Rangers Round-Up: Oliver’s Return, Bullpen Chatter, and Locking Up Kinsler


As ESPN’s Jerry Crasnik noted today in a series of tweets, we have all been assuming that left handed reliever Darren Oliver will be returning to the Texas Rangers next season. But the 41-year-old is apparently garnering interest from multiple clubs and is keeping his options open for what figures to be his final season.  Crasnik mentioned the Red Sox by name as a club with interest in Oliver.

I still think the smart money is on Oliver returning to Texas, but it is concerning that no deal has been struck. Early in the off-season, both sides indicated an interest in a reunion, that it hasn’t happened thus far could be telling. Texas is also reported to have been meeting with Scott Boras about Mike Gonzalez during the Winter Meetings.

The Rangers need at least one southpaw this winter, even if you consider Michael Kirkman to be the second lefty bullpen option. Realistically, with guys like Mike Adams and Koji Uehara (assuming he doesn’t get traded) having an ability to retire left handed hitters, only one tough lefty is probably needed. But Kirkman isn’t that guy.

Ken Rosenthal noted last night that Oakland’s tear-down and rebuild job has only just begun. Even after trading Trevor Cahill to Arizona yesterday, closer Andrew Bailey and starter Gio Gonzalez are both still readily available for the right price. Several clubs have interest in each pitcher, buty Rosenthal names Texas and Cincinnati as two clubs who like both A’s hurlers.

The price for either one is said to be high, so thinking that both might come to Texas in a trade would mean parting with a whole lot of the Rangers top prospects. That’s just not going to happen. The interest in Bailey has been rumored for some time now and the Rangers seem intent on adding another “closer type” in their bullpen. Texas could mitigate the cost of acquiring someone like Bailey by then dealing away Uehara, who has drawn interest from several clubs this winter, including the Orioles and Red Sox.

While the Rangers are in the market for upgrades to their pitching staff, taking care of their own has alos been high on their to-do list this winter. Texas officials began discussing an extension for outfielder Josh Hamilton earlier in the off-season and now have engaged second baseman Ian Kinsler is similar discussions.

Kinsler is signed through 2012, but the Rangers hold a $10 million club option for 2013, so these talks don’t necessarily need to happen right away. That Texas is starting these talks now indicate to me that the club might be trying to get a feel for what Kinsler is seeking long-term. That information could help determine whether it’s Kinsler or shortstop Elvis Andrus who becomes expendable when Jurickson Profar is ready for a major league role.

For what it’s worth, the folks over at BBTiA suggest a three-year, $41 million extension for Kinsler, which would place his next five seasons at a total of $58 million. That number fits in pretty well when compared to Dan Uggla‘s five year, $62 million deal he signed with Atlanta last season. If Uggla set the market for second baseman, however, Kinsler should blow that deal off the table given his superior skill-set. Kinsler is a much better defender and baserunner than Uggla is. Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips is a better comparison. The Reds and Phillips are working on a long-term agreement this winter as well.

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