Texas Rangers: James Shields

Rangers met with RHP James Shields

December, 10, 2014
12/10/14
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SAN DIEGO -- Just before the start of the winter meetings, Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels met with free-agent right-handed pitcher James Shields and his agent.

Daniels described Sunday's conversation as just that; no financial numbers were exchanged.

"I don't think anything is going to come out of it," Daniels said Wednesday. "Be prepared in case something changed dramatically."

It was a surprise meeting for the Rangers, because the club wasn't expected to be involved with high-priced free-agent talent. The club wants to sign or trade for a No. 3 starter at a minimal costs so they can maintain club control for one or two seasons.

Shields is considered one of the top pitchers in the game on the free agent market. In 2014, Shields went 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA for the Kansas City Royals, and he has pitched at least 200 innings in eight of his nine big league seasons.

Free-agent lefty Jon Lester removed himself from the market Tuesday night, signing a six-year $155 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. Max Scherzer, another elite right-handed stater, is still on the market and will command a big-money deal, as well.

The Red Sox, losers in the Lester sweepstakes, also are interested in Shields, but their commitment level is stronger than the Rangers'.

"It's unlikely," Daniels said about signing Shields. "I enjoyed the visit and I like the guy a lot. In certain circumstances, I'd love to have him."


A look at ten potential free agent signings

October, 30, 2014
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James ShieldsRick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsJames Shields could be a fit for the Rangers' rotation this offseason.


FanGraphs has a contract crowd sourcing project where they rank the top free agents this offseason based on projected contracts.

The rankings project how much a particular player should make thanks to a formula they designed.

Last year, Shin-Soo Choo was projected to get a five-year $81.1 million deal by FanGraphs, the Rangers signed the outfielder to a seven-year $130 million deal. You can debate whether or not Choo deserved the contract he received just based on his injury-plagued season. Here's last year's project.

With that we rank 10 free agents listed among the best free agents by FanGraphs who might be targets for the Rangers.

1. James Shields

FanGraphs projected salary: Five years, $90 million.

Comment: Shields, the fourth-ranked free agent, is considered to be in the Rangers' wheelhouse in terms of salary demands. He’s not going to get Jon Lester money, however his 14-8 season with a 3.7 WAR for Kansas City was impressive. He also had a 5.46 ERA in the postseason that was a little concerning. Shields would make a solid No. 2/3 starter to Yu Darvish and a four-to-five year contract seems in line with what the Rangers want to do.

2. Russell Martin

FanGraphs projected salary: Four years, $56 million.

Comment: He’s expected to get a qualifying offer of $15.3 million and reject it. He batted .290/.402/.430 in 111 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Jeff Banister, the new Rangers manager, has a relationship with him from his time with the Bucs. If the Rangers make a play for Martin, ranked No. 6 by FanGraphs, it would mean prized minor league catcher Jorge Alfaro is at least two more years away from the big leagues. Martin will be 32 on Opening Day 2015 so his shelf life is roughly three years based on that age.

3. Nelson Cruz

FanGraphs projected salary: Three years, $45 million.

Comment: The Rangers are in need of a corner outfielder and a full-time DH. Cruz, a former Ranger who is No. 10 by FanGraphs, fits this need. His salary demands could rise over the projected $45 million especially after a .525 slugging percentage and a 3.9 WAR in 2014. There's a history here with Cruz and he was suspended for the final 50 games of the 2013 season. But is the salary too much?

4. Ervin Santana

FanGraphs projected salary: Three years, $39 million.

Comment: The 31-year-old right-hander threw 196 innings for the Atlanta Braves in 2014 and has made more than 30 starts the last five seasons. Santana, No. 11 by FanGraphs, went 18-23 in his last two seasons pitching in the AL. Santana could be a nice signing if Shields' salary gets to high for the Rangers.

[+] EnlargeBrandon McCarthy
AP Photo/Tony DejakBrandon McCarthy is another attractive option for the Rangers' rotation.

5. Brandon McCarthy

FanGraphs projected salary: Three years, $36 million.

