Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels won't say it publicly, but this offseason has probably been one he'd like to forget.
Just about everywhere Daniels turned in an attempt to upgrade his roster, events conspired against him. The Rangers were unable to re-sign slugger Josh Hamilton who eventually landed with their rivals out in Anaheim. Efforts to sign starting pitcher Zack Greinke also failed, as did a potential trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder Justin Upton.
Daniels was even maligned for trading away one of the most popular players in club history, Michael Young, who holds several franchise records including games played, hits and runs. The only major addition was veteran catcher AJ Pierzynski, and the club enters spring training with some big question marks in the outfield and bullpen.
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But don't feel sorry for the Rangers who remain more than capable of winning a third American League pennant in four seasons. The MLB futures odds have reflected that, as Texas is listed in the 12/1 to 15/1 range to win the World Series along the way. Bovada's latest numbers peg the Rangers at 14/1, putting them around 8/1 for the Junior Circuit title.
How Will Lineup Respond Without Hamilton?
There's no question that the loss of Hamilton, especially to the Angels, is the biggest issue that manager Ron Washington and the Rangers will have to deal with. But while Daniels wasn't able to land a big name to replace him, he did make a few low-risk, low-cost acquisitions that could help the lineup not miss a beat.
Another subtraction was C/1B Mike Napoli, and the addition of Pierzynski behind the plate should keep that from being much of an issue. Granted, Texas didn't add anyone who can immediately make up for Hamilton's career-high 43 homers, but the Rangers did snag veteran Lance Berkman, and there's reason to expect a little more pop from Mitch Moreland in 2013.
Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin will battle for the CF slot in the order, and could wind up in a platoon. Neither has a lot of power, but both are capable of hitting for a high average and providing better defense than Hamilton gave Texas by the end of last season. Texas also has a pair of rising young stars in Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar in the mix for the infield.
The rotation starts with four good arms in Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando and Derek Holland. It is Holland who will be the difference in whether or not this is one of the better rotations in the game. Southpaws Martin Perez and Robbie Ross compete for the No. 5 slot in the order, and Colby Lewis could slide into the mix by midseason.
Joe Nathan returns as closer after a solid comeback year. He just turned 38, and there's always concern for a pitcher at that age, but getting to Nathan for the ninth inning is the bigger uncertainty. Ogando's move to the rotation and the loss of setup arm Mike Adams have left a couple of big holes to fill. Jason Frasor and Kyle McClelland, two more of those low-cost pickups by Daniels, are in line to man setup/middle relief roles, and the Rangers hope to have former Kansas City closer Joakim Soria back from his elbow rehab by early June.
Rangers Have One Of Easiest Schedules For 2013
Past performances don't always guarantee future results, as the old saying goes. It's nonetheless worth mentioning that Texas will play more than a quarter of its games against five teams which combined for a 319-491 (.393) record last season.
Forty-one of the 162 games will come against the Astros, Cubs, Twins, Indians and Red Sox, almost half of those vs. their new division foes from Houston. Even if we account for all five improving their win total by 10% in 2013, the quintet would play .433 ball; about the only way Texas could have an easier slate would be to substitute their four games with Arizona (81-81 a year ago) with four against the Marlins.
The Rangers will also enjoy a 4-3 home/away advantage against the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers, plus play all three of their games against the Reds at home. There will be some early tests on the slate with six of the initial 22 games against the Angels, but it still stacks up to be a favorable slate.
Don't be surprised if Daniels lands one more piece of the puzzle before the team breaks camp to start the regular season. It all adds up to Texas being a good bet to reach the postseason, and now might be the best World Series and AL win prices that gamblers are going to see.
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