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Inbox: Which pitcher tops Rangers' wish list?

Beat reporter T.R. Sullivan fields questions from fans
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

I am aware the Rangers are still searching for pitching. What remaining pitchers are still on the market? And which of those pitchers do the Rangers seem most interested in?
-- Brett P., Stamford, Texas

Just about every free-agent starting pitcher is still available, and the one who interests the Rangers most is Yu Darvish. Jake Arrieta is out there, but Darvish loves Texas and vice versa. Size and length of contract is a big issue, and the Rangers have stated their antipathy toward signing a top-line starting pitcher at big dollars. But it is hardly a stretch to imagine a scenario in which Darvish re-signs with the Rangers. It might even become more plausible as the offseason progresses.

I am aware the Rangers are still searching for pitching. What remaining pitchers are still on the market? And which of those pitchers do the Rangers seem most interested in?
-- Brett P., Stamford, Texas

Just about every free-agent starting pitcher is still available, and the one who interests the Rangers most is Yu Darvish. Jake Arrieta is out there, but Darvish loves Texas and vice versa. Size and length of contract is a big issue, and the Rangers have stated their antipathy toward signing a top-line starting pitcher at big dollars. But it is hardly a stretch to imagine a scenario in which Darvish re-signs with the Rangers. It might even become more plausible as the offseason progresses.

I know Jon Daniels is smart, but I've really been questioning his strategy lately. It seems like he's trying to enter 2018 with one hand on trying to contend and the other hand on rebuilding, without committing himself to either. Can you give a high-level recap of what the Rangers' strategy is?
-- Samuel J., Lewisville, Texas

The Rangers desire to put together a contending team. They believe they will have the offense and are confident they'll be able to assemble a strong bullpen. Then it comes down to trusting their scouts and numbers analysts, and that Matt Moore, Doug Fister and Mike Minor will be the answer for the rotation. If the Rangers fall out of contention, you could see a major in-season fire sale. But right now, the Rangers are bent on contending, and the slow-moving offseason has left plenty of transactions still to be made.

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How in good faith can the front office spend for center fielder Lorenzo Cain when we need pitching?
-- Mike M., Abilene, Texas

The Rangers work off the philosophy that improved defense can boost a pitching staff as much as adding more arms. So, if they truly are interested in Cain -- at what level has not been revealed -- it means they see him as a significant defensive upgrade in center field.

Video: Cain's blend of speed, defense up for purchase as FA

Can the Rangers not afford to sign an ace pitcher? The mid-level pitching that we have signed in the past has not taken us to the level that was hoped. Why will it be different this year?
-- George L., Midlothian, Texas

The Rangers won 95 games and a division title in 2016. Then they were swept by the Blue Jays in the Division Series after their two ace pitchers -- Cole Hamels and Darvish -- allowed 12 runs in 8 1/3 innings in the first two games.

Why so much emphasis on pitch speed for a closer? As long as the results are there, it shouldn't matter.
-- Ronald K., Powderly, Texas

Because speed is a crutch that is easy to judge. Hoyt Wilhelm was the first reliever elected to the Hall of Fame, but he was 29 and had spent six years in the Minors -- winning 97 games -- before somebody figured out his knuckleball could get Major League hitters out. Bruce Sutter is in the Hall of Fame because of his split-finger fastball, which may have been in the top 10 best off-speed pitchers in baseball history.

The Rangers have had some success with past-their-prime power hitters, Vladimir Guerrero and Sammy Sosa, for example. Which brings me to this question: Jose Bautista on a one-year, incentive-laced deal. He can play some left field and designated hitter, and would slot in perfect between Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor.
-- Nick V., Santa Clara, Calif.

On paper, the idea has much merit. In the clubhouse ...

Video: TOR@TEX: Players, coaches react to melee in Arlington

I understand the Rangers not wanting to commit mega dollars and years to pitchers, but what do you think a guy like Jason Vargas commands and would the Rangers be interested in signing him?
-- Brad M., Abilene, Texas

Vargas won 18 games for the Royals last year after missing most of the previous two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Get the picture? The Rangers tried to do something similar with Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner last season and will do again this year with Fister and Moore.

How much playing time will Adrian Beltre get at third because of his history with leg injuries? Will he get a lot of time as the DH to keep him healthy as possible?
-- James H. ,Duncanville, Texas

It is a guarantee this will be a prime topic of discussion in Spring Training with multiple stories written by multiple outlets. But what often is planned in Spring Training does not get carried out in the regular season.

Video: Adrian Beltre is the No. 6 third baseman right now

Which scenario benefits the Rangers most overall, for now and the future if you could only do one: free-agent signing of Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn, free-agent signing of Cain, Jay Bruce or Jarrod Dyson, free-agent signing of Greg Holland, or arrange a trade with the White Sox for Jose Abreu?
-- Joel B., Robinson, Texas

At this point, the answer would be signing Holland to be their closer.

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.

Texas Rangers