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At Meetings, Rangers to zero in on pitching

GM Daniels aims to bolster rotation, bullpen
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Rangers need at least one more starting pitcher before the offseason is over, and there are plenty to choose from in a free-agent market that has not been seriously tapped going into the Winter Meetings.

They come in all sizes with different resumes and medical records. There is a former Cy Young Award winner in Jake Arrieta and a premier talent in Yu Darvish. Right-handers Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are coveted because they are still relatively young and coming off solid seasons, but also -- like Darvish -- one full season removed from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Rangers need at least one more starting pitcher before the offseason is over, and there are plenty to choose from in a free-agent market that has not been seriously tapped going into the Winter Meetings.

They come in all sizes with different resumes and medical records. There is a former Cy Young Award winner in Jake Arrieta and a premier talent in Yu Darvish. Right-handers Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are coveted because they are still relatively young and coming off solid seasons, but also -- like Darvish -- one full season removed from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

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Jason Vargas won 18 games for the Royals last year, but turns 35 in February. Chris Tillman won 16 games for the Orioles in 2016, but just one last year as his ERA rose from 3.77 to 7.84.

The list goes on and the Rangers need somebody to fit in with left-handers Cole Hamels, Martin Perez and Mike Minor and right-hander Doug Fister. The mystery is if the Rangers will try to go for the top-of-the-line starter and if a sure bet like that really is out there.

"Everybody would like to have that," general manager Jon Daniels said Sunday after arriving at the Meetings. "Great players with no medical risks, cheap contracts, throw in great makeup. The reality is you can't fill out your roster in every spot that way. We are trying to evaluate everybody on their individual merits. How we value them, we are not trying to buy a label."

Video: Sullivan on Rangers' chances of re-signing Darvish

The Rangers know Darvish, who spent the past six seasons with them before being traded to the Dodgers on July 31. They also know Arrieta is from their backyard, having pitched at Plano (Texas) East High School and Texas Christian University. They also know he was 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA for the Cubs in 2015 and 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA this past season. He will be 32 on Opening Day next year.

Those are the two pitchers on the free-agent market who have a track record of being a frontline starter.

"If there is a starter out there we felt not just fits that description or fits that club, short- and long-term, we would not rule it out," Daniels said. "One part is how we value him and the other part is the market determines how much he gets paid and if it fits our budget."

Daniels also said the Rangers did not come to the Meetings looking to make a big splash in response to the Angels signing Japanese pitcher Shohei Ohtani.

"If it fits us and fits our plan, great," Daniels said. "The most dangerous thing you can do is make a move with headlines in mind. Games aren't won at the Winter Meetings. Names and headlines mean something to a degree, but we are not trying to make headlines this week."

The Rangers are also looking for bullpen help, but are not involved in the pursuit of top free-agent closers Greg Holland and Wade Davis.

"We are trying to address multiple spots, so it becomes challenging when you put a lot of resources into [a closer]," Daniels said.

Rangers beat

• Daniels said the Rangers are expecting to re-sign infielder Hanser Alberto, who was non-tendered and made a free agent. He missed all of last season with a right shoulder injury.

• The Rangers have signed 17-year-old shortstop Yenci Pena, who became a free agent due to Major League Baseball sanctions against the Braves. He is considered an excellent defensive player with some offensive upside.

• Daniels said the Rangers are looking for more catching depth, particularly a veteran who is good at handling a pitching staff and defense.

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.

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

Texas Rangers

Hamels Foundation hosts baseball clinics

Rangers pitcher begins offseason work early to boost core for 2018
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

EULESS, Texas -- The Rangers enlisted pitcher Cole Hamels in the recruiting of Japanese pitcher Shohei Ohtani. He was a part of a video presentation by Rangers players trying to convince Ohtani that Texas would be a great place to play.

"I tried to reiterate we have a good group of guys," Hamels said. "All of us did our part … but I guess I failed. I didn't do a good job in telling him how great this place is and to play for."

