Rangers' talks with Mets highlight first day of Meetings
SAN DIEGO -- Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish, who missed the final seven weeks of the regular season with inflammation in his right elbow, began his offseason throwing program on Monday with 25 throws from 50 feet.
That was in Arlington. Out on the West Coast, Rangers officials were still busy trying to find someone to join Darvish in next season's rotation. Starting pitching remains the Rangers' top priority at the Winter Meetings, and that makes up the majority of the conversations they are having with other teams.
But right now, it doesn't appear they are making significant progress toward making a deal, because the price for starting pitching remains high.
"This week is a continuation of conversations that have been going on for months," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "There are no conversations that we're having for the first time."
The Rangers know the Mets are trying to move Dillon Gee, and the Rangers have some interest in Jon Niese. The two clubs met on Monday, with Gee discussed prominently. But the Mets are looking for a shortstop and don't appear overly interested in Elvis Andrus. They also don't view Luis Sardinas as an everyday answer and, like many clubs, they are interested in Jurickson Profar but have concerns about his health.
The Marlins have some pitching to trade in left-hander Andrew Heaney and right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, but they want immediate offensive help in return. So do the Padres, and there doesn't appear to be any traction between the two clubs. The Padres do have pitching in Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner. The Rangers would be more interested in Ross but are hard pressed to come up with the hitters the Padres want in return.
The Rangers have plenty of Minor League talent to do a deal. But they are having a hard time coming up with Major League-ready players that clubs want in return. Right now, almost all clubs are looking for ways to improve their team for next season.
"It varies," Daniels said. "In years past, you have had a handful of clubs who were going into the season in the mode of a rebuilding mindset. There are not that many this year. But young players have value, always have and always will."
The most-desired player on the Rangers' Major League roster appears to be second baseman Rougned Odor. The Rangers are getting swamped with interest but aren't interested in dealing Odor unless they get a significant starting pitcher or hitter in return.
There are clubs who are willing to trade starting pitchers who will be free agents after next season. Of that group, Jordan Zimmermann of the Nationals might have the most appeal. But the Rangers would prefer to acquire starting pitching that would be around for more than one year.
"We have talked about a one-year fit," Daniels said. "But our preference is to have guys here and be a part of what we're trying to do for more than one year."
There are starting pitchers available as free agents, but that market is moving slowly. The Rangers aren't players for big names like Jon Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields, and the general feeling is that the market really won't speed up until those guys are off the board.
"For the most part, bigger deals get done first," Daniels said.
The Rangers are also trying to find a catcher and another outfielder. But chatter about their interest in Braves outfielder Justin Upton appears unfounded. Daniels said the Rangers might be willing to go with Ryan Rua and/or Michael Choice in left if they can find a defensive-minded fourth outfielder.
"Don't sell them short," Daniels said.
The catching options appear to be thin. The Blue Jays are willing to trade Dioner Navarro but the Rangers aren't high on his defensive ability. The Rockies are also willing to talk about Wilin Rosario. The Rangers like his offense but also have doubts about his defense.
"It's a limited market," Daniels said. "There are a few guys out there, but I'm not sure that what's out there in the backup market is an improvement on what we have internally."