This is a list of players the Texas Rangers may target as free agents following this season. The Rangers have a few holes they need to fill, to say the least. I am also listing under the assumption that Profar, Prince, Perez, Holland, and Harrison all return to full health.
Following this season the Rangers will lose Soto, unless they re-sign him, and more than likely will not exercise the team option for Alex Rios. They also have at least one available rotation spot to fill and could look for a designated hitter. That leaves a vacant position at catcher, in right field, the starting rotation, and maybe a DH. The 2015 free agent class is a good one for all of these positions except catcher so I will address the other three.
Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, James Shields
Assuming none of these players re-sign the 2015 free agent pitching pool is the strongest of the postions. I would rank them in the order above from most expensive to least. Scherzer has proven to be a truly elite pitcher. Adding him to the Rangers’ staff would instantly give us one of the best pitching duos in the league, possibly the best. Scherzer just turned 30 and should demand top dollar.
Lester is just behind Scherzer and has said he would have no hard feelings if the Red Sox decided to trade him, which they obviously did. Lester is the A’s most recent acquisition as they go “all in” this season. Lester will almost certainly hit free agent. I would be shocked if the A’s were able to retain him. The power lefty continues to improve as he learns the finer points of being a big league pitcher. Lester will enter next season as a 31 year old. Of this list I see Lester as the least likely to join the Rangers, really any team other than the Red Sox. He seems to love Boston and I expect him to end up there.
James Shields is an interesting case. He has had a down year, by his standards, so his value may be the best. He was traded to Kansas City in December of 2012 for Wil Myers, the eventual AL rookie of the year, so that shows you how the Royals value him. His asking price could be a bit steep for Royals’ management, however, come payday. He will be 33 by the time the 2015 season starts so this will likely be his last chance to sign a long term big dollar contract. The Rangers try to avoid lengthy contracts to “older” players, but Daniels may be willing to bite the bullet this time if he thinks it can put the Rangers back in contention.
Of these three I see Shields as the most likely. Lester is very doubtful, for reasons stated earlier and Scherzer will likely go to the highest bidder as this is his big chance to cash in on his last few seasons of excellence. He is the youngest and the most talented. The Rangers would probably prefer to hold on to a little extra cash for when Darvish’s contract comes up. Shields would be a great consolation prize though. He is a crafty righty that demands the absolute best from his fellow pitchers and has proven to be a good mentor to the young Royals staff.
Nelson Cruz, Melky Cabrera, Nick Markakis
Every Ranger fan knows Nelson Cruz. He was knocking the cover off the ball before the all-star break as he was leading the league in homers for much of the season. Since then though, he has cooled off considerably. He would still be welcomed back in Arlington, I’m assuming. He would fill Rios’ shoes well and his power bat would be a great addition.
Melky Cabrera is a very under-rated player. He was suspended a couple years ago and was connected to the biogenesis scandal so that has a lot to do with it, but he is a very good hitter from both sides of the plate. He has decent power and runs fairly well. His arm limits him to left field for the most part so where he fits in the Rangers’ outfield may be a question, but his bat would slot beautifully into the middle of the order, perhaps even the top.
Nick Markakis has always been one of my favorite players. He is an old school player that just gets the job done. He doesn’t do much of anything flashy, from his swing to the way he wears his uniform. Markakis has been the Orioles right fielder since his debut in 2006. He is a well rounded player with a contact swing, but has power to all fields, he runs well, and plays a defensively sound right field. If it were up to me Markakis would be the player I would target.
If the Rangers were to sign one of these players I’d put my money on the 30 year old, Cabrera. He will likely be the most expensive, but he is also the best. I think the Rangers would find a way to make the outfield positions work in order to get him in the lineup. Although he will likely demand more than the other two the asking price may be lower than it should be considering all of the PED connections. Cruz turned 34 in July, he will likely ask for a 3 or 4 year deal. He plays a suspect right field and would likely need to move to DH in a year or two. This may be too much accommodation for the value he would bring. Like I said earlier Markakis, 30, would be my guy, but he has often stated how much he loves being an Oriole and I think he would take less money to stay in Baltimore. The Orioles also know how important Markakis is and will likely match any offer anyways.
Victor Martinez, Pablo Sandoval
The Rangers have Mitch Moreland as their designated hitter. He has shown, at times, that he is a good major league hitter, but the designated hitter is often a player that can carry a team and hits against all pitching. Moreland seems to handle lower to middle tier pitching well and struggles greatly against upper tier guys, like many players, but when it’s your designated hitter it hurts more.
Victor Martinez and Pablo Sandoval are similar is some ways and completely different at the same time. They are both switch hitters with an ability to hit even the best pitchers’ best pitch. They hit for average and power. They would plug into the Rangers three hole tomorrow.
The ways they go about it are completely different though. Martinez has a beautiful fluid swing, while Pablo takes a huge leg kick and is often off balance. Martinez played catcher and is now playing a little first base. Pablo is a very good third baseman with gold glove potential at first. Martinez would absolutely be a designated hitter, while Sandoval could play third or first and allow Beltre or Fielder to DH. Martinez will turn 36 this winter and