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At Meetings, Rangers to zero in on pitching

GM Daniels aims to bolster rotation, bullpen
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Rangers need at least one more starting pitcher before the offseason is over, and there are plenty to choose from in a free-agent market that has not been seriously tapped going into the Winter Meetings.

They come in all sizes with different resumes and medical records. There is a former Cy Young Award winner in Jake Arrieta and a premier talent in Yu Darvish. Right-handers Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are coveted because they are still relatively young and coming off solid seasons, but also -- like Darvish -- one full season removed from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Rangers need at least one more starting pitcher before the offseason is over, and there are plenty to choose from in a free-agent market that has not been seriously tapped going into the Winter Meetings.

They come in all sizes with different resumes and medical records. There is a former Cy Young Award winner in Jake Arrieta and a premier talent in Yu Darvish. Right-handers Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are coveted because they are still relatively young and coming off solid seasons, but also -- like Darvish -- one full season removed from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

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Jason Vargas won 18 games for the Royals last year, but turns 35 in February. Chris Tillman won 16 games for the Orioles in 2016, but just one last year as his ERA rose from 3.77 to 7.84.

The list goes on and the Rangers need somebody to fit in with left-handers Cole Hamels, Martin Perez and Mike Minor and right-hander Doug Fister. The mystery is if the Rangers will try to go for the top-of-the-line starter and if a sure bet like that really is out there.

"Everybody would like to have that," general manager Jon Daniels said Sunday after arriving at the Meetings. "Great players with no medical risks, cheap contracts, throw in great makeup. The reality is you can't fill out your roster in every spot that way. We are trying to evaluate everybody on their individual merits. How we value them, we are not trying to buy a label."

Video: Sullivan on Rangers' chances of re-signing Darvish

The Rangers know Darvish, who spent the past six seasons with them before being traded to the Dodgers on July 31. They also know Arrieta is from their backyard, having pitched at Plano (Texas) East High School and Texas Christian University. They also know he was 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA for the Cubs in 2015 and 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA this past season. He will be 32 on Opening Day next year.

Those are the two pitchers on the free-agent market who have a track record of being a frontline starter.

"If there is a starter out there we felt not just fits that description or fits that club, short- and long-term, we would not rule it out," Daniels said. "One part is how we value him and the other part is the market determines how much he gets paid and if it fits our budget."

Daniels also said the Rangers did not come to the Meetings looking to make a big splash in response to the Angels signing Japanese pitcher Shohei Ohtani.

"If it fits us and fits our plan, great," Daniels said. "The most dangerous thing you can do is make a move with headlines in mind. Games aren't won at the Winter Meetings. Names and headlines mean something to a degree, but we are not trying to make headlines this week."

The Rangers are also looking for bullpen help, but are not involved in the pursuit of top free-agent closers Greg Holland and Wade Davis.

"We are trying to address multiple spots, so it becomes challenging when you put a lot of resources into [a closer]," Daniels said.

Rangers beat

• Daniels said the Rangers are expecting to re-sign infielder Hanser Alberto, who was non-tendered and made a free agent. He missed all of last season with a right shoulder injury.

• The Rangers have signed 17-year-old shortstop Yenci Pena, who became a free agent due to Major League Baseball sanctions against the Braves. He is considered an excellent defensive player with some offensive upside.

• Daniels said the Rangers are looking for more catching depth, particularly a veteran who is good at handling a pitching staff and defense.

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.

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