EULESS, Texas -- The Rangers enlisted pitcher Cole Hamels in the recruiting of Japanese pitcher Shohei Ohtani. He was a part of a video presentation by Rangers players trying to convince Ohtani that Texas would be a great place to play.

"I tried to reiterate we have a good group of guys," Hamels said. "All of us did our part … but I guess I failed. I didn't do a good job in telling him how great this place is and to play for."

Instead, Ohtani announced on Friday that he was signing with the Angels.

"I was working out when it came down," Hamels said. "Whew, the wind out of your sails. It's a tough situation, but he has to play where he wants to play. I think he would have enjoyed it here."

The Angels held a press conference on Saturday to introduce Ohtani to the Southern California media while Hamels and his wife, Heidi, were holding their own event. The Hamels Foundation held two baseball clinics Saturday morning and afternoon at Trinity High School with approximately 500 North Texas youth players in attendance.

Proceeds from the clinics benefit the foundation's educational efforts in the United States and the African country of Malawi.

The baseball clinic was also held on the same day as Trinity's high school football playoff game. The Trojans were playing crosstown rival Allen -- former Rangers pitcher Shawn Tolleson's high school -- at the University of North Texas in Denton. It was a state quarterfinal game.

"I have never been around football in December," Hamels said. "Are you kidding me? And it's only the quarterfinals? That's crazy."

That's high school football in Texas, but the Rangers are still in business this winter even after Ohtani signed with the Angels. The Winter Meetings open Sunday evening in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and the Rangers will be there to continue their pursuit of pitching.

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"I have an idea they are really trying to boost the pitching staff and obviously boost the bullpen," Hamels said. "We have a nice lineup … but I think we can improve in every way, and it's just a matter of what the organization wants to do and what they can do.

"I think it's exciting to see the [American League] West is getting better. The American League in general is getting better and it's fun to play against the best. The division just got a whole lot better. It's not over, there are still guys that can be traded and added. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best."

Hamels has already started his offseason workouts. He took about a month off before getting back after it just before Thanksgiving.

Hamels made 24 starts for the Rangers this season while missing two months with a strained right oblique muscle, and finished 11-6 with a 4.20 ERA. The season marked his his fewest innings since his rookie year in 2006 with the Phillies, and his second-highest ERA.

Video: TEX@SEA: Hamels fans eight batters in eight innings

The Rangers have more moves to make this offseason, but they also need their No. 1 starter at his best in 2018. That would have been the case with or without Ohtani.

"This year I am doing more core exercises," Hamels said. "I don't want ever injure an oblique again. Even though it was a freak accident I want to make sure I am a lot stronger in that area. Make sure my mechanics stay in tune. I don't think my mechanics were as good as they could have been for the duration.

"I would be good for a game or two and then I would falter and try to pick up the pieces. This year I definitely want to be a lot stronger and more prepared. With the strength, consistency comes, and the velocity, and that were the two things I was missing last year."

That's a tidbit Hamels can share at his clinic. He would have liked to have shared it with Ohtani as well.

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.

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

Texas Rangers, Cole Hamels

Diekman honored with Hutch Award

Rangers lefty overcame three surgeries in 2017 to return to mound
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitcher Jake Diekman has been selected as the recipient of the 53rd Hutch Award and will be honored on Jan. 24 in Seattle. Diekman is the first Rangers player to receive the honor.

The award is presented annually by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. It honors the Major League player who "best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire" of former Major League pitcher and manager Fred Hutchinson, who passed away from cancer at age 45 in 1964 while managing the Cincinnati Reds.

ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitcher Jake Diekman has been selected as the recipient of the 53rd Hutch Award and will be honored on Jan. 24 in Seattle. Diekman is the first Rangers player to receive the honor.

The award is presented annually by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. It honors the Major League player who "best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire" of former Major League pitcher and manager Fred Hutchinson, who passed away from cancer at age 45 in 1964 while managing the Cincinnati Reds.