Comment: The New York Yankees want to re-sign the righty, who is coming off a career-high 200 innings of work in 2014. McCarthy, ranked No. 13, had a WAR of 3.0 and is more of a No. 3 starter. Say the Rangers can’t sign Shields or another top-tier free agent, McCarthy becomes a nice pitcher behind left-hander Derek Holland and Darvish. The Yankees, desperate for pitching, might overpay to retain the former Ranger.

6. Colby Rasmus

FanGraphs projected salary: Three years, $30 million.

Comment: He’s primary a center fielder (732 games) with only 15 games total as a corner outfielder. Leonys Martin is the Rangers' leadoff man and the starting center fielder, but could he change positions, left maybe, or could Rasmus do it? Rasmus hit .225/.287/.448 for Toronto and was sat for younger players in September. A new venue and change of position might work for the No. 16-ranked free agent.

7. Jason Hammel

FanGraphs projected salary: Three years, $27 million.

Comment: The right-handed starter has pitched for five teams and struggled after a trade from the Chicago Cubs to the Oakland Athletics in 2014. He went 2-6 with the Athletics and in 13 starts pitched into the seventh inning four times. At No. 19, the 31-year old is a good No. 3 starter who might not command a ton of money.

8. Billy Butler

FanGraphs projected salary: Two years, $18 million.

Comment: A good durable player who might be a nice first baseman/DH to give Prince Fielder a break in the field and is the full-time DH. This is nothing against Mitch Moreland, but he’s coming off ankle surgery and it’s undetermined if he’ll be the same player. If you can upgrade with Butler, then it makes sense. He did have a poor -0.3 WAR and his strikeout percentage was 15.9 percent.

9. Torii Hunter

FanGraphs projected salary: One year, $10 million.

Comment: This is a one-shot deal. Hunter, 39, is a veteran player who can play a corner outfield spot and DH from time to time. If some of the younger Rangers aren’t ready to play the outfield yet, then Hunter is a smart play. You just wonder if Hunter wants to play here for one more season.

10. Justin Masterson

FanGraphs projected salary: One year $9 million.

Comment: Masterson will probably get more than a one-year deal from somebody but he dealt with knee problems and his sinker lost some velocity as the season progressed. He did make 25 starts last season between Cleveland and St. Louis. Ranked No. 36, the 29-year old Masterson, if healthy, might be a steal if someone wants to give him a chance.
We conclude our Burning Questions series for the Texas Rangers by looking at the starting rotation.

Now that we know who the manager is, Jeff Banister, we can no longer speculate. Well maybe we can still do that, in terms of what the team will do.

Colby Lewis
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillWill the Rangers sign free-agent pitcher Colby Lewis to a new deal?
GM Jon Daniels said the club is making starting pitching its No. 1 priority, but the payroll -- $133.5 million last season -- will stay in the same range.

Will the Rangers be able to go after top-tier free-agent pitchers Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields? Probably not unless something changes with the ownership's stance on adding a high-priced free agent.

The Rangers can look at Justin Masterson, who after his trade to St. Louis compiled a 7.04 ERA in nine games/six starts. Masterson won 14 games in Cleveland in 2013.

Brandon McCarthy, after a 3-10 start in Arizona, was traded to the New York Yankees and he excelled with a 2.89 ERA and a 7-5 mark.

Those two seems fair to explore from a financial standpoint.

Right-handed starter Colby Lewis (10-14 in 2013) is a free agent. When the season ended, Daniels said he had preliminary talks with Lewis’ agent about a new contract.

(Read full post)

Matchup: Alexi Ogando vs. James Shields

September, 22, 2013
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KANSAS CITY -- The Texas Rangers go for their first series win since late August when right-hander Alexi Ogando faces Royals right-hander James Shields at 1:10 p.m. Sunday afternoon on Fox Sports Southwest and ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and 1540-AM.

Ogando (7-4, 3.15 ERA): Ogando makes his second start in September and will be on a limited pitch count of around 80 pitches ... He picked up a win on Tuesday at Tampa Bay, going five innings and allowing a run ... Ogando is 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA since coming back from his third stint on the disabled list this season on Sept. 4 ... Opponents are 3-for-34 against him since his return ... Ogando has received one run or fewer of support in eight of his 16 starts ... He is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA for eight appearances/three starts against the Royals.

