Note: This is part of our Hot Stove Talk series, which profiles free agents and looks at possible trades the Texas Rangers could make this offseason.
Today's issue: What now for the Rangers?
This is the second time we've done a "What now for the Rangers?" post, and it won't be the last this offseason. But last week represented a seismic shift in the offseason landscape. Big names were exchanged. Top free agents went off the board prior to Thanksgiving, let alone the winter meetings.
The Rangers have satisfied at least one major priority during this Hot Stove season: a power-hitting, left-handed batter. Fielder can now go in the middle of the lineup, either batting third or fifth, because manager Ron Washington says right now he wants to leave Adrian Beltre at cleanup (though things could certainly change once the skipper sees his entire team in February). He gives the club that "presence," as Washington says, that they need.
But the shopping list is still very active for general manager Jon Daniels & Co.
The club still needs a left fielder. And there are corner outfielders available. They've shown interest in Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and, of course, Nelson Cruz. Don't count out Nate McLouth, either. The club likes him and he's someone we'll profile on our "Hot Stove Talk" this week.
Because Ellsbury can play center field, I think his value will be too high to make sense. Leonys Martin can handle center, so I wonder if Ellsbury makes as much sense as the others.
Beltran could be attractive as a switch-hitter and someone who isn't looking for as long a deal as Ellsbury, Choo or Cruz, for that matter. He's risky in terms of his age, but his bat could help this lineup and give Washington options and his contract wouldn't break the bank.
I like Choo and I think he could help this team, but I wonder if the price is just going to be too high for the Rangers, especially in light of taking on Fielder's contract. But those are the kind of things that should play themselves out in the next few weeks.
I'll stick with my prediction on Cruz: I think someone gives him a deal that is more than the Rangers are willing to make. We'll see.
This club still needs a catcher to back up Geovany Soto. With McCann wearing pinstripes, the big bat option behind the plate isn't really there. As others have stated of late, Dioner Navarro makes sense or some other stopgap measure with Jorge Alfaro, one of the club's top prospects, a few years out from the big leagues. Maybe Ryan Hanigan becomes available from the Cincinnati Reds.
Even after the Fielder signing, Daniels said he wants another big bat. Does that have to be left field? Not necessarily. He could put that bat at designated hitter. But at this point, perhaps Fielder could slot in there at times if the club keeps Mitch Moreland.
Moreland is an interesting case. Texas could see what kind of value he has on the open market and decide where that may lead. But for a team that was short on power, he provided some measure of it. Perhaps his defense at first base and bat against right-handed hitters is enough to keep him in Texas, with Fielder being the DH when Moreland is in the lineup.
What about Robinson Cano? I still think it's unlikely, but that would certainly be a splash, wouldn't it? In that scenario, the Rangers could look to unload Jurickson Profar. David Price anybody? It seems far-fetched. But you can bet the Rangers are looking at every possibility. Nothing the Rangers have done so far should necessarily take them out of the Price sweepstakes. But they'll need to get creative do to it. You never know.
And get ready. There's still plenty of heat in the stove.