Tweet from @fredhutch: Your 2017 #HutchAward winner is... @JakeDiekman of the @Rangers! Jake's battled ulcerative colitis since childhood and is an inspiration and advocate for @CrohnsColitisFn. Join us and keynote guest, HOF Randy Johnson, for the Hutch Award luncheon Jan 24. https://t.co/IuPc5bY3Nu pic.twitter.com/SfYZcJJv4N

Diekman has been dealing with ulcerative colitis for much of his life and underwent three operations in the past year to remove his colon and replace it with a reservoir. Following the surgeries on Jan. 25, April 12, and June 9, Diekman made a remarkable recovery and returned to the Rangers in September. He ended up with a 2.53 ERA in 11 appearances.

In August 2017, Jake and his fiancé, Amanda Soltero, announced the creation of the Gut It Out Foundation to further raise awareness and funding. Diekman will be honored at the 2018 Hutch Award Luncheon presented by Premera Blue Cross on Wednesday, Jan. 24 at Seattle's Safeco Field. Hutchinson was a native of Seattle.

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.

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

Texas Rangers, Jake Diekman

Rangers shift focus after Ohtani chooses Halos

MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers woke up on Friday morning looking for at least one more starting pitcher for their rotation. That is still the case after hearing the news that Japanese right-hander Shohei Ohtani intends to sign with the Angels.

"We're disappointed we weren't Shohei Ohtani's choice, but wish him the best in Anaheim," general manager Jon Daniels said. "He impressed us on and off the field at every turn. However, had he asked our opinion, we would have suggested the National League. The upside of this pursuit is that it really brought our group closer together. The entire organization joined in."

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers woke up on Friday morning looking for at least one more starting pitcher for their rotation. That is still the case after hearing the news that Japanese right-hander Shohei Ohtani intends to sign with the Angels.

"We're disappointed we weren't Shohei Ohtani's choice, but wish him the best in Anaheim," general manager Jon Daniels said. "He impressed us on and off the field at every turn. However, had he asked our opinion, we would have suggested the National League. The upside of this pursuit is that it really brought our group closer together. The entire organization joined in."

The Rangers pursued Ohtani hard. Assistant general manager Josh Boyd and scouts Joe Furukawa and Hajime Watabe put in months -- if not years -- into the Rangers' efforts and the club sent eight people to a meeting with Ohtani and his agents earlier this week. The Rangers had $3.535 million in international slot money available for the pursuit, but were not able to close the deal.

Video: MLB Now on Ohtani reportedly heading to Halos

"Josh Boyd, Haji Watabe, and Joe Furukawa had us as plugged in as you could hope," Daniels said. "From there, our scouts worked tirelessly. Our front office, medical, and development groups put a ton of thought and creativity into how best to utilize a unique talent, how to support him, and what the impact would be on our club.

"Our business side rose to the occasion in a big way. The marketing, production, and graphic arts groups were absolute stars in this process. Their ability to take our vision and package it in a way worthy of the passion behind it was something to behold."

The Rangers now move on with the Winter Meetings beginning Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The Rangers have signed right-hander Doug Fister and left-hander Mike Minor to go into a rotation that already includes left-handers Cole Hamels and Martin Perez. They have also acquired rookie right-hander Ronald Herrera from the Yankees and are considering the possibility of moving reliever Matt Bush into the rotation.

The Rangers will add more starting pitching before the offseason expires and may continue even into Spring Training. The unknown is if the Rangers are looking for another proven starter for the front of the rotation, or if they will continue to buy in bulk for depth.

The list of free agents who are proven starters for the front end of the rotation includes Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb. After that it comes down to each team's evaluation of an individual pitcher.

Hot Stove Tracker

The Rangers had Minor high on their list even though he pitched as a reliever for the Royals in 2017 after missing two years with a shoulder injury. They were the only ones to pursue him as a starting pitcher.

"We have been fairly targeted," Daniels said in a Winter Meetings briefing on Thursday. "It's not a blanket deal. We are not interested in every guy out there. We are pretty specific in what we are looking for. But we are glad to have reached agreements with two guys high on our list."

