Contrary to a pretty inactive winter for the Rangers, I've had a hectic holiday season. I put in my two weeks notice at the casino I was working at on December 12th, but since I wasn't in the mood to work on Christmas Eve or Day, my last night of work was December 20th (Saturday)... so I guess it was only an eight days notice. On Sunday I played in my Sunday league baseball game and we got dismantled 12-2; as the leadoff hitter I went 0-4 with two strikeouts, but in my second plate appearance I flew out to deep center field so overall I considered the day a win. On Monday I had orientation at my new job, which ran from 8:30 AM to 4:30 -- even though my body is conditioned to be alive in the nighttime hours -- and yesterday I did the same thing, except I started at 8:00. Yikes.
The Texas Rangers, meanwhile, haven't been lazy either; it's just that nothing has really materialized. I liked the Ross Detwiler-for-peanuts trade Jon Daniels made a couple weeks ago, and there is definite upside in the $1 million Kyuji Fujikawa signing. But on the whole this is still an incomplete roster, and more needs to be done if the Rangers are to compete in 2015.
Since Texas didn't dump way too much money on Torii Hunter*, and since they weren't in on reasonable trade packages for Jason Heyward, Matt Kemp or Justin Upton, the focus seems pretty clear at this point: Trade for a mid-rotation starter and let's call it an offseason.
*$10.5 million for a DH who can't even fake playing outfield is a terrible investment, especially for Minnesota. They aren't going to be any good next year. It's like dropping a boatload in Christmas presents on a girlfriend/boyfriend you're planning on breaking up with before Valentine's Day.
Counterintuitive as it seems, the strength of the Rangers' farm system could actually be working against them this offseason. While other teams -- notably the Padres -- can acquire Kemp, Upton, Wil Myers and Derek Norris without even touching their top-three prospects (Hunter Renfroe, Matt Wisler, Austin Hedges), it's entirely plausible that Texas are being leveraged against in deals for starting pitchers based off the strength of the upper-tier of the minor league system.
Listen, Joey Gallo and Jorge Alfaro -- and probably Nomar Mazara -- aren't going anywhere this winter. Jake Thompson and Chi-Chi Gonzalez, who in either order rank in the top-5 on most boards, would require an impact piece in return to be moved. This Rangers front office have proven to be hell-bent on keeping its prospects, what with the collective bargaining agreement handcuffing the availability of acquiring talent. Prospects are just too precious nowadays.
Ideally, the Rangers could trade from their third-tier -- players like Nick Williams and Lewis Brinson and Ryan Cordell and Hanser Alberto and Jared Eikhoff and Alec Asher and others -- to assume what they need. Some of those guys would be the third or fourth-best prospect in many farm systems; for Texas, they are expendable parts. It's a good problem to have, but it's a problem nonetheless. Teams with starting pitchers on the trade block want to start from the top with the Rangers, which is a deal-breaker unless something miraculously changes in Texas's mind.
For the time being, the lineup is essentially set: The Rangers infield will consist of Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor and Prince Fielder (with Robinson Chirinos catching), and the outfield will be some form of Shin-Soo Choo, Leonys Martin and a reasonable platoon featuring Ryan Rua/Kyle Blanks/Mitch Moreland/who cares. It's not the strongest lineup in the world, but with a solid third starter it's enough to stay in the race given the parity of the American League.
Likewise, the rotation is on the brink of being complete: With Yu Darvish and Derek Holland at the top, Detwiler and Colby Lewis on the backend, the Rangers are one 2-to-3 win pitcher away from being strong. Matt Harrison continues rehabbing to the point where he may not have thrown his last major league pitch, and Martin Perez is due back around the All Star break, so help is on the way... just down the road.
If you celebrate it, Merry Christmas. Have a safe holiday season, everyone.