Shields (12-9, 3.33 ERA): Shields has won six of his last seven starts as he finds himself on a late-inning run ... He beat Cleveland 7-1 on Tuesday, allowing a run in six innings ... Shields had 10 strikeouts and allowed a home run ... He is 3-1 with a 4.74 ERA for four starts in September ... Shields is 3-6 with a 4.73 ERA in 15 home starts ... Shields has faced the Rangers once this season, allowing a run in seven innings and getting a no-decision.

Hitters: Alcides Escobar is 2-for-8 with an RBI against Ogando. Elvis Andrus is 13-for-31 with two RBIs against Shields.

Rapid Reaction: Royals 4, Rangers 1 (10)

June, 1, 2013
6/01/13
6:26
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers reliever Robbie Ross allowed three runs in the top of the 10th as the Kansas City Royals pulled out a 4-1 victory in 10 innings at Rangers Ballpark.

Ross struggles in 10th: Ross lost twice Saturday, first in a cow-milking contest to Royals catcher George Kottaras, then in the 10th inning against the light-hitting Royals. Ross loaded the bases, then struck out two to close in on getting out of the self-created jam. But he hit David Lough on the elbow to bring in the go-ahead run and Kottaras got Ross again with a two-out double over Nelson Cruz's head for a 4-1 Kansas City lead.

Beltre leaves game: Third baseman Adrian Beltre left Sunday's game after the ninth inning with tightness in his left hamstring. Beltre aggravated the injury running the bases in the fourth inning. He was 1-for-4 with a run scored in a game that was tied 1-1 after nine innings.

Rangers miss chance in ninth: Mitch Moreland drew a walk and with two outs went to third on a bloop double to left field by A.J. Pierzynski. Moreland was steaming around third but was held up by third-base coach Gary Pettis. Jurickson Profar had a chance for his first walk-off hit but popped up behind home plate.

Tepesch matches Shields: The Rangers' rookie right-hander faced a tough task going up against the always consistent James Shields. It can be argued Nick Tepesch outdueled Shields. The Royals scored their lone run -- an unearned run -- on a passed ball on Pierzynski to tie the game at 1-1 in the top of the fifth (it was more a wild pitch that should have been blocked by the Rangers' catcher). Tepesch allowed seven hits, all of them singles. He picked up 12 more ground balls outs.

Cotts delivers: Make it six inherited runners who have failed to score on Neal Cotts' watch. He entered the game in the top of the seventh with runners at first and third and one out. Cotts struck out Royals second baseman Elliot Johnson looking. After walking Alex Gordon to load the bases, Cotts was able to get shortstop Alcides Escobar to fly out to center field.

Moreland caps brief rally: The Rangers were able to string together three straight singles off Shields in the bottom of the fourth. That's big considering they had only five hits against Shields. Beltre and Cruz had two-out singles to set up Moreland, who lined a single into center field for a 1-0 lead.

Missed chance in fifth: Leonys Martin stole second against a tough pitcher to run on -- Shields -- and got to third on a throwing error by Royals catcher Adam Moore, all with one out. And it didn't produce a run, as outstanding defense by Kansas City kept the game tied. Escobar made a diving stop on a ground ball by Elvis Andrus, freezing Martin at third. Then Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas made a good play on a tapper by David Murphy to end the inning.

Scheppers the man: Tanner Scheppers was the eighth-inning man again for the Rangers, shutting down a Kansas City threat with the game still tied at 1-1. With Eric Hosmer at third base and two outs, Scheppers got Lough to ground out to shortstop to keep the game tied.

Up next: The Rangers send Yu Darvish (7-2, 3.03 ERA) to the mound Sunday afternoon against Kansas City right-hander Ervin Santana (3-5, 3.33) at 2:05 p.m. on Fox Sports Southwest and ESPN-FM 103.3 and 1540-AM.

Matchup: Nick Tepesch vs. James Shields

June, 1, 2013
6/01/13
11:16
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers send rookie right-hander Nick Tepesch to the mound Saturday afternoon against Kansas City's James Shields at 3:05 p.m. on Fox Sports Southwest and ESPN-FM 103.3 and 1540-AM.