The Rangers have not sat idle while Ohtani tried to make up his mind. They have been in contact with the agents of Arrieta, Lynn, Cobb and almost every other starting pitcher on the market. Daniels said the conversations have been at varying levels.

"We've had some conversations that have gone deeper than others," Daniels said. "I really couldn't handicap it right now as far as timing. A lot of that is individual basis and other areas. We don't have anything in the queue right now."

But Daniels made it clear that the Rangers have put out offers that are only awaiting a yes from the other side.

"We wouldn't put an offer out there if we weren't prepared for the answer to be yes," Daniels said.

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.

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

Texas Rangers

'88 Meetings magical week in Rangers' history

In a matter of days, Grieve acquired Franco and Palmeiro and signed Ryan
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- Rangers general manager Jon Daniels is determined to do something to improve a 78-84 team at the Winter Meetings next week, and isn't opposed to the big deals, including signing another front-line starting pitcher.

But he has much work to do to generate the same amount of excitement and headlines as what happened 29 years ago in Atlanta.

ARLINGTON -- Rangers general manager Jon Daniels is determined to do something to improve a 78-84 team at the Winter Meetings next week, and isn't opposed to the big deals, including signing another front-line starting pitcher.

But he has much work to do to generate the same amount of excitement and headlines as what happened 29 years ago in Atlanta.

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The 1988 Winter Meetings transformed the Rangers forever. In a matter of a few days, former general manager Tom Grieve traded for first baseman Rafael Palmeiro and second baseman Julio Franco and signed free-agent pitcher Nolan Ryan.

It was a magical week in Rangers' history and one worth remembering going into this year's Winter Meetings.

"I think the baseball moves we made, we analyzed the team, we wanted better hitters," Grieve said. "Julio Franco and Rafael Palmeiro were good hitters who could hit good pitching and that could make us a better team. What transformed the franchise in the eyes of our fans and the eyes of the fans around the country happened when we signed Nolan Ryan."

The Rangers were heading into their fifth year of rebuilding under Grieve, scouting director Sandy Johnson and manager Bobby Valentine. A tremendous infusion of young talent -- Ruben Sierra, Pete Incaviglia, Bobby Witt, Jose Guzman, Kevin Brown, Steve Buechele and others -- had made the Rangers competitive again.

But the youth movement had stalled out. It was time for some drastic moves to accelerate the process. The Rangers wanted two good hitters to fill out a young lineup -- and one more starting pitcher.

Video: Sullivan on the Rangers' 1988 Winter Meetings

They had spoken to the Yankees about Don Mattingly and the Red Sox about Wade Boggs. But Grieve had also spoken extensively to the Cubs about Palmeiro and the Indians about Franco. Progress had been made before everybody reached Atlanta. The Cubs wanted closer Mitch Williams and the rebuilding Indians needed their own infusion of talent.

"It seemed like there was some common ground," Grieve said. "Going in I felt there was some solid groundwork laid to lead to that."

The trades got done. Palmeiro and pitcher Jamie Moyer came from the Cubs in a nine-player swap that sent Williams to Chicago, and Franco was acquired from the Indians for second baseman Jerry Browne, outfielder Oddibe McDowell and popular first baseman Pete O'Brien.

Grieve then turned his attention to Ryan, who had spent the past nine years pitching for the Astros and was getting ready to turn 42. Everybody thought Ryan would pitch one or two more years and then retire. But the Astros made the mistake of asking him to take a pay cut.

Ryan refused, and the bidding was on.

"I had talked to [Ryan's agent] Dick Moss," Grieve said. "I knew Nolan wasn't going back to Houston and we were the frontrunners because we were the closest team to Houston, and I knew [owner] Eddie Chiles was on board. We were optimistic. I wasn't going to put all our eggs in one basket, but we were optimistic we were going to be able to do some things, and it all came together."

