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Rangers look to fill rotation, develop prospects in '16

Veterans Fielder, Andrus, Beltre to return alongside strong newcomers

ARLINGTON -- Starting pitching will be the Rangers' top priority in the offseason, beginning with veteran free agents Yovani Gallardo and Colby Lewis. How their situations get resolved will impact the Rangers' plans for the rest of the offseason as they look to improve on a team that went 88-74 and won the American League West.

"We'll take a hard look at everything," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "I remember reading a quote, 'If you don't have enough pitching in April, you almost definitely won't have it in September.' That's definitely the case. This winter, between Yovani, Colby and/or somebody outside the organization, we will look to add stability to the rotation."

The Rangers, barring a major trade, have left-handers Cole Hamels, Derek Holland and Martin Perez coming back to their rotation next season. That leaves two spots open.

The Rangers are selling hard the fact that Yu Darvish will be back in the rotation after missing the 2015 season because of Tommy John surgery. But his return isn't expected until May, at the earliest, and another unknown is how effective he will be upon in his return.

So, there will be two spots open at the beginning of the season. The Rangers will offer Gallardo the reported $15.8 million qualifying offer needed to get Draft pick compensation if he leaves as a free agent. There is always a possibility that Gallardo could accept the offer and return on a one-year deal. More likely is he'll proceed to explore the free-agent market.

The Rangers have interest in re-signing Lewis but nothing is guaranteed. If Gallardo and Lewis leave, the Rangers will pursue one more starting pitcher to fill the fourth spot in the rotation.

The Rangers also have young right-handers Chi Chi Gonzalez, Nick Martinez and Anthony Ranaudo. But they would prefer those three to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation rather than be counted on to fill two spots.

Arbitration-eligible: IF Jurickson Profar; C Carlos Corporan; C Chris Gimenez; C Bobby Wilson; SP Nick Tepesch, RP Shawn Tolleson; RP Anthony Bass; RP Tanner Scheppers; RP Jake Diekman; OF Kyle Blanks;

Free agents: SP Gallardo; SP Lewis; 1B/OF Mike Napoli; OF Will Venable; OF Drew Stubbs; RP Ross Ohlendorf;

Bullpen: The Rangers should have a fully loaded bullpen ready to go in Spring Training with Tolleson back as closer, along with Diekman, Scheppers, Bass, Keone Kela, Sam Dyson, Sam Freeman, Luke Jackson, Spencer Patton and Andrew Faulkner. The Rangers will likely seek one or two veterans to add to the depth.

Catcher: The Rangers have four catchers eligible for arbitration. That may be unprecedented, but it's unlikely all four will get that. Chirinos is likely to be the incumbent, and the question is if Gimenez or Wilson did enough to merit staying on the 40-man roster. Corporan won't, as he is expected to have surgery on his left thumb.

First base: Mitch Moreland has one year left before he can become a free agent. He was relatively injury-free and put up good numbers, so the Rangers may explore something beyond 2015. Prince Fielder, who is a strong candidate for Bounceback Player of the Year, will return as the primary designated hitter.

Second base: Rougned Odor responded well to an early-season demotion to Triple-A. His game still needs polish, but with experience and maturity, he could become one of the premier second basemen in the game. Hanser Alberto is a strong defensive backup.

Shortstop: Elvis Andrus, who turned 27 in August, just completed his seventh season with the Rangers. He has seven years and $103 million left on his contract. He is not going anywhere. If Profar is healthy in 2016 after two years of shoulder problems, he will likely at least start the season at Triple-A Round Rock.

Third Base: Adrian Beltre is entering the last year of his contract. He didn't have his best season, but he finished strong -- and even at 36, there aren't many better third basemen in the game. There could be some noise this winter about an extension that will allow Beltre to retire as a Ranger. Joey Gallo could be the Rangers' third baseman of the future, but he is almost certain to start next season in Triple-A to get much-needed development time.

Outfield: Shin-Soo Choo is locked in after his fabulous second half. The question is if Delino DeShields is a sure thing in center or if the Rangers will give Leonys Martin a chance to win his job back. Martin didn't help his standing by refusing to go to Arizona and stay ready during the playoffs. The Rangers are hoping that Josh Hamilton will be healthy and lock down left field with two years left on his contract. Ryan Rua and Ryan Strausborger are still on the 40-man, but Venable and Stubbs will move on as free agents. The Rangers have two top prospects getting close in Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.
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