Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
The Texas Rangers need a corner outfielder. Alex Rios played himself out of Arlington and the Rangers are currently short one corner outfielder. Even so the Rangers are in a great position regardless of how they approach filing that spot this offseason.
One way the team could fill the spot is to sign a free agent outfielder. Rumor had it Jon Daniels tried his best to sign Torii Hunter but that the Minnesota Twins ended up signing the 40 year old to a one year 10.5 million dollar deal. This is a significant overpay and it is hard to imagine Hunter being worth that with his decline at the plate and in the field.
The Rangers have corner outfield prospects in abundance. They have Nomar Mazara, Nick Williams, Lewis Brinson, Jose Almonte, Jario Beras and Ronald Guzman just to name a few. These players are only a few years from cracking the major league roster. Mazara and Williams both have star level upside and are currently on the Frisco RoughRiders (AA) roster. A 2017 debut would be feasible for either. Guzman and Beras are currently in high A Hickory and could be as little as a year behind Mazara and Williams. It is also not yet time to throw in the towel on Michael Choice.
Texas can sign a free agent to be a stop gap while Mazara and Williams get their minor league reps. There are few true impact bats among free agent outfielders, especially now that Nelson Cruz has joined Texas’s division rival but there are good players to be had. Texas could sign Melky Cabrera, Jonny Gomes, Mike Morse, Nori Aoki or Nick Markakis. These are decent stop gaps. They would not have long term appeal and but would make the Rangers’ lineup longer. The team could definitely use additional production in the lineup. Daniels has to decide whether to add marginal improvement or an impact bat.
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Another way Daniels can improve the team is to trade from this exceptional prospect depth. The Rangers have been linked to several trade rumors involving corner outfielders. The most notable is Justin Upton. Upton is the kind of star player that changes a franchise and would be costly in both prospects and money. Other possible trade scenarios include Matt Kemp and Yoenis Cespedes. Both of these players would be harder to trade for than Upton because it seems the Dodgers and Red Sox respectively want major league ready talent in exchange. If either would take on salary in order to get prospects from the Rangers then a deal could get done.
A trade that lands Justin Upton would be a great thing (I have been an irrational advocate for Upton for years now) A deal that lands Kemp or Cespedes would also be intriguing for a team that seems to only be missing one major bat in the lineup, provided Prince Fielder bounces back. With this many prospects the team can afford to trade some prospects away. They would still have talent in the system.
The Rangers currently only have two real needs, a corner outfielder and a starting pitcher. Texas currently has Leonys Martin in center field and Shin-Soo Choo in one corner outfield spot for the foreseeable future. This team is built to compete now and the front office is committed to winning now without sacrificing the future. Whether the Rangers sign a corner outfielder or trade for a star like Upton the future looks good for Texas outfielders.