The Rangers signed Ryan to a one-year deal and he stayed for five. In 1989, he made 32 starts, pitched 239 1/3 innings and was 16-10 with a 3.20 ERA and 301 strikeouts.

"People thought it was a publicity stunt," Grieve said. "There was definitely some PR value to it. But John Young was our National League scout and he said Nolan was still one of the five best pitchers in the National League. The bottom line was Nolan Ryan won 16 games and struck out 300 batters. The pitching he provided was the biggest PR of them all."

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.

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

Texas Rangers

Rangers announce Minors coaching staffs

Owen receives promotion to manage Class A Advanced Down East
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- A promotion for Spike Owen is prominent among the shifting and settling of Minor League personnel in the Rangers' farm system for 2018.

Owen, who was on the Rangers' Major League coaching staff in 2016, is moving up to manage Class A Advanced Down East in the Carolina League. He was at Class A Hickory in the South Atlantic League in '17.

ARLINGTON -- A promotion for Spike Owen is prominent among the shifting and settling of Minor League personnel in the Rangers' farm system for 2018.

Owen, who was on the Rangers' Major League coaching staff in 2016, is moving up to manage Class A Advanced Down East in the Carolina League. He was at Class A Hickory in the South Atlantic League in '17.

The details:

Triple-A Round Rock: Manager Jason Wood and coach Geno Petralli will be with the Express for the fourth straight year. They will be joined by hitting coach Howard Johnson, who managed Down East in 2017, and pitching coach Brian Shouse. Johnson was a Major League hitting coach with the Mariners (2013-15) and the Mets (2008-10).

Double-A Frisco: Joe Mikulik returns to Frisco for his fourth season as manager and 20th overall in the Minors. Former Ranger Jason Hart enters his seventh season as the Frisco hitting coach, and pitching coach Greg Hibbard joins the staff after two seasons at Round Rock.

Class A Advanced Down East: Owen will be joined by Kenny Hook, who was his hitting coach at Hickory last year. Steve Mintz returns as pitching coach and Carlos Maldonado serves as an extra coach.

Class A Hickory: Manager Matt Hagen moves up from Class A Short Season Spokane. Pitching coach Jose Jaimes returns and will be joined by hitting coach Chase Lambin and coach Turtle Thomas, who are also moving up from Spokane.

Class A Short Season Spokane: Kenny Holmberg returns to managing after two years as infield coordinator. Jono Arnolds moves up from the Arizona Rookie League to be pitching coach and Jared Goedert will be the hitting coach.

Arizona Rookie League: Matt Siegel will manage the Rangers for a third straight season. Henderson Lugo and Chris Egelston will serve as pitching coaches. Salomon Manriquez returns as a hitting coach, while Jeremy Moore joins the staff after one season as a coach for Down East. Former Ranger Guilder Rodriguez will be a member of the AZL Rangers staff for a second straight year.

Dominican Summer League: Carlos Cardoza will manage the DSL Rangers for a third straight season. Jesus Delgado and Pablo Blanco both return to the staff as pitching coaches, while Chad Comer, Alexis Infante, Chu Ovalle, Roberto De La Rosa and Luis Encarnacion also return as coaches.

The Rangers' roving instructor staff will remain intact. Corey Ragsdale will serve as field coordinator along with Danny Clark (pitching), Josue Perez (hitting), Chris Briones (catching), Damon Mashore (baserunning), Dwayne Murphy (outfield), Jeff Andrews (assistant pitching), Josiah Igono (peak performance), Jason Roberts (medical), Sean Fields (rehab coordinator), Chris Olson (assistant medical and rehab), Napoleon Pichardo (strength and conditioning), Eric McMahon and Ric Mabie (strength and conditioning assistants) and Keith Comstock (rehab pitching). Mark Connor will continue to serve as a pitching special assistant.

The Minor League trainers are Carlos Olivas (Round Rock), Jacob Newburn (Frisco), Alex Rodriguez (Down East), Luke Teeters (Hickory) and Bronson Santillan (Spokane).