Tepesch (3-4, 3.88 ERA): Tepesch makes his 10th start against his hometown Royals ... Tepesch has lost three of his last four starts ... He's pitched in bad luck though with a 1-1 record and a 2.70 ERA for his last three starts to drop his ERA from 4.50 to 3.88 ... Tepesch didn't allow a run in the first three innings of any of those starts ... Tepesch is second among American League rookies in ERA ... His 37 strikeouts rank him second behind teammate Justin Grimm among AL rookies and he is third with 48 2/3 innings ... Tepesch has pitched with little run support ... He has received two runs of support or less in five of his last six starts ... He had a no-decision in the Rangers' 4-3 loss in 13 innings on Sunday, allowing two runs in 5 2/3 innings ... The Rangers are 4-5 in his nine starts ... Tepesch is a native of Blue Springs, Mo.

Shields (2-6, 2.96 ERA): The Rangers know Shields very well from his time with the Tampa Rays, both in the regular season and the postseason ... Shields was acquired in a seven-player deal last Dec. 9 and has pitched well, ranking ninth in the AL in ERA ... He is third with 79 innings pitches and seventh with 73 strikeouts ... Shields had a stretch of eight straight quality starts snapped Monday against St. Louis as he allowed six runs on nine hits in six innings .... He had five walks, tying a career high ... Shields has gone at least six innings in 25 straight starts going back to last July 25 against Seattle ... He has 21 quality starts and five complete games ... Shields is 7-3 for 11 career starts vs. the Rangers with a 2.78 ERA ... He also faced the Rangers in the AL Division Series in 2010 and '11 losing Game 2 both times ... Shields is 3-3 with a 3.64 ERA in Arlington.

Hitters: Tepesch faces the Royals for the first time. Elvis Andrus (11-for-23, 2 RBIs) is one of the few Rangers who have had success against Shields, who has held the current group of Texas hitters to a .233 batting average.

Rangers No. 8 in early power rankings

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
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ESPN.com's David Schoenfield, writing on the SweetSpot blog, came up with his early top-10 power rankings and places the Rangers at No. 8. Here's what he wrote about Texas:



8. Texas Rangers

Yes, you don't easily replace 43 home runs in the middle of the lineup, and while the Rangers have whiffed on Josh Hamilton, Greinke, James Shields and Justin Upton this offseason, this still remains a talented team with lineup depth and pitching depth. Yes, they've lost Hamilton and Mike Napoli, but prospects Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt are ready to step in and contribute or remain trade bait. The rotation still includes Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison and Derek Holland, with Alexi Ogando ready to move back into a starter role. Hard-throwing lefty Martin Perez will be given a shot to start, and Colby Lewis is rehabbing from elbow surgery.

Strengths: infield defense; power arms on pitching staff.

Weaknesses: left-handed power; catcher.


The teams ahead of the Rangers in the rankings:

1. Washington Nationals
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. New York Yankees
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Atlanta Braves
6. Oakland A's
7. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Angels, interestingly enough, are not in the top-10 (the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays round out the list).

Blockbuster may come, but Rangers won't rush it

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- There was no blockbuster signing at the winter meetings for the Texas Rangers.

Josh Hamilton didn't put on his familiar No. 32 uniform again. Zack Greinke wasn't posing for photos with general manager Jon Daniels and CEO Nolan Ryan. Justin Upton, James Shields and R.A. Dickey haven't made any plans to relocate to the Lone Star State. And Michael Young is still a Ranger.

That's where it stands right now, at least. Things are clearly subject to change.

Just because the trades or signings didn't happen amid the cavernous pathways and winding streams at the humongous Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center doesn't mean they won't happen at some point. And it could be soon.

"I think we have a sense of a couple of things that are possible, and hopefully we'll be able to advance the ball there," general manager Jon Daniels said. "I feel like we have a better sense of what's real and what's not."

Some are blaming the Rangers for holding up the winter meetings, making everyone wait before other moves can happen. That's only partially true. They can't control how long Hamilton or Greinke wait to see how many suitors they have for their services.

