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Monday, November 26, 2012
Winter Meetings shopping list: Starters

By Richard Durrett

Front office personnel, agents and scouts will start to gather in Nashville this weekend in anticipation for the Winter Meetings, which run next week. In preparation for those meetings, we'll take a look at some areas the Rangers hope to address at the meetings. It's their version of a Black Friday shopping list.

Today's position: Starting pitchers

It seems that every year the Texas Rangers are looking for starting pitching. And why not? It's a critical area of any club and one of the quickest ways to improve. Last offseason, it was the final day of the winter meetings that signaled the club's intention to dive back into the market, though no one knew it at the time. That last day of the meetings in Dallas, several Rangers staff members had meetings with Bob Simpson and Ray Davis to help convince them to spend the money to bid for Yu Darvish. That yielded dividends in 2012 and Darvish comes into 2013 as the No. 1 pitcher on the club.

Joining Darvish in the rotation at this point: Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando. That leaves one spot open. Filling it with a top-flight starter would certainly bolster the Rangers' chances in 2013.

On top of anyone's free-agent starting pitcher list has to be Zack Greinke. He's got the best resume of any pitcher looking for a job. And with Darvish signed up for five more seasons, the club hoping to get Harrison inked long-term (he's got two more arbitration years left before hitting free agency) and Holland already under contract that could have him pitching in Arlington through the 2018 season, adding another pitcher with pedigree to that group could make them a force for years to come.

Greinke pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers and then the Los Angeles Angels in 2012. He was 9-3 with a 3.44 ERA in 21 starts (123 innings) for the Brewers and then went 6-2 with a 3.53 ERA in 13 starts to finish the season for the Angels. Greinke's last eight starts in 2012 were impressive and have to be on the minds of general managers as they contemplate signing him to a big contract. He was 5-0 with a 2.04 ERA in those last eight starts, many of them big ones as the Angels tried (but ultimately failed) to secure a playoff spot.

Greinke has pitched well against the AL West in his career (2.91 ERA in 49 games) and is 3-5 with a 2.84 ERA in 79 1/3 innings at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The question is whether it would take six years to get him. At 29 years old, he may want something like the six year, $144 million Cole Hamels got. The Rangers may not want to make that big an investment, though I've got to think they'd consider it as it would be another player they could add to their core and fortify the rotation.

But the Angels are also going to be fully motivated to sign Greinke as their rotation goes through changes. Others will also jump in the Greinke sweepstakes, which you've got to think will heat up in Nashville.

There are other starting pitchers out there on the market -- Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson, for example -- but they don't stack up to Greinke. The Rangers will look at trade possibilities too. If there's any chance the Tampa Bay Rays would part with David Price or James Shields, the Rangers could match up. But to me, it has to be a pretty big name that would help the rotation at the top end.

That's not to say the club won't look at increasing depth. They always do. But in terms of a big deal, I think they'd look to really increase the club's competitive chances with a front-end starter. That's high up on the shopping list in Nashville.

Which starting pitcher do you want? How do you think the Rangers will fill that spot?