Who's in CF? Rangers' new look after big trade

December 16th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers filled out their projected rotation for 2020 when they acquired right-hander from the Indians on Sunday for outfielder and reliever .

Kluber joins a rotation that already includes left-hander and right-handers , and . But even with their new ace on board, there are still a few questions lingering for the Rangers.

Who plays center field now that DeShields is gone?
Switching-hitting utility player becomes the leading internal candidate to play center, but that's far from settled. The Rangers could look at and at least in a part-time capacity. and are the Rangers' two top center-field prospects, but they will likely be at Double-A Frisco in 2020.

There is a strong chance the Rangers will go outside the organization for either a veteran starter or at least some depth. The Rangers seem to feel Santana is most valuable as a utility player. is not an option. He is playing in right.

"We are not ruling out anything out," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We went into this trade that if we had to go with our internal options, we would be comfortable with that. We'll continue to explore and see what else is out there."

Who are the external options?
The Pirates are in rebuilding mode, and the Rangers will likely have a conversation with them about . The cost-cutting Red Sox will likely try to get the Rangers interested in He is eligible for salary arbitration and can be a free agent after next season.

, who was with the Giants last season, is the best of the available free-agent center fielders. Others include , and , but Daniels said it is not a particularly strong class.

Then there is Shogo Akiyama, 32, a free-agent center fielder from Japan who is looking to come to the United States. He is a leadoff-type player who can handle himself defensively. Daniels said at the Winter Meetings the Rangers are monitoring the Japanese market as a whole.

Why did Cleveland swing this deal for a fourth outfielder and a relief pitching prospect?
The Indians needed to cut salary and were looking for a power arm for their bullpen. Their relievers averaged 90.8 mph on fastballs last season. Clase's average fastball was 99.2 mph, and he could end up being a closer.

There is always a possibility DeShields could flourish in the Indians' lineup. He has speed and defensive ability, but it may be a matter of somebody having enough confidence in his offensive potential to give him an extended chance in the lineup.

"Clase is an elite talent," Daniels said. "His cutter at 100 mph is one of a handful elite pitches in the game. You don't see it very often. He is a reliever, but he is a pretty unique reliever. Delino is a really underrated player. He is a good defensive player. I think this makes sense for both sides."

What does the Rangers' bullpen look like now?
is the closer, and is the No. 1 right-handed setup reliever. The Rangers have yet to announce the signing of left-hander , but he could be an impact setup reliever after two strong years in Japan. He will compete from the left side along with , and .

Right-hander will be back as a middle reliever, and the Rangers see as a viable candidate for that role. Hard-throwing rookies and Joe Barlow will get a serious look in Spring Training, and the Rangers acquired two other right-handers this offseason in and .

Oh yes. Don't forget is coming to camp on a Minor League contract.

What does the trade mean for the Rangers' young pitching prospects?

This could put a long-needed slowdown on the march to the big leagues for left-handers , , and , and right-hander . If all breaks right for the Rangers in Spring Training, those five could form an impressive rotation at Triple-A Nashville. Hernandez is coming to camp to be stretched out as a starter but could win a job with the Rangers as a setup reliever.

Where do the Rangers stand in their pursuit of a third baseman?
Rangers officials made it clear going into the offseason was high on their list if they couldn't land . They didn't get Rendon.

Are they still high on Donaldson? Who knows?

His asking price may be too high. would be the next best free-agent third baseman, or the Rangers could make a run at with the Yankees. However, trading Clase to the Indians takes away one of their best trade chips. The Rangers are looking at both free-agent and trade possibilities.

"Both are still open, we haven't closed anything off," Daniels said. "We continue to have conversations on third base and other stuff as well.

Are the Rangers done pursuing starting pitching?
They could still use more depth, possibly one or two veterans for long relief or to be ready in the Triple-A rotation. The Rangers lacked depth coming out of Spring Training this year, and it hurt them when injuries piled up in the first month of the season.

Gibson had to deal with ulcerative colitis last season with the Twins and lost a lot of weight. The Rangers may take it slow with him in Spring Training.

But this time the Rangers won't be taking the dubious path of relying on three starters coming back from Tommy John surgery -- Vólquez, , -- like they did in 2019.