But at this point, the Rangers are content to stay patient and see if one of those bigger dominoes falls to them or someone else so that they can then scurry off in whichever direction is needed to further improve the club in 2013. And the fact that they have so many baseballs in the air and haven't caught any of them yet has some other teams waiting before they can proceed.

"We're looking at different options," Daniels said. "Because of the number of free agents we have and some of the versatility we have, there's a lot of different ways we can go. That's the good part. The flip side is we have a lot of work to do. We've tried to address a number of things."


Read the whole story here.

Lobby talk: Rangers juggling and waiting

December, 5, 2012
12/05/12
11:10
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It's still early on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings and it seems a bit quiet, but if you'll remember it was Day 3 at last year that set the stage for the fireworks of C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols that ended those meetings in Dallas. We'll see if there's any kind of repeat this year.

PODCAST
ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett explains that once Zack Greinke signs with a team, things will start to fall into place with the rest of the baseball market.

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The Texas Rangers, to no one's surprise, are exploring things on multiple fronts. That's been general manager Jon Daniels' approach since he took the job. He has the financial resources to talk about Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke and they have assets in the form of prospects to talk about various trades.

A few things of note:

* Texas has kept the lines of communication open with Casey Close, Greinke's agent, but beyond that, it's unclear what may happen. Greinke could decide to take his time and see what kind of parameters for a deal are out there. The chatter in the lobby is that it all hinges on what the Dodgers want to do. If they feel like they have to have Greinke, perhaps they go a seventh year and make him the highest paid pitcher in history. The Rangers have shown a reluctance to go more than five years on pitchers, but they've made exceptions too (they offered Cliff Lee more than that two years ago and went six years for Yu Darvish, not to mention the posting bid). The Rangers see Greinke as the best option to upgrade their staff, but everyone is waiting to see what he does.

SportsNation

Who will the Rangers sign at the Winter Meetings?

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Discuss (Total votes: 17,257)

* Meanwhile, the Rangers are waiting to see what kind of market materializes for Hamilton. What one of these big free agents does can impact the other. It seems like it would be tough for Texas to sign both (though we've learned to never rule anything like that out when it comes to this front office), so if they don't get Greinke, they could turn their attention to Hamilton and then look at a trade for a pitcher. If Greinke comes to Texas, they could look at dealing for an outfielder or going with their current crop. At this point, it doesn't appear there's a big, long-term deal out there -- or, I should say, no one has been talking about it if there is.

* James Shields certainly interests the Rangers, but it will depend on what kind of price the Tampa Bay Rays are charging in terms of prospects (and whether Greinke comes to Texas). Shields is attractive because he's pitched at least 200 innings the last six seasons. He turns 31 in December, but is under club control for the next two years at a very affordable price ($9 million this season, $12 million club option for 2014).

* Justin Upton remains a name talked about, but at this point it doesn't appear the Rangers would part with Elvis Andrus in that deal. That's why the reports about a four-team deal make some sense because the Rangers could get Upton and Arizona could get its shortstop from someone else. Folks in the lobby say there's something to it, but doubt it could completely come together. Perhaps that's simply because it's difficult enough to get two sides to agree to a trade, let alone three or four.

* The thin catching market still includes A.J. Pierznyski and the club has some interest in Miguel Olivo. The Blue Jays have a bunch of catching, so you wonder when they might try to unload some of it. Besides John Buck, J.P. Arencibia and top-rated prospect Travis d'Arnaud, they claimed Eli Whiteside off waivers from the Yankees recently.

Winter Meetings shopping list: Starters

November, 26, 2012
11/26/12
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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.

SportsNation

Which free agent starting pitcher should the Rangers try to sign during the Winter Meetings?

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Discuss (Total votes: 1,983)

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?

Hot Stove: Starting pitching thoughts

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
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In the aftermath of the Toronto Blue Jays' megatrade with the Miami Marlins, some of you wondered if the Texas Rangers would go after Ricky Nolasco, another higher-paid Marlins' player that could be shopped around (though there are reports he's likely to stay...we'll see).

