OK, so it's not really a huge item on any sort of list, but it could come into clearer view at the winter meetings. Don't dismiss the bench as an afterthought. Rangers fans know how much the bench mattered in 2010 and, especially in 2011, in the World Series. Having the ability to mix and match late was huge for Tony LaRussa in guiding the St. Louis Cardinals to some close victories in pulling that Fall Classic out in seven games.
The bench also is a topic this offseason because when ripples come based on signings or trades, it's going to impact that bench. For example, what happens with Michael Young? Should the Rangers go out and get a bat or two, they may intend for that bat to get some time at DH. What if the club doesn't trade Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar and that forces Ian Kinsler to shift positions? It means a member of the outfield, depending on which moves are made, could get more bench time. If the Rangers sign someone who can play some first base (take Nick Swisher as an example), that would also cut into Young's time.
So who is on that bench and in what roles is likely to play itself out in the coming weeks and months. The Rangers want some more left-handed bats, and it wouldn't hurt for Ron Washington to have some experienced hitters he could go with in late-inning situations. Young could turn into one of hitters, assuming his role is reduced in 2013. Texas could choose to go with Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin in a platoon of sorts in center field.
The Rangers still have to work out what they're going to do about the catching situation. It's possible they could end up with both Mike Napoli and Geovany Soto back. It's also possible that neither is in Arlington. But that second catcher is obviously a member of the bench, too.
Some of these kinds of "what ifs" could get answered at the winter meetings, giving us a better sense of what that bench will look like in 2013. But if the club is looking at all ways to improve -- starting pitching, bullpen, catcher and outfield -- the bench must also be on the big board and at least in the back of the minds of those in the front office as they talk about a variety of issues in Nashville.