The Texas Rangers reported interest in a pair of free agent center fielders is a sign of confidence in Danny Santana and Nick Solak, not a lack thereof.
Per Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Texas Rangers showed an interest in free agent center fielders Jarrod Dyson and Billy Hamilton. Both players went on to sign with other clubs, the Pirates and Giants respectively, but the Rangers interest in center fielders came as no surprise. What was a bit surprising was the tier of center fielder in which Texas was searching. Dyson and Hamilton represent center field depth options rather than fits as everyday players which could signal a genuine confidence in Danny Santana or Nick Solak as an everyday center fielder. This was compounded by Wilson noting that the club did not have talks with Kevin Pillar who fell more into the tier of an everyday player than a defensive depth player.
The topic of center field has been a contentious one among Rangers fans who are concerned that the club traded away their top defensive option in Delino DeShields and remain without a natural center field option on the roster. Joey Gallo of course has shown an ability to play the position well but the Rangers are committed to him in right field where he has the makings of a superstar both offensively and defensively. That opens the door for both Danny Santana and Nick Solak, who are bats that need to be in the Texas Rangers lineup, but who also lack a defined defensive spot for the club.
Santana and Solak were two of the more positive storylines for the Texas Rangers last season as both emerged as legitimate long-term pieces. Santana, who joined the club on a minor-league deal, was one of the most important players for the club last season and showed his versatility by playing a number of different positions for Texas. Solak didn’t make the full season impact that Santana did being acquired partway through the year from Tampa Bay, but once he was called up, he shined at the plate quickly becoming a fan favorite.
As of now, it seems Danny Santana is set to be the Rangers starting center fielder come Opening Day but there is a growing belief that Nick Solak could challenge him for that role. Solak, a second baseman by trade, has been working at a number of spots as he tries to minimize his defensive limitations which don’t seem to profile well on the infield. However, Solak is a stout athlete and the vacancy in center field could provide him a chance to get into the lineup on an everyday basis. The club also values Santana’s ability to play a variety of positions and with the potential for regular shuffling on the infield, he could prove important.
The battle for center field is sure to be an interesting one to watch this spring but by all accounts, it seems the Texas Rangers are comfortable rolling with Santana and Solak as their primary center field options this coming season.