The Rangers could use another starting pitcher. The rotation as it stands now: Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando. But when it comes to starters, I think you've got to focus on impact pitchers. Nolasco is a fine No. 4 or No. 5 starter. He was 12-13 with a 4.48 ERA with 125 strikeouts and 47 walks. He pitched 191 innings (31 starts).

But the problem is he's slated to make $11.5 million. That's too high a price to pay for a pitcher that won't, in my opinion, make the staff appreciably better. I'm all for adding depth, but not at $11.5 million.

I think the Rangers will shoot higher. The most attractive pitcher on the free-agent market is Zack Greinke. The 29-year-old made 34 starts between Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Angels last year. After struggling in his first few starts with the Angels, he finished the season strong. He has a track record and would really strengthen the rotation. But the Angels will be aggressive in trying to re-sign him and it's going to take a big investment to land him.

We'll look at some more pitchers in detail in the coming weeks, but Anibal Sanchez is still out there as well. He's no Greinke, but he would improve the overall rotation. He's had an ERA under 3.88 the past four seasons and finished in 2012 campaign with the Detroit Tigers, pitching well under pressure. He was 4-6 with a 3.74 ERA in 12 starts for them.

But Greinke's in such a good spot because he's clearly the top free agent pitcher. The Rangers have the minor league system to go out and try to make a deal through trades, if some top pitchers are made available. I've always been partial to James Shields, who would again be an example of someone who is a difference-maker that really improves the rotation. He was 15-10 with a 3.52 ERA just one season after going 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA. But the Rays may not want to deal him. You never know if they'd look at David Price, but that's when the name Jurickson Profar gets talked about (which I'm hesitant to do, but would discuss when it comes to top-flight starting pitching or, as we mentioned earlier, a guy like Giancarlo Stanton).

The Rangers will always look to add depth to the rotation and invite some guys for spring training in case plans change (like injuries, which always bite this team in spring training), but they're going to do that at the right price. As for what they'll try to do with the rotation this offseason, think bigger than Nolasco. If they do anything, I think it will be landing a truly impact starter.

What would you like to see the team do about its starting rotation? Stay tuned here on the blog this week and in coming weeks as we continue to break down some possibilities and discuss the Hot Stove as it relates to the Rangers.

Rapid Reaction: Rays 6, Rangers 0

September, 9, 2012
9/09/12
3:10
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The Rangers couldn't figure out how to hit James Shields or how to stop B.J. Upton and fell 6-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays. Some quick thoughts on a quick game:

What it means: The Rays win two out three over the weekend as Texas loses its first series since dropping three of four in Yankee Stadium in mid-August. The Rangers will wait to see how Oakland does later today as the lead in the AL West drops to four games for the moment. ... Texas wins six of 10 games on the road trip.

Shields dominant: The Rays' starting pitcher, who threw so well against the Rangers in Arlington 10 days ago, was at it again Sunday with a complete-game, two-hit shutout. His breaking stuff had plenty of movement, the sinker was working, he got ahead of hitters, and he pitched quickly. ... The only hit he allowed through the first 7 2/3 innings was a Nelson Cruz single to lead off the second, but Cruz was eliminated on Michael Young's double-play grounder. ... Shields gave up his second hit to David Murphy with two outs in the eighth. ... Shields allowed a runner in the first on an error he made, but it didn't end up hurting him. ... He struck out eight Rangers, including Geovany Soto, Josh Hamilton and Elvis Andrus twice. ... Shields needed just 101 pitches (71 strikes).

Short outing: Roy Oswalt lasted just two innings on Sunday and was pulled with a right flexor soreness near his elbow. ... He was struggling when he left, allowing four runs on six hits with a strikeout, a walk and two homers allowed in those two innings. ... Oswalt was hit hard in both innings and needed 49 pitches to get through them. ... He left with the Rangers down 4-0 and Martin Perez entered the game to take his place.

Leadoff long ball: The Rangers fell behind quickly on Sunday as Oswalt gave up a leadoff home run to Upton on the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning. ... Jose Molina hit a two-run shot off Oswalt in the second inning as well.

