role. It may not have been something over the past two years that had to be clearly discussed with Washington and the front office, but it is now. The Rangers now have Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt who are ready to contribute at the big league level and they are both players that should be cutting into Young’s playing time. They should have been doing that in 2012, but now the front office needs to make sure that everyone understands what Young’s role will be.
What is the plan for starting pitching?
The Rangers have Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison and Derek Holland in the rotation moving forward, but that is about it. Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz are both under contract, but will most likely not be available until after the All-Star break and how much they will be able to contribute in 2013 is unclear. It also seems that Feliz could return to the bullpen instead of the rotation as he recovers from Tommy John. Alexi Ogando has also expressed his desire to return to the rotation, but the Rangers may not be that open to the idea. Most likely they will try to land at least one starting pitcher in the offseason and it could very well end up being a trade for a #1 starter. If they do trade for a starter, there is a good chance that one of the lefties could be included. That could mean Martin Perez, Holland or Harrison, with Perez most likely entering the rotation if Holland or Harrison is dealt.
What do they do with Jurickson Profar?
It is becoming clearer by the day that Profar is ready for the big leagues and ready for an everyday role. There is no question that long-term he is going to be a shortstop, but right now the Rangers have Elvis Andrus locking it down. The simple solution seems to be to move Ian Kinsler to the outfield and play Profar at second for the next two years. While that may seem like a great solution, Kinsler’s value is significantly reduced as an outfielder. He puts up excellent numbers as a second baseman, but they do not look so great as an outfielder. It is also very likely that Andrus will be leaving in two years as a free agent, but his value on the trade market is much greater now than it will be then. Teams like his team friendly contract and would be willing to send more the Rangers way now, than they will be in a year. The Rangers will most likely see what the market is for Andrus and even Kinsler at the beginning of the offseason and jump on something if it can bring a #1 starter to Texas. If they can’t find a good option, then they will start looking at other options such as Kinsler moving to the outfield.
While the Rangers have plenty of details that will need to be worked out this offseason, these are the most pressing. These five issues impact other decisions that will need to be made and having a clear cut plan for these items will help them determine how handle the others. Regardless of how these issues are handled, it is going to be an exciting winter in Texas.