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Inbox: What role will Calhoun play in 2019?

Beat reporter T.R. Sullivan answers questions from fans
Texas Rangers' Willie Calhoun bats during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) (Gregory Bull/AP)
January 31, 2019

I can honestly see this team surprising a lot of people. The rotation, if they're close to what they were before injuries, can be great. That being said, if the Rangers are in contention at the break, do you see Jon Daniels breaking from the "rebuild" to acquire quality players?

I can honestly see this team surprising a lot of people. The rotation, if they're close to what they were before injuries, can be great. That being said, if the Rangers are in contention at the break, do you see Jon Daniels breaking from the "rebuild" to acquire quality players?
-- Nick M., El Paso

Daniels said at FanFest last weekend that if the Rangers were in contention this summer, the club would consider just the trade that you suggest. Here is the problem: is the club competing for a postseason spot or a World Series title? If it is just a postseason spot, the Rangers may end up trading crucial prospects for a short-term fix. That's what happened in 2016, when the club traded for Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran. If they are in a true rebuild, as the Rangers seem to be, the best course may be to hold off until they are sure the World Series is a realistic goal.
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If Willie Calhoun, a left-handed hitter, makes the 25-man, what role would he have on the team? It seems Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara (both left-handed hitters) have the outfield corners locked down and Shin-Soo Choo, another left-handed hitter, is locked in at DH. Will Calhoun remain in Triple-A working on his defense for the entire season?
-- Alex W., Austin

Willie Calhoun, meet David Murphy. Rangers fans know Murphy because he was a left-handed-hitting outfielder who would show up every spring without a spot in the starting lineup and wonder how much playing time he would get. But Murphy learned quickly that what seems like will happen coming out of Spring Training is nowhere near what actually happens in the regular season. From 2008-13, Murphy, despite not having an obvious role, had between 404-457 at-bats every year and was an integral part of the best teams in Rangers history. The bottom line is if Calhoun is ready to be a productive player in the big leagues, the Rangers will have a spot for him.
Which buy-low free agents from this offseason would you peg to turn things around and warrant a decent return at the Trade Deadline?
-- Jonathan R., McKinney, Texas

Shelby Miller. He is a former All-Star pitcher with the Braves who can dominate if everything is flowing well. He is in the final process of recovering from Tommy John surgery, so there is still some uncertainty. You would also like to think the Rangers signed these guys to compete rather than to trade. But of all the pitchers the club has acquired this offseason, Miller would seem to have the highest resale value if it comes to that.
Who are some players we could realistically see the Rangers pursue an extension with during Spring Training?
-- Andrew A., Fort Worth

Mazara would be the most obvious candidate with Gallo right behind. But Mazara, having dealt with a sprained thumb in the second half, is not coming off his best season and Gallo still may not have reached his maximum production level. That means both players and their representatives may prefer to wait until there is a more optimum time to discuss a long-term deal.
Several weeks ago, we heard the Rangers and Clay Buchholz had been in contact. Anything serious or imminent here? Is this all dependent on a Mike Minor trade?
-- Robert V., Plano

First of all, when a club needs pitching as much as the Rangers, it is going to be "in contact" with just about every free agent. That's an easy trade rumor to spread, Secondly, until a player actually signs with somebody, there is always a possibility of something getting done. It just depends on the length and value of the contract. It still seems prudent that the Rangers add more starting pitching depth, whether it is Buchholz or somebody else. Right now, the possibility of trading Minor for young starting pitching appears to have subsided.
What are the chances we go after a Chris Sale or Justin Verlander type of pitcher in 2020?
-- Brady S., Seminole, Texas

That would likely depend on how the Rangers do this year. If they have a strong season and show they are close to being in contention again, that would increase the chances of the Rangers getting involved in a top-of-the-market free-agent pitcher.
Would the Rangers give Craig Gentry another try?
-- Jennifer P., Des Moines, Iowa

Gentry is a nice weapon to have off the bench because of his terrific speed and defense. With Scott Heineman down for the first month of the season, Gentry might be somebody the Rangers would consider on a Minor League contract. The obstacle is they already have a similar player in Carlos Tocci. But the Rangers are in the market for outfield depth.

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.