FORT WORTH (AP) – Rangers general manager Jon Daniels was talking before lunch Thursday about the team still wanting to re-sign Josh Hamilton.
Just more than an hour later, after getting a call from Hamilton’s agent, Daniels was telling the same group of reporters that the five-time All-Star slugger and 2010 AL MVP had agreed to a deal with the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels.
So far, it has been that kind of offseason for Texas.
Zack Greinke, the top free-agent pitcher also targeted by the Rangers, chose the Los Angeles Dodgers instead last weekend.
“Now we go back and look at some of our other options,” Daniels said after getting word that Hamilton was suddenly gone, too.
“We’ve talked all along that we want to play some of our own guys. We were hoping to do it alongside Josh, and I liked the idea of our young players playing with some of our established guys,” the GM said. “We still have a very good nucleus, but it is what it is. He’s a big part of the club the last few years, and now he’s on the other side.”
All-Star right-hander James Shields, another pitcher Texas likely would have been interested in pursuing in a trade, was instead dealt from Tampa Bay to Kansas City. And the Arizona Diamondbacks have said now that it’s “highly unlikely” they will deal young slugging outfielder Justin Upton after a three-team trade this week that got the Diamondbacks a desired shortstop.
The Rangers have been to the playoffs three consecutive seasons, but last year dropped a winner-take-all wild-card game at home to Baltimore after losing the division title to Oakland on the last day of the regular season. They went to the previous two World Series.
When Rangers president Nolan Ryan was asked Thursday to assess the offseason so far, he responded, “It hasn’t probably gone as we had hoped to this point.”
And that was before agent Michael Moye called the Rangers with Hamilton’s decision.
“We still feel like we have a good ballclub and we feel like we’re in a good position,” Ryan said. “So I don’t think that we’re feeling like any pressure to go out and make something happen.”
Michael Young, the longest-tenured player in Texas with 12 seasons, was traded to Philadelphia last week for two young relievers. Two Rangers free agents, catcher Mike Napoli and reliever Koji Uehara, have reached agreements with Boston.
With Young and Napoli gone, the Rangers could be ready to give rookie infielder Jurickson Profar a chance. One possible scenario is for Profar to take over at second base and Ian Kinsler to switch to first base — where Young and Napoli split some time.
“There are different ways that we can go,” Daniels said about Kinsler in his initial talk Thursday with reporters. “But there’s a reasonable chance we go that way and ask him to move to first.”
Profar turns 20 in February, the same age shortstop Elvis Andrus was when he made his major league debut in 2009 after never playing above the Double-A level. Profar was called up by the Rangers at the end of last season, playing second base and shortstop in his nine games.
The Rangers could also find more playing time for another top prospect, infielder Mike Olt, who was hurt while spending the last two months of the season in the majors.
Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre has three years left on his deal from when he was the big free-agent addition two years ago.
With Hamilton gone, the Rangers still have Nelson Cruz in right field and David Murphy in left. Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin could possibly platoon in center.
“We like our guys, we like our club,” Daniels said. “Is there room to improve? Absolutely. We don’t want to do it as to overreact and do something for the wrong reasons. … We’re trying to make good baseball decisions, give (manager Ron Washington) and the team the best chance we can headed into the year.”
Yu Darvish, the headline addition from Japan last winter, heads up the rotation after an impressive All-Star transition to the majors. There is also All-Star left-hander Matt Harrison, lefty Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando, going back to the rotation after a season in the bullpen following his All-Star season as a starter in 2010.
Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz, two other potential starters, will begin next season still recovering from elbow surgery. Texas could fill the gap by letting young guys compete for a rotation spot.
“We feel that when you look at our pitching staff, we’re going into spring training with some experienced guys that we have a real feel for,” Ryan said. “We’re always looking to improve the pitching. We’ve tried to do some things that haven’t worked out this winter so far, so we’ll keep grinding away with it.”
But what if the Rangers aren’t able to add another starting pitcher?
“If we had to go to spring training with the staff we have,” Ryan said, “yeah, I’d be comfortable with it.”
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