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The Stars And Steals To Target During Rangers Free Agency

By Roy White, 105.3 The Fan
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  Roy is a producer/contributor with "New School", 5:30am - 10:00am on...
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DALLAS (105.3 THE FAN) – In order to get you ready for the Rangers free agency outlook, here’s a look at some of the guys the Rangers will likely be in the market for — and a set of cheap options that Texas could strike it rich with.

First…

THE BIG NAME PLAYERS THAT THE RANGERS SHOULD BE IN ON
(Scale of 1-10 on how badly I want them) : (no pitchers included…see BARGAIN BIN)

Brian McCann – He’ll likely be #1 on the priority list…Not necessarily because he’s the most important piece to add, but more so because the fit is so good it would be nice to sign him quickly and move on to other potential signees. If he can stay healthy, I would expect him to hit between 23-30 HRs this season. With his ability to DH, you can expect him to get a lot more ABs…Compare his per 162 game numbers to Mike Napoli’s : Think he can be had for something in the 3yr/$33-40 million range. (7, but 90% sure he’s coming here so it’s skewed)

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 29: Brian McCann #16 of the Atlanta Braves hits a three run home run in the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Turner Field on August 29, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Brian McCann hits a three run home run. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

McCann : 33 doubles, 26 HRs, 97 RBIs, .277 BA with .350 OBP….61 BB, 92 Ks
Napoli : 28 doubles, 32 HRs, 88 RBIs, .259 BA with .357 OBP….73 BB, 161 Ks

As you can see, McCann would be a damn near mirror replacement for this offense compared to Napoli, and he’s got the added bonus of being a lefty in what is currently a very lefty-scarce lineup.

Jacoby Ellsbury – People may be looking for Carlos Beltran to be the next best signing, but I’d rather go with the younger Ellsbury and lock up my leadoff spot for the next 6 years. A .297 career average to go with striking out just 7% of the time — not to mention his league leading 52 stolen bases last year — make Jacoby an ideal leadoff guy, and could facilitate moving Ian into a more natural run-producing role. He’s said to be looking for something in the Carl Crawford 7yr/$142 million range, so it’ll probably have to be at least 7 years and $150. (9)

Shin-Soo Choo – I see why everyone fawns over him – a career .389 OBP will make sabremetric guys go nuts – and there’s no denying his ability to help a ball club in a variety of ways. But he’s 3rd on my list because, well, I’m obsessed with Jacoby’s speed at the top of the lineup. Not that Choo can’t run…he stole 20 bases in 4 of the last 5 seasons…but Jacoby’s 50+ potential put him over the top. Having said that, Choo may ultimately prove to be the better option, as he likely won’t cost nearly as much as the estimated $20 million a year that Jacoby wants. He made just $7.5 million last season. (8)

Carlos Beltran – The next biggest piece available in the outfield, Beltran will be 37 before the season starts, but his credentials are unquestionable. Guaranteed to give you around 25 HRs and 85 RBI if he stays healthy, maybe more in this ballpark and with DH option. The Cardinals extended him a $14.6 million qualifying offer though, so any deal for him would have to exceed that, and would also cost the Rangers a draft pick. I would venture to guess it would take somewhere in the 2-3 years at $16-$18 million to get it done, and that’s pretty steep. (7)

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 11:  Carlos Beltran #3 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates hitting the game winning run in the 13th inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during Game One of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on October 11, 2013 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Carlos Beltran hit the game winning run in the 13th inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during Game One of the NL Championship Series. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Kendrys Morales – Not a guy a lot of people will talk about off the bat, and that’s why I think the Rangers should make an early push for him. Hear me out…This guy had an MVP-like campaign in 2009, when he whacked 43 doubles, 34 homers and drove in 108 runs, and was on his way in 2010 before his foot fracture that cost him 2 years…While the last two years haven’t quite been as prolific as 2009, he’s still hit at least 22 homers and 73 RBIs with a respectable .277 BA. The one drawback – he played most of his games at DH, and is a defensive liability at 1B. Still, he made just $5.25 million last year, so he could probably be had a reasonable $6-8 million a year deal. (5)

Josh Johnson – This is the only pitcher on the market I would be willing to throw any money at, and even he comes with some pretty significant risk. He may have been a victim of some bad luck last season (hitters BABIP was .356 against him, 60 points higher than the league average .292), but he didn’t help his own cause. Yes, his velocity has dropped on his fastball (from an average of 94.7 in 2010 to 92.9 in 2013), but it has more to do with him going away from his bread and butter (fastball, slider, curveball). Batters hit a combined .256 against those 3 pitches in 2013, but absolutely STROKED against his changeup and two-seamer, hitting .397! In fact, Johnson gave up 9 of 31 (29%) extra-base hits to those pitches, despite throwing them just 19% of the time. I know I’m not a pitching coach, but if I could see that, I bet Mike Maddux could too. He made $13 million last season, but there’s no way he gets that again. I’d give Johnson a 2-year, $20 million deal and not think twice about it. (5)

And second…

THERE’S STILL THE BARGAIN BIN, AND THERE ARE ALWAYS GEMS TO BE FOUND

This is seriously one of my favorite times of the year…why? Because the focus will be squarely on the ‘big named’ free agents that are available, but the REAL values can be found beyond the top guys. Let me give you some examples over the last few years :

2012

Bartolo Colon – 39 yrs old – signed a 1 year, $3 million deal with the A’s. All he did was go 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA. Pretty solid investment, and no one would’ve seen it coming.

