According to this tweet by ESPN's Buster Olney, executives around baseball believe the Texas Rangers are poised to be very active this offseason in pursuit of high-end talent to add to a team that has made the postseason in thee of the last four seasons.
The upcoming hot stove portion of the MLB calender is hard to predict, but aggressiveness from the Texas front office should be expected. From trades for Alex Rios and Cliff Lee, to free-agent signings of Joe Nathan, Lance Berkman and Adrian Beltre, to winning the posting fee for Yu Darvish, the Jon Daniels-led Rangers have been proactive over the years when trying to add proven talent to their major league roster.
Imagining Texas landing David Price in a trade with Tampa Bay isn't far-fetched. Hearing news of the Rangers outbidding everyone in baseball for the right to talk with Masahiro Tanaka wouldn't be a surprise, especially with the overwhelming success of their last Japanese pitching star, Yu Darvish. Tuning into a news conference in Arlington with Brian McCann being introduced by Rangers brass after inking a long-term deal would hardly shock the baseball world.
Yet, what if the Rangers can pull off all three?
Not only would the team transform into the American League West favorites, they would be ticketed and expected to arrive back in the ALCS for the first time since 2011. Their 42-year championship drought (since moving from Washington to Texas in 1972) would be expected to end in 2014.
Let's break down all three of the players available and what it would take to get them before assembling a 25-man opening day roster for the new and improved Texas Rangers.
David Price isn't just one of the best pitchers in the game, he's a 28-year-old lefty with the skill set to thrive for years. Winning the 2012 American League Cy Young award may be the accomplishment he's most known for in his career, but it's how he's dominated hitters over the last two seasons that should have Rangers executives bullish on the chance to trade for him.
Few pitchers in the game have the skills set and capability to pull off this trifecta: K/9 of at least 8.0, BB/9 of less than 2.0 and a groundball rate of at least 49 percent. Over the last two seasons, the only starting pitchers to meet those criteria: Adam Wainwright and David Price (via Fangraphs).
He strikes batters out at a high rate, walks few and generates nearly 50 percent of batted balls into ground balls. Even if his velocity wains as he hits his early and mid-30s, Price should be dominant for years to come.
Of course, he's not a free agent that will go to the highest bidder. With two years left on his contract, however, his current team, Tampa Bay, will be looking to shop him this winter in order to maximize his value. Much like with James Shields last offseason, the baseball world knows that the Rays don't have the money to re-sign Price.
Due to his immense stardom and ability, Price will cost a ton in a trade before even factoring in a long-term extension. Once again using the model of last year's Shields trade, the Rays will want an young, controllable impact offensive player and a young pitcher.
If Jon Daniels is willing to part with Jurickson Profar and Martin Perez, there can be a new ace alongside Yu Darvish in Texas next April.
Speaking of Darvish, the Rangers' recent history with posting, bidding and signing top-tier Japanese pitchers should give them confidence if their Pacific Rim scouts see star potential in Tanaka.
As detailed in this primer, there's reason to believe that the 24-year-old right-handed pitcher is ready to star in America. With an undefeated record, nasty splitter, ideal size (6' 2", 205 pounds) and projection of becoming No. 1 or No. 2 starter, there's a chance that Tanaka is a difference-maker as early as 2014.
After flops from Japanese star pitchers like Hideki Irabu, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kei Igawa, some fans in America are naturally skeptical when it comes to the transition to Major League Baseball. Yet, the more recent excellence from Hiroki Kuroda and Hisashi Iwakuma, along with Darvish, should ease those concerns when it pertains to Tanaka.
The bidding for Price will be among the best prospects in respective farm systems. The posting war for Tanaka, considering the silent, closed bid auction process, will be a case of aggressiveness versus luck. But the pursuit of Brian McCann will be simple: years and dollars.
As a free agent for the first time in his career, McCann will be looking to cash in. If the Rangers do pursue the 29-year-old catcher, they'll be doing so with the intention of boosting their offense back up to the level it was during their American League championship season of 2011.
The following chart shows Texas' home run and slugging percentage numbers over the last three years and where the team ranked in the American League in each category. As you can see, offensive help is needed.
|Texas Power Poll (2011-2013)|
|Year||HR||AL Rank||SLG||AL Rank|
McCann, with career marks of 176 home runs and .473 slugging, can be the impact bat needed to complement Adrian Beltre, Alex Rios and Mitch Moreland in the middle of the Rangers lineup.
If Texas' front office pulled off the trading, posting and spending spree this winter, here's a look at what the Rangers lineup could look like on Opening Day next spring:
1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
2. Elvis Andrus, SS
3. Adrian Beltre, 3B
4. Brian McCann, C
5. Alex Rios, RF
6. Mitch Moreland, 1B
7. Nelson Cruz, DH
8. Craig Gentry, LF
9. Leonys Martin, CF
SP: David Price
Beyond Price, Texas would have a rotation of Darvish, Derek Holland, Tanaka and Matt Harrison or Neftali Feliz in the fifth spot.
The likelihood of all these moves happening simultaneously isn't high, but if they did, Texas would be a superteam with the capability of dominating the American League from start to finish.
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