Editor's note: We continue our look at some of the needs the Texas Rangers hope to address at the winter meetings next week in Nashville.
Today's position: Relievers
It seems like an annual rite of winter for the Rangers: Go out and reassemble a bullpen. But that's by design. This front office has shown the past few years that they can find bargains, promote young pitchers (see Robbie Ross) or make key acquisitions at the deadline.
They'll be on the lookout for how to put together that relief corps again this offseason, and some of that could come into focus in Nashville. The good news for the Rangers: They've got their closer. By pouncing on the closer market early last offseason (even before the winter meetings), the Rangers signed Joe Nathan to a two-year deal and he showed he's healthy and productive after his surgery.
But questions remain about who bridges the gap between the starters and Nathan. Mike Adams is a free agent and is hoping for a multi-year offer on the open market. So he could get too expensive to retain. Alexi Ogando has moved to the rotation and Mark Lowe, Scott Feldman and Koji Uehara are also free agents. Ross is poised to return and currently is the only lefty in the pen. UPDATE (10 a.m.): Feldman has signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs.
The Rangers have already started to look at that part of the club. They acquired Tommy Hottovy from the Kansas City Royals and put him on the 40-man roster with the thought of seeing what he's got at spring training. They'll have other candidates, too, that could work their way into that mix (like Neal Cotts).
Uehara is likely to be a priority. He really showed what he can do near the end of the season. He was great against left-handed batters with that splitter and performed well after missing part of the season with a lat muscle strain. He'll have some suitors, but expect the Rangers to attempt to bring him back. Perhaps Texas looks at the Japanese market again and Kyuji Fujikawa. The club has scouted the 32-year-old righty. What about Jason Grilli? I'm intrigued after his solid 2012, but he may be too expensive.
The club could choose to look at someone with closing experience to use in a setup role (names like Jonathan Broxton or even Jose Valverde are out there). But this could be a type of hole the club fills last, after figuring out some other pieces. In the past, they've found a way to take care of their bullpen needs without breaking the bank. Since they don't have to pay a closer, that's an option again this offseason. So they might stay away from some bigger names that might want a chance to close again or seek multi-year deals in the hopes of assembling a bullpen without paying big bucks or keeping players to short-term deals. But we'll see.
Anyone in particular you'd like to see the club grab for the bullpen?