The strength and conditioning coaches are Eric McMahon (Round Rock), Wade Lamont (Frisco), Al Sandoval (Down East), Adam Noel (Hickory), Ed Yong (Spokane), Chandler Geller (Arizona) and Eduardo Thomas (DSL).

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.

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

Texas Rangers

Texas won't pivot from offseason pitching plan

DeShields likely to start in center, with Calhoun penciled in for left
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are all about pitching this offseason and to this point have shown little inclination to address any perceived concerns in their lineup. That may bode well for Delino DeShields being the starting center fielder and Willie Calhoun getting a real chance to play left field.

That's what general manager Jon Daniels suggested during an abbreviated Winter Meetings briefing Wednesday, although the slow-moving offseason has yet to reach the halfway point.

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are all about pitching this offseason and to this point have shown little inclination to address any perceived concerns in their lineup. That may bode well for Delino DeShields being the starting center fielder and Willie Calhoun getting a real chance to play left field.

That's what general manager Jon Daniels suggested during an abbreviated Winter Meetings briefing Wednesday, although the slow-moving offseason has yet to reach the halfway point.

Hot Stove Tracker

"We have had some position-player discussions as well, but pitching is definitely the focus," Daniels said. "From a position-player standpoint, we are of the mindset to give all of our guys that have been here or knocking at the door a true opportunity this year.

"That doesn't mean we won't add select players that really fit our roster or what we are trying to do from a defensive mindset or complement the core group we have here. But as far as identifying everyday players as a real front-burner item, we are still focused on the pitching side."

Video: CHC@WSH Gm5: Jay doubles, advances and scores in 1st

Alluding to the defensive mindset suggests the Rangers will look at possible help in center field, with free agents Jarrod Dyson and Jon Jay both possibilities. Texas' zealous pursuit of pitching likely precludes the club from getting involved with a front-line center fielder like Lorenzo Cain or Carlos Gomez. But that could change if the Rangers don't satisfactorily address their pitching needs and seek alternative ways to improve the team.

Calhoun, a left-handed hitter, has shown the offensive ability to be the everyday left fielder after hitting .300 with 31 home runs, 93 RBIs and a .572 slugging percentage in Triple-A this past season. But the Rangers still want to see how he handles the position defensively, while Ryan Rua, a right-handed hitter, remains a viable alternative.

If Calhoun takes over in left, it could allow the Rangers to anchor Nomar Mazara in right and allow him to concentrate on developing his defensive skills. Mazara has commuted between left and right field the past two years. He appeared to have played better defensively in right this past season.

Video: OAK@TEX: Calhoun ranges back, makes a phenomenal grab

The Rangers also haven't publicly stated their defensive plans for Joey Gallo, who led the team with 41 home runs. The bat is of vital importance, but the defensive position is unknown.

Gallo played third, first and left field last season. The immediate opening is at first base with the free-agent departure of Mike Napoli, although Gallo still has a strong desire to play third.

"I think he has played very well at all the positions he has played," manager Jeff Banister said. "Listen, we would probably like to get to the point where he has the opportunity to be flexible inside that lineup. Obviously, he has earned the right to come to Spring Training and play and focus in on being a Major League player. As we sit today, to say he is focused in one position, I think that would be unfair just based on the construction of the entire roster right now."

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.

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

Texas Rangers

School kids receive gloves from Rangers

Mazara recalls his first mitt at age 5; Calhoun reflects on receiving one at similar event
Special to MLB.com

DALLAS -- Rangers players Nomar Mazara, Willie Calhoun, Jose Leclerc and Ricardo Rodriguez and TV broadcaster Dave Raymond joined the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation and State Farm on Thursday to distribute over 300 baseball gloves to students at C.F. Carr Elementary School in Dallas.

"The glove gives the kids a sense of ownership and excitement that they are bringing something with them," said Karin Morris, vice president of community outreach and executive director of the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation. "It just gives them a sense of pride if they have something that is their own, that they get to use and we hope that, in theory, will give them a chance to play at home."