Up(ton), up, up and away: Upton had a memorable afternoon at Tropicana Field. After depositing a home run to start the game, he came back with another to lead off the fourth and still one more in the sixth. Upton blasted a solo shot off Perez on a 3-0, 92-mph fastball in the fourth. He then hit a first-pitch curve from Perez into the seats in left for his third homer of the game and 21st of the season. He's hit four of those off the Rangers this season.

Perez eats innings: Pressed into duty early with Oswalt's injury, Perez ended up pitching five innings and gave up two runs on six hits with three strikeouts, a walk and those two home runs allowed to Upton. ... Still, Perez did his job and perhaps gains some confidence from it in the process.

Tired?: The Rangers looked a bit weary from the 10-day road trip, especially after they fell behind so quickly. Perhaps the best example of that was an inability to turn a double play in the fourth. Ben Zobrist hit a ground ball to Elvis Andrus, and it appeared to be a double play. But the exchange at second base with Ian Kinsler took longer than normal and Zobrist beat it out. ... It's pretty natural to expect that from a team that has traveled that much and be away that long.

No scoring chances: Texas didn't even have an at-bat with runners in scoring position. In both losses to the Rays, the Rangers were a combined 0-for-1 with runners in scoring position.

Up next: The Rangers are off on Monday (they deserve it) and LHP Matt Harrison, who was given a few extra days of rest as Oswalt got the start Sunday, will pitch against Cleveland on Tuesday night. It's the start of a six-game homestand.

Unburdened Yu Darvish K's 10, baffles Rays

August, 28, 2012
8/28/12
11:32
PM CT


ARLINGTON, Texas -- If consecutive division series victories don't already have the Texas Rangers deep in the heads of the Tampa Bay Rays, the events of the first two games in this potential postseason preview surely haven't helped the Rays' psyche.

On Monday, ace David Price was blistered by the Rangers' bats as Tampa fell a run short, 6-5. One night later, all it took was an Ian Kinsler solo shot in the fourth inning to top another Tampa Bay big-game pitcher in James Shields. If that's not befuddling enough for the visitors, they went down whiffing in their first look at Japanese import Yu Darvish, whose evolution is gaining steam as he learns to loosen the grip of expectation he's wrestled ever since arriving on Texas soil.

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The freshly unburdened Darvish improved to 13-9 after Tuesday's 1-0 victory, in which he scattered six hits and pitched out of a no-out jam with runners at second and third in the second inning and then a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fourth. After that he retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced, striking out six of them to give him 10 in seven innings and setting a rookie franchise record with his eighth double-digit strikeout game.

In his last two starts spanning 14 innings, Darvish has 20 strikeouts and walked three.

"He was outstanding, he really was, especially after the second, (he) got to the third then he began to execute his pitches," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I think he showed what he’s made of."

Washington said the tall right-hander is doing more by thinking less. Coming off a 10-day layoff after missing his last start due to a quadriceps issue, Darvish kept the light-hitting Rays lineup off-balance with an assortment of fastballs, cutters, sliders and cuveballs. But most important to his success, Washington and Darvish agreed, is the pitcher's narrowed mindset.

"I can say in his case he was carrying a lot of baggage and I think he’s dumped the baggage, so we’ve got Yu Darvish here now," Washington said. "And when I say baggage, he came to the United States carrying a whole lot and he was trying to impress a ton of people. And I think right now the only thing he’s concerned about is impressing Yu Darvish, and once he does that he impresses everybody else."

Darvish agreed.

"Today I felt really good. My command was good, my stuff was good," he said. "As my manager said, that’s exactly what I’m doing right now, just focused on pitching, competing against the hitters, not worried about the outside stuff or even giving up walks; so just pitching right now."

With it has come an abrupt end to the walks that had often done him in moreso than the opposing lineup. He walked just two batters Tuesday -- and three in his last 14 innings of work -- both coming in the only innings in which he had to work to avoid falling behind. In the second, a lead-off walk to Ben Zobrist was followed by a Luke Scott double to put runners at second and third with no outs.

