Daniels: Rangers 'open to anything' in search for starter
ARLINGTON -- Rangers general manager Jon Daniels wants a starting pitcher, and he thinks he could pull off a trade for one.
The tricky part is getting a starting pitcher for more than one season. Most of the starting pitchers who are available by trade -- Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija, David Price, Mike Leake, Ian Kennedy and others -- can be free agents at the end of the 2015 season.
"If it is the right fit, I'm open to it, but it's not my preference," Daniels said. "We'd like someone who will fit in and be a part of the group for more than a year. But we're open to anything."
That is one issue the Rangers face as they pick up their pursuit of starting pitching when the Winter Meetings begin on Monday in San Diego. The Rangers are determined to add at least one starting pitcher before the offseason is over.
"We like quite a few of the guys coming to camp," Daniels said. "We've got options, but we would feel better if we could add one more guy who could fit in and add stability to the rotation."
Daniels said another issue is that there aren't really any clubs who are going into the Winter Meetings in a classic rebuilding mode. Just about every team has hopes of contending next season, so trading prospects for a front-line starter may not be possible. Instead, it's more likely that clubs are simply trying to get something for a starting pitcher who will be a free agent after next season.
"We have a lot of information on what other clubs are willing to do, what's realistic and what is not," Daniels said. "We've also had internal conversations on what players we would trade and ones we don't want to do. We are prepared."
Rotation: The Rangers are expected to have a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis, but they want to add one more proven starter, leaving Nick Tepesch, Nick Martinez, Lisalverto Bonilla and Alex Gonzalez competing for a spot.
Catching: Robinson Chirinos returns, but the Rangers would like a proven catcher to go with him and allow Tomas Telis and Jorge Alfaro to continue their development in the Minor Leagues. The Rangers aren't particularly excited about what is available on the free-agent market. That list includes former Rangers A.J. Pierzynski, Gerald Laird and Geovany Soto.
Outfield: The Rangers tried to sign Torii Hunter for an outfield that already includes center fielder Leonys Martin and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo. Hunter instead decided to return to Minnesota, so right now, the Rangers are looking at Ryan Rua, Jake Smolinski and Michael Choice as their left-field candidates unless they acquire a veteran like Jonny Gomes.
Who they can trade if necessary
Elvis Andrus: The Rangers are deep in the middle infield. If the Rangers could find someone to take Andrus and his eight-year, $120 million contract, it would free up money for a top-of-the-line starting pitcher.
Luis Sardinas: The 21-year-old switch-hitter batted .261 in 43 games as a rookie but is blocked at the Major League level by Andrus and second baseman Rougned Odor. The Rangers also expect Jurickson Profar to be ready by Opening Day after missing all of last season because of a torn muscle in his right shoulder. There are clubs looking for a shortstop, including the Padres.
Tepesch: If the Rangers were able to trade for a proven starting pitcher, they might have to give up a young starter in return. Tepesch is 9-17 with a 4.56 ERA in 39 starts and three relief appearances over the past two seasons. Martinez and Bonilla could also be of some interest to another club.
Choice: He was a former No. 1 Draft pick by the Athletics. He struggled as a rookie this past season but is still considered a potential everyday outfielder.
The Rangers' farm system is stocked with players who would be highly desirable in a trade, but don't look for Alfaro, Gonzalez, pitcher Jake Thompson or infielder Joey Gallo to go anywhere. However, if the Rangers want to make a big deal for a veteran player, they have plenty of inventory in their farm system.
Rule 5 Draft
The Rangers have the third pick in the Major League Phase of the Rule 5 Draft, and are there are some interesting players available, including power-hitting first baseman Mark Canha, catcher Steven Baron, athletic outfielder Delino Deshields Jr., and some power arms, including right-handers Edgar de la Rosa, Jandel Gustave and Gregory Infante, and left-handers Andrew McKirahan and Jarlin Garcia.
The Rangers will almost certainly use the pick, even if it is just to make a trade with another team.
Big contracts they might unload
The Rangers have three hefty contracts, with Andrus, Choo (six years, $116 million) and Prince Fielder (six years, $114 million). What the Rangers really need is for Choo and Fielder to come back strong from their injuries.
The Rangers had a payroll of approximately $133 million in 2014, and indications are it will be close to that again next season.