DALLAS -- Rangers players Nomar Mazara, Willie Calhoun, Jose Leclerc and Ricardo Rodriguez and TV broadcaster Dave Raymond joined the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation and State Farm on Thursday to distribute over 300 baseball gloves to students at C.F. Carr Elementary School in Dallas.

"The glove gives the kids a sense of ownership and excitement that they are bringing something with them," said Karin Morris, vice president of community outreach and executive director of the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation. "It just gives them a sense of pride if they have something that is their own, that they get to use and we hope that, in theory, will give them a chance to play at home."

Mazara received his first baseball glove when he was 5 years old from his mother, and has reflected on that moment throughout his professional career.

"I'm getting to see their faces when they get their first gloves and it's going to be an amazing feeling for them. It's always good to [focus on] kids," Mazara said. "When I got my first glove I was sleeping with it, so it is going to be an amazing feeling for them and they're going to be happy."

For Calhoun, distributing the baseball gloves brought back familiar memories, as he received his first glove from a similar event when he was in elementary school.

"I was one of these kids once before when I was younger … college guys came back and gave gloves away to the elementary school that I attended," Calhoun said. "Being able to use this platform as a professional and being able to do this for the kids is really cool, and seeing the expression on their faces when they receive [the glove] is cool."

Less than a mile away from the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy at Mercy Street Sports Complex, The C.F. Carr Elementary School students are a small representation of Dallas area youth that will have access to the new state-of-the-art facility, slated for its grand opening later this month.

"Since we are about to open the Rangers Academy, it makes sense to get a glove in the hands of the kids so they'll have something they can bring with them, and get them excited about the fact that the Rangers Academy is accessible to them," Morris said.

In the midst of the holiday season, the glove distribution is one of many community initiatives for the Rangers this month.

"We know that there is so much need and there are so many ways that we can help, and any time that we can bring a little sunshine to families, we do," Morris said. "Even if it is something as small as a glove, hopefully that brings a little bit of sunshine to them as they head into the holidays."

Madison Pelletier is a contributor to MLB.com.

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

Texas Rangers

Rangers add Minor to join starting rotation

Free-agent lefty joins Texas on 3-year, $28M contract
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers identified left-hander Mike Minor as one of their top free-agent targets this offseason, and on Wednesday, they signed him to a three-year, $28 million contract to join their starting rotation.

Minor also has pitched as a reliever, but the Rangers signed him to go into their rotation along with Cole Hamels, Martin Perez and the recently signed Doug Fister.

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers identified left-hander Mike Minor as one of their top free-agent targets this offseason, and on Wednesday, they signed him to a three-year, $28 million contract to join their starting rotation.

Minor also has pitched as a reliever, but the Rangers signed him to go into their rotation along with Cole Hamels, Martin Perez and the recently signed Doug Fister.

"We have been pitching-focused since Day 1," general manager Jon Daniels said. "Mike has a history of starting and has some of the characteristics we have been focused on: strike-thrower, makeup, flexibility on the roster. The guy has upper-rotation ability. We have heard tremendous things about the makeup ... there are a lot of things on the list he ticked off that we like."

Hot Stove Tracker

Minor was a starter for the Braves from 2010-14 before missing two years because of left shoulder problems. He came back last year as a reliever for the Royals and was outstanding. Minor appeared in 65 games and pitched 77 2/3 innings, going 6-6 with six saves, a 2.55 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP.

Video: Daniels on using Minor as a starter, not the bullpen

Minor, who turns 30 on Dec. 26, was highly sought after as a reliever, but the Rangers were willing to give him a chance to start. There is still a possibility Minor could end up in the bullpen, depending how the rest of the offseason and Spring Training goes.

"I told [Daniels] I am comfortable in either role," Minor said at his introductory news conference. "It all depends on Spring Training and how the team shakes out."

Tweet from @Rangers: Hey @MikeMinor36 - welcome to Texas! pic.twitter.com/HXX2KjkP5a

Texas, even after signing Fister and Minor, is looking for more starting pitching. Daniels said the Rangers have had substantive conversations with other free-agent pitchers. The top pitchers on the market include Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn and Yu Darvish.

