ARLINGTON -- The Rangers covet free-agent third baseman Anthony Rendon and there is a growing feeling they’re in a strong position to land him this winter. The Rangers are also looking for more starting pitching after signing Kyle Gibson to a three-year contract this week.
But Rendon is at the top of their list going into the Winter Meetings and the Rangers feel good about their chances even though general manager Jon Daniels declined to discuss specifics on any free-agent player.
“Third base is still a spot we are looking at,” Daniels said. “Both free agent and trade remain options. There are in-house candidates as well but ideally, it’s something we are going to address externally. It’s an area we are looking to upgrade, I’m not going to handicap it at this point.”
The Rangers met with Rendon earlier this week, but have not begun serious negotiations with agent Scott Boras. The Rangers are reluctant to go beyond a five-year deal with any free agent, but there are indications Rendon might settle for that length in exchange for a higher average annual value.
The Rangers may have a strong ally in Boras. He represented Adrián Beltré in the winter of 2010-11 and, early in the process, identified Texas as the best landing spot for him. Beltré ended up signing with the Rangers and became a franchise icon.
Boras may surmise the Rangers are the best spot for Rendon as well. Rendon is a native of the Houston area and may have a strong desire to return to his home state. His hometown is not an option with Alex Bregman playing third for the Astros.
The Rangers are clearly a team eager to make an impact in the free-agent market and Boras knows that, especially with the club moving into a new ballpark. Boras has also expressed admiration for the commitment shown by the Rangers ownership group.
“Our focus is getting back into contention and staying there for an extended period,” Daniels said. “Not doing something for marketing purposes or the wrong reason. I think that’s a little bit of a danger zone we are going to try and avoid.
“When we have been in position to win, we have pushed forward. Organizationally and with ownership we recognize winning is hard but the opportunities to do so are precious. We have always shown that. When things line up and it’s the right player at the right position on the club, fits all around with the right contract, we are going to look to strike if possible.”
Rendon’s market may also be limited despite being the most highly regarded offensive player available. Other clubs with the financial resources to play at the high end of the market may prefer to focus on starters like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg.
Veteran third baseman Josh Donaldson -- another free agent -- could also fit the Rangers if they can’t land Rendon. Daniels mentioning the trade option could be a possible reference to the Yankees moving third baseman Miguel Andújar. He hit 27 home runs and drove in 92 runs for the Yankees in 2018, but missed most of the past season because of right shoulder surgery and has been supplanted by Gio Urshela.
Daniels admitted he has had a number of trade discussions with other clubs, but declined to get into specifics.
“I don’t know what is going to become of some of these talks,” Daniels said. “But there have been quite a few of them.”
The Rangers would like to get their third base situation resolved at the Winter Meetings, but it could end up going into January or later depending on the competition.
The Nationals have interest in re-signing Rendon, but are also trying to do so with Strasburg. There is some doubt about the Nationals' ability to do both and their emphasis on starting pitching in the past could make Strasburg a higher priority. The Dodgers have interest in Rendon, Strasburg and Cole, but may also prioritize starting pitching for their club. The Angels are also targeting Cole.
The Phillies -- after signing Zack Wheeler for their rotation -- need infield help and could use Rendon. However, they may prefer free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius as well as another starting pitcher. The Braves need a power bat and could use Rendon, but may find Donaldson more affordable. The Cardinals need a bat for the middle of their order but may be comfortable with Matt Carpenter at third base.
“I don’t know,” Daniels said. “Great players are sought out regardless. I don’t think anybody is going to fall through the cracks. At the end of the day, when there are really good players available there is going to be a competitive market and in certain cases, we are going to be prepared to put a best foot forward.”
If the Rangers sign Rendon, they are unlikely to be involved in the race for Cole and Strasburg. There would still be a number of attractive starting pitchers available even after Wheeler signed with the Phillies and Cole Hamels went to the Braves.
“We are still looking to add if possible,” Daniels said.
The list includes left-handers Hyun-Jin Ryu, Madison Bumgarner and Dallas Keuchel. They represent the best of the next tier below Cole and Strasburg. After that comes right-handers Tanner Roark, Rick Porcello and Julio Teheran, and left-handers Wade Miley and Gio Gonzalez.
Right-handers Michael Wacha and Matt Harvey and left-hander Alex Wood are among the free-agent pitchers who would be listed as reclamation prospects. The free-agent list also grew after right-handers Jimmy Nelson, Kevin Gausman and Aaron Sanchez were among the starting pitchers who were non-tendered earlier this week.