Francisco Liriano – 29 yrs old – signed a 1 year, $1 million deal with the Pirates. Became their ace, 16-8 with 163 Ks. He also was the winning pitcher for the Pirates in both of their playoff wins.

Nate McLouth – 31 yrs old – signed a 1 year, $2 million deal with the Orioles. Resurrected his career, becoming the stable leadoff hitter of a dynamic offense. His numbers wouldn’t blow you away (.258 avg with a .329 OBP and 12 HR, 36 RBI)…but he did hit 31 doubles and score 72 runs last season, while also stealing 30 bases.

James Loney – 29 yrs old – signed a 1 year, $2 million deal with the Rays. Hit .299 with a .430 slugging percentage, and a solid 1st base defensively. He struck out just 77 times on the season, so he saw the ball well.

Koji Uehara – 38 yrs old – signed a 1 year, $4.25 million deal with Boston. We know how that turned out.

2011

Norichika Aoki – 29 yrs old – signed a 2 year, $3 million deal with Brewers. averaged 80 runs, 28 doubles, 3 triples, 9 HR, 44 RBI, 49 BB, 47 Ks, 25 SBs and a .287 avg per year.

Aaron Hill – 29 yrs old – signed a 2 year, $11 million deal with D-Backs. Hit a combined to hit .297 with 37 HRs and 126 RBIs in a little over a season and a half. He did miss 75 games this year due to injury.

Cody Ross – 31 yrs old – signed a 1 year, $3 million deal with Red Sox. Numbers not super impressive (.267 with 22 HRs and 81 RBI), but once again, we’re talking about chump change in terms of contracts these days.

See?? All these guys were gotten for less than $6 million a year, and in the case of most of them for $1-2 million. Obviously, you won’t sign them to long-term deals, but here are the guys in this crop that I like to get for pennies on the dollar:

PITCHERS

SP Bronson Arroyo – made $6.5 million in 2013. At age 36, it’s unlikely he’ll get an uptick on his contract, but he shouldn’t be discarded…Though he does sport a rather unimpressive 3.79 ERA from last season, Arroyo consistently gives you innings…He’s averaged 210 IP per year since 2005!! OFFER : 2 yrs, $10 million

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 28: Bronson Arroyo #61 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park on September 28, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)

Bronson Arroyo (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)

SP Scott Kazmir – made $1 million in 2013. He’s 29, and fresh off his first year back in the bigs since being out of the league from 2011. His 4.04 ERA on the season isn’t that impressive, but a closer look tells you he may have been finding a groove – a post ASB ERA of 3.38, including a month of September that saw him strike out 43 batters in 28 innings (a blistering 13.8 K/9 IP). OFFER : 2-3 yrs, $4-5 million per

RP Jesse Crain – made $4.5 million in 2013. He’s 32, and coming off a shoulder injury that shelved him for half of 2012, so it’s likely that price tag will be cheaper than $4.5. Mid-90s fastball, power slider and a more frequent curveball he had great success with last season. Posted an ERA under 2.50 in his 3 seasons with the White Sox. OFFER : 3 yrs / $12 million

RP Rafael Betancourt – made $4.25 million 2013. He’s 38, and coming off a year where he posted an ERA over 4. That means he can be gotten cheap. And with a career mark of 3.19, I’m more than willing to take the risk. OFFER : 1 year / $2.5 million

FIRST BASEMEN

Corey Hart – He made $10 million each of the last two seasons. He’s 31, but sat out the entirety of 2013 with a PAIR of knee injuries (he had surgery on his right knee during 2012 offseason, then injured his left knee while trying to rehab it and needed surgery on that!) As a result, he’ll probably have to take a 1-year deal to prove he’s healthy. If that’s the case, you can probably expect between $6-7 million to be enough to get it done. In his last 3 healthy years with Milwaukee, Hart hit 87 homers, and averaged a HR every 18.5 ABs – better than the likes of Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre, Jay Bruce, Robinson Cano, and Mike Trout in 2013, just to name a few… OFFER : 1 year / $8 million

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 8: Corey Hart #1 of the Milwaukee Brewers fields a ground ball against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on September 8, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)

Corey Hart (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)

OUTFIELDERS

Michael Morse – He made $5.25 million last season split between Seattle and Baltimore…2013 was an unmitigated disaster for Morse, as he hit just .215 while missing 70+ games to injury…but he’s only 31, and his career average of .281 suggests he’s a fairly competent hitter. Couple that with the 31 homers he socked in 2011, at RFK Stadium no less, and you might have the type of value piece we’ve been talking about. Once again, a potential 1-year guy based on his injury history… OFFER : 1 year / $4 million

Whether the Rangers decide to be big spenders this offseason, or try to find bargain basement value, there’s something to be had in every category.

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