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Biggest questions facing Rangers going into '19

September 30, 2018

SEATTLE -- The manager and the future Hall of Famer are two things on everybody's mind as the Rangers go into the offseason. That's different than a normal winter for the Rangers.But one thing remains a prime topic of conversation: Starting pitching. It always is for the Rangers, and is

SEATTLE -- The manager and the future Hall of Famer are two things on everybody's mind as the Rangers go into the offseason. That's different than a normal winter for the Rangers.
But one thing remains a prime topic of conversation: Starting pitching. It always is for the Rangers, and is again this winter.
Here are the five most pressing questions for the Rangers.
1. Will Adrian Beltre come back?
He wants to be with his family as a full-time father. It has become more difficult to stay healthy and on the field, and he knows the Rangers may not be contenders next season. He has pretty much said his good-byes and farewells.
Unless …
His family still wants him to keep playing and he wants to end his career on a better note than what transpired this season. Don't count on it, but if a final decision has been made, Beltre hasn't revealed it.
2. Who will be the new manager?
Don Wakamatsu would be a good choice. He has experience, the baseball acumen and the respect of his players. He brings a calming presence to the club and does well with young players. Other strong in-house candidates could be third-base coach Tony Beasley, bench coach Steve Buechele and Triple-A Nashville manager Jason Wood.
How about Sandy Alomar or Omar Vizquel? Both played a year in Texas, both are widely-respected and would bring a strong presence into the clubhouse. John Farrell, who won a World Series in Boston, is another candidate. A former pitcher, he might be a good idea for a pitching-deprived organization.
Joe Girardi won a World Series with the Yankees, although he was let go in New York supposedly because he didn't communicate well with young players. But he wants to manage again, and so does former Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.
A few others considered to have excellent managerial potential include Cardinals third-base coach Jose Oquendo, Mets bench coach Gary Disarcina, Dodgers third-base coach Chris Woodward, Yankees Double-A manager Jay Bell and Astros bench coach Joe Espada.
Then there is Dusty Baker. He is 69 years old, but he puts teams in the postseason everywhere he goes.
3. Where will the starting pitching come from?
The Rangers' projected 2019 rotation consists of Mike Minor and ...
Well, there is Edinson Volquez, who is completing his recovery from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and is expected to be ready for Spring Training. He also turned 35 this summer.
Rookie left-hander Yohander Mendez and right-hander Ariel Jurado will also have a case. Both had mixed results during their time in the big leagues this season, and that will likely be the case next year if they are in the rotation. Both have talent, but are not overpowering. They will need time and patience to polish their craft.
Adrian Sampson appears to be an intriguing option based on how far he has come from surgery on his right flexor tendon. But he is also not overpowering.

Additionally, the Rangers have to make a final decision on Martin Perez's $7.5 million option for next season. That's not looking good, but do the Rangers really want to discard a viable rotation candidate?
The Rangers will have to delve again into the free-agent market and the best of the bunch appears to be Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Nathan Eovaldi and J.A. Happ. Cole Hamels could also be back out there if the Cubs don't pick up his option.
There is also the possibility of Clayton Kershaw opting out his contract with the Dodgers. If the Dallas native does that, it will set off a serious feeding frenzy, but one of the best pitchers in baseball also has a growing history of back issues that may scare off the Rangers.
4. Who is headed out the door and who is staying?
Shortstop Elvis Andrus can opt out of his contract, which still has four years and $59 million left. He has the same option after next season. This does not appear to be the right time for Andrus to walk away and become a free agent.
The Rangers have options on catcher Robinson Chirinos and pitchers Doug Fister and Matt Moore. It will likely be a yes for Chirinos, and no for the pitchers.
Bartolo Colon, Yovani Gallardo and Tony Barnette are all set to become free agents. The Rangers may try to sign Barnette. Colon is not expected back. If Gallardo returns, it would likely be on a Minor League contract.
Candidates to come off the 40-man roster either by non-tender or outright assignment include Ryan Rua, Alex Claudio, Matt Bush, Hanser Alberto, Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Carlos Perez and Drew Robinson. Bush is arbitration eligible, but won't return from surgery until after the All-Star break.
Rua and Claudio are also arbitration eligible. Claudio still has value as a left-handed reliever. Rua could use a change of scenery.
5. What will happen in the outfield?
The Rangers best outfield features Joey Gallo in left, Delino DeShields in center and Nomar Mazara in right with Shin-Soo Choo at designated hitter. Gallo's best spot is first base, where he can maximize his offense, but Ronald Guzman is in position to take over that spot.

That obviously doesn't leave room for Willie Calhoun, Carlos Tocci or Robinson, at least right now. The idea of Gallo playing center field seems to be a bit of a stretch, but it might help if the Rangers found one position for him, rather than continue to move him around the field.
General manager Jon Daniels said he expects other clubs to ask the Rangers about their outfielders this winter and a potential trade could be a way to upgrade their pitching. Gallo and Mazara would obviously have the highest trade value.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.