After missing out on both Zack Greinke and James Shields, the Texas Rangers will likely turn their attention to bolstering their offense. That could mean re-signing slugger Josh Hamilton or dealing for Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton.
But could it mean both?
Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted that very question on Sunday, and one has to wonder just how good the Rangers offense could be with both of them in the fold.
First off, the team would have to meet the demands of both Hamilton in free agency and Arizona and their asking price for Upton.
John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus reported early on in the offseason that Hamilton was seeking a seven-year, $175 million deal. And while the $25 million per year may wind up happening, it appears Hamilton will likely have to settle for a deal more in the neighborhood of three to four years.
The Rangers certainly have that to spend, and really it appears to be a matter of whether or not Hamilton wants to come back or would prefer to play elsewhere.
As for Upton's price, that's where things get tricky, as the Diamondbacks have insisted on getting a shortstop in return for him, and the Rangers are unwilling to move Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar (h/t Dallas Morning News).
This is where one of those three-team trades you've heard so much about could come into play. One potential third party that might make sense is the Cleveland Indians, who have a shortstop trade chip in Asdrubal Cabrera and would love to have any number of young pitchers on the Diamondbacks and Rangers rostes.
Signed through 2015, and with as much raw talent as any player in the league, Upton's asking price is understandably high, even coming off of a down season.
Now let's assume for a moment that the Rangers have found a way to add both Hamilton and Upton to the mix for 2013, and that it cost them prospect Mike Olt but they managed to hold onto both Profar and Andrus. Their lineup could look something like this:
DH Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
CF Josh Hamilton
3B Adrian Beltre
RF Justin Upton
LF Nelson Cruz
1B Mitch Moreland
C Geovany Soto
2B Jurickson Profar
With Mike Napoli now on the Boston Red Sox, the team has been downgraded production-wise at catcher with Soto, but the rest of the lineup has the potential to be great from top to bottom.
If Profar is not deemed ready for Opening Day, the team could leave Kinsler at second base and start David Murphy alongside the other three outfielders. They would not lose much as Murphy's one of the better fourth outfielders in the game.
Given an offense like that, expectations would once again be high for a team that appeared destined to win their third straight AL pennant for most of the 2012 season before falling apart down the stretch and losing in the Wild Card game. If they can somehow assemble that juggernaut of an offense, the Rangers again will be a factor in the American League.
Here are a few predictions for how the season could go with this new lineup.
1. Rangers would lead the AL in runs scored for the second straight season.
The 2012 Rangers tallied 808 runs scored, which was four runs ahead of the New York Yankees for first place and 41 ahead of the Los Angeles Angels in third. It appears that the Yankees will more than likely regress next season while the Angels still have a top-heavy lineup, so the Rangers would be in a great position to repeat as scoring leaders.
2. Justin Upton would register first 100 RBI season of his career.
This one almost seems like a no-brainer, but with four All-Stars hitting in front of him and Cruz providing solid protection behind him, it would almost be difficult for Upton not to drive in 100 runs.
3. Josh Hamilton would lead AL in runs scored.
A rough late-season slump took a bite out of Hamilton's final season numbers, but he still managed an impressive line: .285 BA, 43 HR, 128 RBI, 103 R. The runs scored total was good for fifth in the AL, 26 runs behind the league-leader Mike Trout's 129.
Assuming Hamilton can hit .300, Trout regresses a bit as expected and Upton and Beltre stay healthy, there's no reason why Hamilton can't lead the AL in runs.
4. Jurickson Profar would win AL Rookie of the Year.
There are few prospects in baseball as talented as Jurickson Profar, and he hit .281 BA, 14 HR, 62 RBI, 16 SB as a 19-year-old in Double-A last season. With the benefit of being eased into major league action by hitting ninth in the order, he'd be put in a great situation to succeed.
He could pile up impressive RBI and run numbers in this lineup.
5. Adrian Beltre would win AL MVP.
In his second season in Texas this past year, Beltre hit .321 BA, 36 HR, 102 RBI to finish third in MVP voting. He put up those numbers with a struggling Michael Young hitting behind him for much of the season.
With better protection and continued impressive play all-around Beltre would be in a great position to capture MVP honors.
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