After missing out on playoffs, Rangers start looking ahead to next year
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are bracing for another painful winter. They won 91 games this season, fifth most in club history, but they are not going to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
"There were a lot of things that we did that were good," outfielder David Murphy said. "We were faced with a lot of adversity. When you lose the type of guys that we did to injuries, it's never going to be easy. Winning 91 games, that's not too shabby."
But the Rangers goal going into the season was to make the playoffs and take another run at the World Series. That didn't happen and now comes the offseason when tough decisions have to be made.
The Rangers are not expecting to make any changes at the top. Manager Ron Washington is signed through next season and all indications are he is secure in his job despite some media wildfires that sprang up in September.
That doesn't mean the Rangers are looking at a quiet winter. That almost never happens in Arlington, and this winter should be no exception.
"We have to make adjustments, and we'll do that during the winter," Washington said. "I still think we have a chance to contend for the division. I think everybody in that clubhouse feels that way."
Not everybody in the clubhouse will be back. Murphy is among those who face an uncertain future with the Rangers. He is one of eight players who is eligible for free agency, along with catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto, pitchers Matt Garza and Jason Frasor, infielders Jeff Baker and Lance Berkman, and outfielder Nelson Cruz.
Joe Nathan could also be a free agent. The Rangers have a $9.5 million option on him for 2014 with a $750,000 buyout. But Nathan also has the right to void the option himself and become a free agent. Nathan, who has no intention of retiring at age 38, said he would like to remain in Texas but is also hoping for a multiyear deal rather than playing on a one-year contract.
The Rangers may try to re-sign Garza given how much they gave up in trading for him. They also won't receive Draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere, because he was acquired during the middle of the season. But the Rangers already have three starters returning in Derek Holland, Yu Darvish and Martin Perez, and they intend to keep Alexi Ogando in the rotation. They also expect Matt Harrison to be at full strength in Spring Training.
The Rangers will likely need to spend more time and resources rebuilding their offense. Berkman will not be back, but he hasn't decided yet if he'll retire or try to play next year.
"It's hard to say," Berkman said. "Regroup first of all. It's been a tough year. I'll get a little bit into the offseason and let the dust settle and see what happens from there. We'll see. It's too early to speculate."
The Rangers have said they are "open-minded" about the possibility of re-signing Cruz and Murphy. Both have been a huge part of the organization for the past six years, but 2013 wasn't fun for either one.
Murphy struggled almost the entire season and fell back to a part-time player in September. It may be time for him to seek a change of scenery and it's unlikely that the Rangers will make him a qualifying offer.
Cruz is a different story. He was having one of his best seasons when he was suspended for 50 games for violation of Major League Baseball's Drug Prevention and Treatment policy. The Rangers weren't happy about that, but they also know he is still one of the top power-hitting outfielders out there. It would seem likely that he would get at least get a qualifying offer which should be around $13.5 million.
Pierzynski and Soto both want to come back, and the Rangers don't have a young catcher ready to step in immediately. But there are already indications the Rangers will make a strong push to land free-agent catcher Brian McCann, who could be one of the top prizes in the market.
"Right now, I'm going to go home, decompress, settle into the offseason and go from there," Pierzynski said. "Obviously everybody knows I had a great time here. If there is an opportunity to come back, I'd love to be here. But it's not my decision."
The Rangers also have to decide what to do with utility infielder Jurickson Profar, who remains stuck behind a set infield of third baseman Adrian Beltre, shortstop Elvis Andrus, second baseman Ian Kinsler and first baseman Mitch Moreland.
They have been struggling with that question for a while, and now the offseason begins.