ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' offseason is already starting to look familiar. Once again, starting pitching is the top priority.
It seems to be an annual quest, but the reality is that most clubs go into the offseason looking to upgrade their rotation. It's the most prized commodity in the industry, and it's why the Rangers are once again pounding the drums about developing their own starting pitching.
The Rangers' efforts in that regard have been partly derailed by their willingness to trade pitching prospects for major midseason pennant-race reinforcements like Cole Hamels, Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltrán. And that comes with the bill when clubs are determined to put themselves in the best possible position to succeed right away.
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That's always the Rangers' goal, and their highly productive farm system continues to be able to fuel such lofty ambitions.
Addressing first base and the outfield are also on the Rangers' list with four months to go before pitchers and catchers report.
Arbitration-eligible: RHP Shawn Tolleson, RHP Tanner Scheppers, RHP Lucas Harrell, RHP Jeremy Jeffress, RHP A.J. Griffin, RHP Sam Dyson, LHP Jake Diekman, C Robinson Chirinos, IF Jurickson Profar.
Free agent: RHP Colby Lewis, OF Ian Desmond, 1B Mitch Moreland, OF Carlos Gómez, C Lucroy ($5.25 million club option), Derek Holland ($11 million club option).
Rotation: Hamels, Yu Darvish and Martin Pérez represent a head start for the Rangers over most clubs. Griffin, Harrell and Nick Martínez offer internal candidates, but the two big decisions are Holland's option and the desire to re-sign Lewis for the fifth straight offseason.
Bullpen: The 'pen appears loaded with Dyson, Diekman, Jeffress, Scheppers, Keone Kela, Tony Barnette, Matt Bush and Alex Claudio all coming back. The Rangers have a decision to make on Tolleson, who is recovering from a back injury. He could be a non-tender candidate, but the Rangers still want to stockpile as many bullpen options as possible. Right-handers Luke Jackson and José Leclerc and left-hander Andrew Faulkner are still on the roster.
Catcher: The Rangers will pick up Lucroy's option, leaving Chirinos and Brett Nicholas as backup candidates plus a veteran journeyman to be named later.
First base: It would be sad to see Moreland exit without much fanfare. He has been a significant part of the Rangers for the past seven seasons, but the solution at first base could be a platoon of Joey Gallo and Ryan Rua. The Rangers still have high hopes for Gallo, and Rua was quietly productive this past season.
Second base: Rougned Odor has a chance to be an All-Star, although his defense and plate discipline could stand some improvement. Still, he won't turn 23 until February.
Shortstop: Elvis Andrus is coming off his best offensive season. He is also signed for six more years and $88 million. His trade value might be up after his strong 2016, but that contract would still be difficult to move if the Rangers wanted to make room for Profar.
Third base: Beltre will turn 38 on April 7, but the Rangers are committed to him for two more years. He had an overall outstanding season in 2016 and stayed off the disabled list for the first time in three years.
Center field: Desmond is a free agent and has a chance at landing a lucrative long-term deal from somebody. Gomez might be a cheaper alternative. The Rangers also still have Delino DeShields, who was solid as rookie in 2015 but not as productive this past season. The Rangers are unlikely to just hand the job back to DeShields without competition.
Corner outfield: All signs point to Nomar Mazara being in one spot and Shin-Soo Choo at the other. Choo is signed for four more years and $82 million, but his health issues will require the Rangers to make sure they have enough depth.
Designated hitter: Josh Hamilton, anyone? He has been released and is a free agent. If the Rangers re-sign him, it will likely be as a DH possibility, but only as a make-good candidate. From the Department of Can't Beat Them, Join Them … both José Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays are free agents, as is the Orioles' Mark Trumbo.
Utility player: Here is a moral question: Do the Rangers have the right to force Profar into a utility role, or should they honor his desire to go elsewhere and become an everyday shortstop?