ARLINGTON -- The offseason offers up many questions, but with the Rangers, it all comes back to Japanese pitcher Shohei Ohtani. No matter how many times the Rangers' offseason goals are analyzed, Ohtani's name floats to the surface immediately above all others.Now that the World Series is over and clubs
ARLINGTON -- The offseason offers up many questions, but with the Rangers, it all comes back to Japanese pitcher Shohei Ohtani. No matter how many times the Rangers' offseason goals are analyzed, Ohtani's name floats to the surface immediately above all others.
Now that the World Series is over and clubs have offered up various field managers and coaches, it is time for Ohtani Watch to begin in earnest. First, he has to be posted by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. There also needs to be a clear understanding of the process and the protocol. Then the competition begins.
How this will evolve remains a mystery, but it's a guarantee that the Rangers have studied the situation from all angles in preparation for being in the vanguard of suitors. Other questions surrounding the Rangers still remain.
Free agents: Righties Andrew Cashner, Miguel Gonzalez and Jason Grilli; first baseman Mike Napoli and outfielder Carlos Gomez.
Arbitration-eligible players: Lefty Jake Diekman; righties A.J. Griffin, Nick Martinez and Keone Kela; infielder Jurickson Profar and outfielder Ryan Rua.
Where is all the pitching going to come from?
The Rangers have gone on the record saying they need at least three starters. They would like to start with Ohtani, but they are not going to end there.
The top free-agent pitchers on the market are Yu Darvish, Jacob Arrieta, Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb and Jason Vargas. Cobb could be especially appealing for the Rangers. Darvish or Arrieta could end up commanding most of the money the Rangers have stashed away for pitching, which would not be a good development for a team that must buy in bulk.
The first decision is whether to offer Cashner a $17.4 million qualifying offer and pick up a $4 million option on reliever Tony Barnette. The pros and cons are obvious. The main pro is that the Rangers are in no position to discard pitching. The con is that neither pitcher may be the best value for the money.
Is offensive help needed?
The Rangers have enough players to cover themselves at the plate and not add to the offense this season. But that would most likely mean Delino DeShields in center, Joey Gallo at first, Willie Calhoun, Drew Robinson or Rua in left and Robinson Chirinos and Brett Nicholas behind the plate.
The Rangers could supplement that with depth -- think James Loney, Will Middlebrooks and Travis Snider last spring. Or they could add one front-line player, either a defensive center fielder or a big bat at first or left.
Who will close?
Matt Bush? Kela? Alex Claudio? The Rangers aren't going to pay big money for a closer, so the likely plan is to accumulate as many arms as cheaply as possible and let it all sort out next spring.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.