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September 30, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Zack Greinke (23) throws to the Texas Rangers during the first inning at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-US PRESSWIRE

Rangers offseason moves, part one: Free Agents

While baseball fans watch the World Series, Rangers fans are picking our sides for the fall classic and thinking about what is to come this offseason. There are a bunch of questions ahead of the Rangers in the coming months, so where do we even begin?

What’s going on with the rotation? What about the bullpen? What’s the catching situation? Who’s going to replace Josh Hamilton (yes, for the sake of this article, we’re going to assume that Hamilton is not coming back)?

Here’s a look at the possible free agent signings for the 2013 Rangers.

  • Mike Napoli: There’s no doubt that the Rangers will be looking to sign a catcher to platoon with Geovany Soto or perhaps take the starting spot and the first place they will look will be Napoli. He had a fantastic first year and postseason in 2011 with the Rangers, but fell off quite a bit in 2012. He spent a lot of time on the DL and dropped his OBP from .414 to .343 from one year to the next, leaving me to believe that Napoli may have been a little more lightning in a bottle than a player who can produce year after year. In all likelihood someone will shell out big money for Napoli, and, if the Rangers can go elsewhere to match his production, don’t expect to hear the “Nah-poh-lee” chants at the ballpark next year.
  • Mike Adams: Though he has undergone surgery to repair his Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, you can count on the Rangers looking to sign Adams to a deal to keep him in the Texas bullpen. He’s one of the top free agent relievers on the market and the Rangers will need a little help back there as the bullpen currently contains Joe Nathan, Robbie Ross, Alexi Ogando (if he does not move to the rotation), Tanner Scheppers, Michael Kirkman and Neftali Feliz, once he returns from surgery.
  • Koji Uehara: The Rangers will probably not get Uehara and Adams back next season, but if they had to pick one, I think they should go with the less-expensive Uehara. Though he didn’t start well in Texas in 2011, he picked it up in 2012. After coming off the DL, Uehara seemed like he was the most reliable guy the Rangers had in the ‘pen at the end of the season.
  • Zack Greinke: Here we go. Can the Rangers get him this time around? Sources within the organization have repeatedly said that there is definite interest in Greinke. He’s a No. 1 starter that the Rangers will be looking for. The rotation currently consists of Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, and – possibly – Martin Perez and Alexi Ogando, with Colby Lewis returning midway through the season. Greinke will have a high price and, if the team goes after him, they may not be able to upgrade elsewhere.
  • Hiroki Kuroda: Kuroda is coming off a surprisingly resurgent season. He was solid down the stretch for New York and he became the ace of their rotation when CC Sabathia when down. He may be another one-and-done guy, but he’ll be seeking a multi-year deal. If the Rangers bite, which I don’t see them doing, Kuroda will be another back of the rotation guy. I don’t think the team wants another back of the rotation guy.
  • Kyle Lohse: Lohse is similar to Kuroda in the fact that he’s not a No. 1. He may be a No. 2, however. He had exactly what he needed to have this season: a contract season that would make him some cash in 2013.
  • Shohei Otani: This is one of the most interesting targets that I have seen this off season. Otani is an 18-year old, 6’4″ Japanese phenom who has been clocked at 100 mph on numerous occasions. I see him liking Texas a little bit more than the Dodgers and Red Sox (who are also scouting the teenager) just because Darvish could be an ideal mentor. His asking price will be considerably less than Darvish’s last year because he is not entering the Nippon Professional Baseball league in Japan, and therefor the teams will not have to go through the posting process that cost the Rangers over $50 million for Darvish last year. If he does come to Texas, Otani will most likely start at Triple-A and will make his way up to the Majors in mid-2013 once he gets his feet wet in America.
  • Nick Swisher: Most people I tell this to usually respond with, “Ew. Why?” and here’s why I want to see Swisher with “Texas” across his chest in 2013: He may be cocky, but he plays the game the right way. He may talk a lot, but he is one of the best clubhouse guys in baseball. He continually produces from the No. 2 spot in the lineup and that could give Ron Washington a chance to move Elvis Andrus up to leadoff and move Ian Kinsler below Nelson Cruz in the order. Swisher could platoon in right field with Cruz and could take over first on an everyday basis if the Mitch Moreland experience goes any further south. He provides options and I think he’s a good fit for the Rangers if the Yankees don’t resign him.
  • Michael Bourn: Bourn is quintessential leadoff hitter and could also help convince Wash to move Kinsler out of that spot. He has speed, and with the lack of steals and attempts in 2012, I foresee the Rangers being more aggressive on the base paths and will play small ball in 2013. What a better way to spark that, than to snatch up a speedster like Bourn? Signing Bourn in center field could also free up Craig Gentry or Leonys Martin for a possible trade.
  • B.J. Upton: Half the people I know would love to see the team go after a speedy guy who has a considerable power like Upton, and the other half aren’t feeling it. T.R. Sullivan reported last week that the team “definitely has interest in Upton’s bat,” but may feel that he’d better serve them in left or right field. This would allow them to platoon Cruz or Murphy. He does strike out a lot, but maybe new hitting coach Dave Magadan could fix his problem along with all the other Rangers that swing at garbage.
  • Angel Pagan: Seeing the way he has played down the stretch and in the postseason and seeing what he sparks at the top of the Giants lineup makes me think that Pagan would be a good fit for the Rangers. He’s always in the dugout cheering on his team, not to mention that what he does on the field is phenomenal: get on base and play great defense. Best part about this signing is that it, like Bourn would, frees up Gentry and Martin for trade.
  • Russell Martin: Assuming the Rangers do not sign Napoli, Martin would be a good fit to platoon with Soto. Martin is 30 years old and still produces in The Bronx, but he would not match the offensive production that Napoli would provide.
  • Brian McCann: This signing is only a possibility if the Braves do not pick up $12 million club option. McCann underwent surgery last week to repair an injured shoulder and is expected to miss four to five months. Though he has been one of the most productive catchers for the past five years, McCann struggled in 2012, hitting career lows in OBP and SLG. I expect the Braves to pick up his option as they are losing Chipper Jones to retirement and could lose Bourn to free agency.
  • Kelly Shoppach: The only reason Shoppach is on this list is because there were talks of a trade with the Red Sox at the 2012 trade deadline that had him in the mix. He would surely provide some offensive pop behind the plate, but would it be better than that of Napoli’s? Probably not, though Shoppach would come at a much lower price than Napoli. Nonetheless, Shoppach will be considered by the front office, but I expect the team to take another route to improve the backstop position – possibly a trade?

Hamilton, Napoli, Adams and Uehara top the list of Rangers 2013 free agents. Ryan Dempster, Roy Oswalt, Mark Lowe and Scott Feldman round out the list, but will most likely not return next season.

Most of these signings will not come to fruition – heck, there’s no telling if any of them will. There is no telling what Jon Daniels and Co. have up their sleeves this offseason, but for the sake of the 2013 season, let’s hope it’s something really good.

Read Rangers offseason moves, part two here: http://nolanwritin.com/2012/10/30/rangers-offseason-moves-part-two-trade-targets/

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