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Pitching market may determine DeShields' status

If Rangers unable to satisfy need for arms, center field could become free-agency focus
November 16, 2017

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Rangers' offseason plans have been known to change on the fly.Pitching is Texas' top priority this winter, as there is a need for possibly three starting pitchers as well as bullpen help. But the Rangers may not be able to fill all of their shopping needs

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Rangers' offseason plans have been known to change on the fly.
Pitching is Texas' top priority this winter, as there is a need for possibly three starting pitchers as well as bullpen help. But the Rangers may not be able to fill all of their shopping needs given a thin free-agent market and the high demand for pitching around the game.
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The Rangers may end up shifting their focus to other areas, and center field could be one spot. Delino DeShields has that spot now and the Rangers would be satisfied there if they can fulfill all of their pitching needs.
But the club has not ruled out doing something in center field this offseason.
"I think if we do acquire somebody, it would be more on the defensive side," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said at the GM Meetings this week. "We're kind of approaching it as Delino is our center fielder unless we find a fit that makes sense. We're not looking to move [DeShields] off center field -- and if we did, if he ends up playing left field, then we acquired a center fielder that makes us better as a club."

Two names have surfaced in trade rumors: Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton and Boston's Jackie Bradley Jr. The rebuilding Reds don't feel compelled to move Hamilton, but they would listen. The Red Sox would only move Bradley if they acquired a big bat for their outfield, whether it's Giancarlo Stanton in a trade from the Marlins or J.D. Martinez through free agency.
Lorenzo Cain and Jonathan Jay are the top free-agent center fielders. Jarrod Dyson, Austin Jackson and Rajai Davis are also available. Dyson has speed and defensive skills, but he has always been a part-time player because of marginal offensive ability. Davis just turned 37. The Rangers have been tepid on Jackson in the past.
Then there is Carlos Gomez, who was the Rangers' starting center fielder this past season -- although he was limited to 102 games out there because of injuries. He is a free agent and likes it in Texas. The Rangers have not ruled out re-signing Gomez, but it's below pitching on the priority list.
Defense remains paramount for a Rangers center fielder, and DeShields held his own last year in the nebulous world of defensive metrics. His .938 Ultimate Zone Rating in center was 13th among 53 players with at least 30 games there. That rated higher than Cain, Gomez, Hamilton or Bradley.
"A lot of our ways we evaluate and a lot of the metrics, Delino stacks up pretty well, including better than I think some of the guys that maybe have a reputation as a defensive specialist," Daniels said. "He's really improved. I don't think he gets enough credit for that."
The question is how much credit do the Rangers actually give DeShields for his defense. No matter what the metrics say, manager Jeff Banister has said DeShields must continue to show defensive improvement in center.
The offseason will determine if the Rangers will give him that chance.

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. Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.