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Depth defines Rangers' offseason planning

Club hoping to better withstand injuries

ARLINGTON -- Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, coming off a division title, made it clear what the goal is for next season.

"We are taking the approach that we have a team that can win," Daniels said Thursday ahead of next week's Winter Meetings. "We feel similar or better than last year about this club. We have a few question marks, but we feel we are in a better position than last year."

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The Rangers don't have many frontline needs. They would still like to add at least one starting pitcher, but that may be solved by Colby Lewis. He had his surgically-repaired knee examined by Dr. Keith Meister on Thursday, and the Rangers are intent on re-signing him as long as there are no physical issues.

Beyond that, the Rangers appear to have a set starting lineup. But that doesn't mean the Rangers have a set roster. Adding depth may be the biggest issue for the Rangers this winter, especially considering all the injuries they have dealt with the past two seasons.

• Pitching remains Daniels' priority

That is one reason why the Rangers are looking for at least one right-handed bat, especially somebody who can play first base or left field. But depth in center field, catcher and third base are also critical.

Mike Napoli was a big part of the Rangers' depth over the final two months of last season and into the playoffs. But the chances of re-signing him may not be that good since the Rangers have Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland locked in at first base/designated hitter. The Rangers did use Napoli in the outfield at the end of last season, but don't see that as a viable option for a full year.

"Listen, we all love the guy… staff, scouts, front office, fans," Daniels said of Napoli. "He was a really good fit and he has been working out here [this winter] with some of our younger guys. In the meantime, it's a challenge to have three guys tied to first base. Last year, he handled [the outfield] well, but to do it for six months is a challenge. Mike fits us best only if something opens up on the trade front."

Left field is more of a concern than first base. The Rangers expect Josh Hamilton at full strength for Spring Training, but he is 34 and his history of injuries is well-documented. The Rangers had 12 players start in left field in 2015.

"Obviously, that's a question mark," Daniels said. "It's important we add some depth or a platoon right-handed hitter who can play the outfield."

Center field is also not a lock. The Rangers loved what Delino DeShields did as a rookie and a Rule 5 Draft pick, but with Leonys Martin traded to the Mariners, they have no backup on the 40-man roster.

"The second year at the Major League level is one of the toughest in a player's career," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "There is much more information available and adjustments that need to be made. My overall assessment of Delino is to be where he was at before, in Double-A and a Rule 5 pick, speaks for itself. But there are things he needs to improve on and get better at."

The Rangers have two top prospects at both positions with Nomar Mazara in left and Lewis Brinson at center. They also have Joey Gallo at third base in case something happens to Adrian Beltre.

But the Rangers would like to see all three get more development time in Triple-A, which is why addressing their depth in the offseason could be crucial.

"As the season goes along, those guys might end up being the right option," Daniels said. "It's a challenge to determine that in December. But do you want to count on them on April 1 if you have an injury? That's what we need to address."

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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