Now that the initial sting has passed from the short Texas Rangers postseason, we can continue our look at what the offseason holds.
Having lost Prince Fielder to a career-ending injury and Mitch Moreland entering free agency, the Texas Rangers need a first baseman this offseason. While there are a few options out there for replacements, they may not be the best solutions.
Who is out?
The Rangers lost not just one, but two capable everyday first baseman this year. While one has a slim chance of coming back, the other certainly will not.
Sadly, Fielder announced his retirement mid-season. While he certainly had his struggles over the past year, his power and team leadership will be sorely missed. Not to mention, when he was at the top of his game, he was at the top of the league.
Moreland’s status as a free agent doesn’t necessarily guarantee he’s gone. However, his season at the dish was pretty sad. He ended the 2016 campaign with a .233/.298/.422 slash and his 118 strikeouts were the biggest total he’s ever had in one season. On the other hand . . . well . . . is a glove. And there’s about a one in three chance it’s made of precious metal.
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Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday that Moreland is among the three finalists at first base for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award. While his offensive game was off the pace, his defensive game was on point with an American League best .998 fielding percentage at first base.
However, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News recently reported that the Rangers will let him walk.
Who is left?
With Moreland and Fielder moving on for different reasons, the first solution is to look internally. Within the Rangers organization, this is a mixed bag.
The tale of Joey Gallo has been an interesting one. He burst onto the scene in 2015 with epic home runs and an air of rookie excitement on par with former Texas greats Ruben Sierra and Ivan Rodriguez. But then, the strikeouts started.
The third baseman/right fielder/potential first baseman has struck out in 49.7% of his MLB at bats. This is of huge concern, and frankly renders his power useless if he can’t even make consistent contact. He’s also played a total of nine innings at first base at the MLB level. That doesn’t exactly evoke confidence.
The Rangers will still have control of Jurickson Profar for another three years. He played well at the position in 17 games this pasts season at first. But it’s not his natural position and he’s stated that he really prefers to play shortstop. While it may be a great temporary solution to place him at first, his long-term happiness also warrants consideration.
Ryan Rua offers not much more than a warm body at first base. His ability to platoon all around the diamond makes him a valuable asset, but only as a platoon player. As far as everyday guys are concerned, the Rangers need to look for more.
Who is out there?
First base is not quite the biggest profile position available on the ol’ hot stove, but there are a few good options to choose from. One is a longshot, but the other could become everyone’s favorite option, likely producing a grass roots campaign and homemade bumper stickers promoting the idea.
While he’s primarily played designated hitter for the Blue Jays, Edwin Encarnacion is the biggest name available at first base. But with that will come a hefty price for the parrot-toting slugger. Therefore, he will likely be out of the price range Texas is willing to spend.
Look, this just might be everyone’s favorite choice. Rangers fans absolutely love Mike Napoli, and he’s one fine first baseman/backup catcher. He’s a “clubhouse guy” and is already incredibly familiar with the organization. It just makes the most sense. It’s what needs to happen.
That really settles the decision. The Rangers need to grab Napoli for whatever he wants. Give him full ownership of every area restaurant named Napoli’s and work out some sort of deal. Hand out free pizzas, or better yet, free salami every time he hits a grand slam. “Grand Salamis” will become an instant hit and we know where everyone would go for game-watching parties. Make it happen, Jon Daniels. This is what everyone wants. You do this and you’ll pretty much solidify your legendary status among every single Rangers fan.