Darvish then got Carlos Pena to strike out, Ryan Roberts to fly out to center and Jose Lobaton to ground out to second. In the fourth, Darvish walked Scott with no outs to put runners at first and second before an infield roller loaded the bases for Lobaton. First baseman Mitch Moreland, who made a run-saving stab in the eighth, gobbled up his grounder, fired to second for the force and Darvish caught the throw back to first from Elvis Andrus, stammered to find first base for a moment and then got the bag for the inning-ending double play.

On Monday, the Rays couldn't beat a sloppy Derek Holland with their ace on the hill. A night later, they were baffled by Darvish and hung Shields (12-9) with a loss despite him allowing just three of the Rangers' four hits.

None of it can be an especially pleasant development for the Rays if these two teams are to meet again in October.

"I know James Shields is a very good pitcher and he’s been pitching very well," Darvish said. "But I didn’t try to think that I was pitching against him or the fact that he was pitching well or the tight score in the game; just focused on making each pitch a quality pitch and getting the hitters out."

Matchup: Yu Darvish vs. James Shields

August, 28, 2012
8/28/12
1:30
PM CT


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The second game of this three-game set features RHP Yu Darvish and RHP James Shields at 7:05 p.m. on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and FSSW. Here's a look at the matchup:

Darvish (12-9, 4.51 ERA): He's making his first start since Aug. 17, when he pitched well (three earned runs in seven innings) in Toronto but lost. ... In fact, Darvish has quality starts in his last two outings, including a win over the Detroit Tigers. ... Darvish is 2-5 with a 6.23 ERA in eight starts since the start of July. ... This is his second attempt to become the first Ranger rookie ever to win 13 games. ... He's second in the AL in strikeouts per nine innings at 10.48, but third in walks with 80. ... He has seven games with 10 or more strikeouts, the most in the majors. ... Darvish is facing the Rays for the first time. Against an opponent for the first time in his career, Darvish is 8-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 11 starts.

Shields (12-7, 4.01 ERA): The 30-year-old is making his 27th start of the season and his 14th on the road. ... He's 7-3 with a 3.98 ERA away from Tropicana Field in 2012. ... Over his last five starts, he's 4-0 with a 2.15 ERA (vs. Oakland, Toronto, Minnesota, Los Angeles Angels, Kansas City) and has 34 strikeouts while allowing 22 hits and three walks in that span. ... In his last start, Shields allowed three runs on five hits with seven strikeouts and a walk in 7 2/3 innings in a victory over the Royals. ... Shields is tied for fourth in innings pitched, fifth in strikeouts and third in hits allowed. ... This is is 10th career regular-season start against Texas. He's 6-2 with a 3.32 ERA and has won his last four regular-season starts against the Rangers (a 1.80 ERA in that stretch). ... He is 0-2 with a 10.61 ERA in three playoff starts (one in 2010, one in 2011) against Texas.

Hitters: Elvis Andrus is 10-for-16 (.625) in his career off Shields and has by far the best mark against him of any Ranger. ... Josh Hamilton is 3-for-19 in the regular season off him. ... Michael Young (5-for-23), Ian Kinsler (5-for-25), David Murphy (3-for-16) and Mitch Moreland (2-for-12) have struggled against him. ... Darvish has not faced the Rays.

Up next:

Wed. vs. Tampa Bay: LHP Matt Harrison (15-7, 3.04 ERA) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (8-8, 4.32), 6:05 p.m., ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540 AM/FSSW

Josh Hamilton faces challenge next two days

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
2:39
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton is having a good August. He's batting .300 with six homers nad 27 RBIs -- the same he had in June and July combined.

But the task gets tougher for Hamilton. He faces David Price tonight, an ace who has had Hamilton's number throughout his career. Hamilton is just 4-for-24 (with no home runs) against Price during his career. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that's tied for the lowest batting average by Hamilton against any pitcher in which he's got at least 20 at-bats. He also has a .167 average against James Shields, who pitches Tuesday night for the Tampa Bay Rays (Hamilton is also hitting .167 off Felix Hernandez.

The 24 at-bats against Price without a home run are the second-most at-bats without a long ball off any pitcher for Hamilton. He's gone 26 at-bats without a homer off Trevor Cahill.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Adrian Beltre
BA HR RBI R
.324 19 77 79
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
WC. Lewis 10
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182