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Outfield an area Rangers are looking to upgrade

Pitching remains top priority, but club wants bat to bolster offense
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers dropped two outfielders on Thursday by trading Daniel Robertson to the Angels and designating Jim Adduci for assignment. They also added a catcher, signing Chris Gimenez to a Minor League contract.

The moves may signal a shift in priorities. Finding outfield help may move above catching in the Rangers' plans, although it's still unlikely they'll make an expensive addition in either area. Starting pitching is still the Rangers' top priority, so don't expect free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz to return to Arlington. It's not going to happen.

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers dropped two outfielders on Thursday by trading Daniel Robertson to the Angels and designating Jim Adduci for assignment. They also added a catcher, signing Chris Gimenez to a Minor League contract.

The moves may signal a shift in priorities. Finding outfield help may move above catching in the Rangers' plans, although it's still unlikely they'll make an expensive addition in either area. Starting pitching is still the Rangers' top priority, so don't expect free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz to return to Arlington. It's not going to happen.

But general manager Jon Daniels said on Friday the club will take a hard look at the outfield. He also admitted the chances of adding the right catcher to go with Robinson Chirinos are not looking great.

"If there was the right guy out there, ideally yes," Daniels said. "But there are not a lot of great fits out there, so we're not going to force it. We've looked at both [trades and free agents], but I'm not overly optimistic of the possibility of finding the right guy."

Instead, the Rangers may be better served finding another hitter, either in the outfield or at designated hitter, to reinforce an offense that was 10th in the league with 637 runs scored.

"Every club in the game could add another bat," Daniels said. "That's something we've talked about. It's a matter of prioritizing our resources. We were not a good offensive team last year. Most of the improvement will have to come from getting guys healthy. But if we can add another bat, we will."

It is not likely to be a major addition unless somebody unexpected becomes available.

"We're not going to outbid people in the free-agent market and throw a lot of money out there," Daniels said. "We're not going to jump out unless the right deal is there. Most likely, we'll play the free-agent market later than sooner. If you take the patient approach, eventually you should get a fair deal later on."

Video: BAL@TEX: Moreland opens scoring with a single to left

The Rangers' offense could get a huge boost at designated hitter, if Mitch Moreland could stay healthy. Over five years in the Majors, Moreland has hit .252 with 21 home runs, 69 RBIs and a .430 slugging percentage for every 162 games. But he has also been on the disabled list in each of the last three seasons, and played in just 52 games in 2014 before undergoing surgery on his left ankle.

"He's a guy with power who can hit the ball out of the park," Daniels said. "That's big in the game today. I think as a DH, first baseman and part-time outfielder, if you look at the market, he is as good or better than most of the guys out there."

Right now, the Rangers have an outfield that includes Leonys Martin in center and Shin-Soo Choo in right field. With Robertson and Adduci gone, the Rangers have Ryan Rua, Michael Choice and Jake Smolinski as their internal candidates to play left. The Rangers like all three, but all three right-handed hitters are unproven.

The Rangers were expecting Choice to be ready for a full-time role this year. That was their hope when they acquired him from the Athletics a year ago. But the former first-round pick struggled, hitting .182 with nine home runs, 36 RBIs and a .320 slugging percentage.

"Obviously, he had a rough year," Daniels said. "He's got work to do, but the ability is there. The challenge for him and the challenge for us is to get the most out of him. We're not giving up. There is a long history of players who had a rough debut, figured things out and had productive Major League careers. He has right-handed power, and right-handed power is tough to find."

Rua was a 17th-round Draft pick in 2011 who hit his way into the Rangers' plans with excellent Minor League seasons the past two years. Given a big league chance last season, he hit .295 in 28 games. Rua, drafted as an infielder, can play multiple positions, but he was introduced to the outfield this past season.

Video: HOU@TEX: Rua breaks game open with three-run shot

"He is limited in his experience there, but he is a very good athlete and we think he could adapt," Daniels said. "With time, he could be a pretty good outfielder. He has a chance to cover us in a lot of areas, but he could also end up being an everyday player."

Smolinski emerged from Minor League oblivion last season. The Rangers signed him a year ago as a Minor League free agent for depth in the system and he ended up getting called up. He tantalized the Rangers by hitting .349 in 24 games, but he also missed seven weeks with a bone bruise in his left foot.

"Love the makeup and he showed the ability to hit at the Major League level," Daniels said. "Whether he'll do it as a platoon guy or with a chance to play regularly…there is a chance for him to contribute in some role. I'd just like to see him healthy."

The Rangers still have Jared Hoying, a left-handed hitter, in the system. He hit .271 with 26 home runs, 78 RBIs and a .517 slugging percentage at Triple-A Round Rock last season while striking out 140 times. He was left unprotected from the Rule 5 Draft.

Martin is locked in as the starting center fielder. But with Robertson traded to the Angels, the Rangers don't have a true center fielder as a backup.

"We need to add somebody that can cover us," Daniels said.

Starting pitching trumps all, but the Rangers know they need to address the outfield.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Texas Rangers, Jim Adduci, Michael Choice, Shin-Soo Choo, Leonys Martin, Mitch Moreland, Ryan Rua, Jake Smolinski