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Inbox: What is Rangers' vision for Ohtani?

Beat reporter T.R. Sullivan answers fans' questions
November 21, 2017

Let's suppose the Rangers win the lottery and sign Shohei Ohtani. Could there be a possibility of him pitching one day and be the designated hitter the other four days? Or what do you think his role could be in the Major League Baseball? -- Adrian R., San AntonioThe Rangers

Let's suppose the Rangers win the lottery and sign Shohei Ohtani. Could there be a possibility of him pitching one day and be the designated hitter the other four days? Or what do you think his role could be in the Major League Baseball?
-- Adrian R., San Antonio
The Rangers want Ohtani as a pitcher, and so does just about every other ballclub. The hitting part of it is a sideshow. Maybe Ohtani is one-in-a-million player and he can do both. It is almost assuredly going to be a major negotiating point and a club will likely have to make some concessions in that area to sign him. But teams -- especially the Rangers -- need pitching, and that is Ohtani's main attraction. The Rangers have never had trouble finding somebody to be the designated hitter.
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The pitcher the Rangers acquired from the Yankees -- Ronald Herrera -- looks like a fifth-starter candidate. Are the Rangers going to try and do better than that? Seems like we have enough fifth-starter candidates.
-- Chris T., Fort Worth
Pitching labels -- fifth starter or middle of the rotation -- are tedious and speculative. Corey Kluber was considered a "fifth-starter" candidate when the Indians acquired him from the Padres in 2010. That was probably all the Cubs expected when they got Kyle Hendricks from the Rangers. Certainly, professional scouts are adept at judging talent, but projecting the future can sometimes be hit or miss. The goal needs to be: acquire as many quality arms as possible and develop them properly to make them the best pitcher possible.

Would the Rangers be better off signing one of the top pitchers available this offseason and filling in with A.J. Griffin and Nick Martinez instead of signing three mediocre pitchers?
-- George L., Midlothian, Texas
The Rangers don't set out in the offseason to sign mediocre pitchers. They prefer the top pitchers, but usually they are too expensive, unwilling to come to Arlington or just not out there. The Plan B goal is often to sign an undervalued pitcher and hope they turn out to be better than mediocre. The Rangers did all right last offseason with Andrew Cashner but struck out on Tyson Ross, who was considered to have top-of-rotation stuff.
The Rangers went into last season with two aces in Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, and that didn't quite work out. Jacob Arrieta would be a nice signing for the Rangers, although you are talking about a lot of money for at least five years. But he might be worth it if he can give them two to three years at the top of the rotation while the farm system catches up before sliding gracefully into the middle.
How valuable are the compensation Draft picks for free agents with qualifying offers? Will this play a major role when Jon Daniels decides whether or not to sign Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn?
-- John G., Denton, Texas
The Rangers had three compensation picks in the 2007 Draft after losing Mark DeRosa, Carlos Lee and Gary Matthews Jr. to free agency. They used those picks to take outfielder Julio Borbon and pitchers Neil Ramirez and Tommy Hunter. The list of players taken later in that Draft include Giancarlo Stanton, Jonathan Lucroy, Matt Harvey, Anthony Rizzo, Arrieta and Kluber. Draft picks are important if you draft the right players and develop them properly. But they aren't going to stand in the Rangers' way of signing Lynn or Cobb if they can.
Pitcher Homer Bailey is signed with the Reds through 2020, the same as Shin-Soo Choo with the Rangers. Would a trade make sense, one bad contract for another with the Rangers taking a gamble on Bailey?
-- Tim S., Dallas
Bailey has made a total of 26 starts over the past three seasons and was 8-13 with a 6.39 ERA while going through a long recovery from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He was healthy at the end of the last season, but he still has a long history of injury. Choo is still a productive experienced hitter in a lineup filled with talented but inexperienced players. If the Rangers were expecting more than this when they signed him, they miscalculated. Choo has value even with his contract. A high-priced pitcher struggling to stay healthy does not.
Do the Rangers expect to change anything about conditioning or routines of players to address the continuing repetition of injuries of all players and early poor performances of starting pitchers?
-- Larry S., Oak Cliff, Texas
The Rangers biggest pitching injury last year was losing Hamels for two months with a strained right oblique. Hamels is not only fanatic about his conditioning but he also stays on top of having the proper routine. The Rangers are obviously trying to get better in strength and conditioning, but it's almost impossible to do more than Hamels does trying to stay healthy.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.