"Every team is looking for star players," Daniels said. "It's not just specific to us. We have already added some guys who have pitched in some pretty big spots."

The Rangers are also considering the possibility of moving right-hander Matt Bush to the rotation.

"The staff has met with Matt and laid out a plan," Daniels said. "Matt will continue to throw as a starter and may end up in the rotation. He may also learn from the process."

Video: Banister talks Minor, his workload as a starter

Minor's best year as a starter was in 2013, when he went 13-9 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in a career-high 32 starts and 204 2/3 innings. But he fell to 6-12 with a 4.77 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 25 starts in '14 before coming down with the shoulder injuries.

Minor's last start in the Major Leagues was on Sept. 20, 2014. His longest outing last season was three innings on April 20 against Texas. He threw a season-high 49 pitches against Minnesota on July 1.

"There will be obstacles with any pitcher," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "As far as the number of innings, you look at all these pitches, we'll take care of each one of these guys as we always have."

Video: Zinkie on Minor's fantasy value with the Rangers

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Minor was exclusively a reliever last season -- his first since 2014 after missing two full years with shoulder woes -- but he showed in '13 (3.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in 32 starts) that he can thrive out of a big league rotation. The 29-year-old would have received a greater fantasy boost had Texas signed him to save games, but he nonetheless has enough upside to be a late-round mixed-league pick as a projected arm on the Rangers' starting staff.

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.

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

Texas Rangers, Mike Minor

Barnette re-signs with Texas on 1-year deal

Rangers also add 4 others on Minor League contracts
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers re-signed right-handed reliever Tony Barnette to a one-year contract, the club recently announced. Texas made Barnette a free agent when the club declined to pick up his option on Nov. 6, but he was re-signed to a $1.5 million contract for 2018.

Barnette spent the past two years with the Rangers, going 7-3 with a 2.09 ERA in 53 games in 2016 before slipping to 2-1 with a 5.49 ERA in 50 outings this past season. But the 34-year-old recorded a 2.51 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP during a 25-game stretch from July 3-Sept. 22 before allowing seven runs in his final two outings after Texas was eliminated from postseason contention.

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers re-signed right-handed reliever Tony Barnette to a one-year contract, the club recently announced. Texas made Barnette a free agent when the club declined to pick up his option on Nov. 6, but he was re-signed to a $1.5 million contract for 2018.

Barnette spent the past two years with the Rangers, going 7-3 with a 2.09 ERA in 53 games in 2016 before slipping to 2-1 with a 5.49 ERA in 50 outings this past season. But the 34-year-old recorded a 2.51 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP during a 25-game stretch from July 3-Sept. 22 before allowing seven runs in his final two outings after Texas was eliminated from postseason contention.

"During my short-lived free agency, it was difficult to imagine an immediate future without being in a Rangers uniform," Barnette said.

Hot Stove Tracker

The Rangers also signed right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez, their first-round Draft pick in 2013, as well as three others to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training.

Gonzalez became a free agent last Friday when Texas non-tendered him. The 25-year-old is recovering from Tommy John surgery and is not expected to pitch in 2018.

Video: TEX@ARI: Gonzalez induces double play to escape jam

The Rangers also signed former Blue Jays and Tigers outfielder Anthony Gose with the possibility that he could pitch for them. Gose, a left-hander, spent parts of five seasons in the Major Leagues from 2012-16 mainly as a center fielder with excellent speed.

Gose, 27, has appeared in 372 Major League games, posting a .240/.309/.348 slash line and 57 stolen bases. The Phillies originally drafted him as an outfielder out of Bellflower (Calif.) High School in 2008. Gose pitched in high school but wanted to play professionally as an outfielder even though scouts were attracted to a fastball registering in the high 90s.

That changed last Spring Training when the Tigers told Gose he was not going to make the team. He volunteered to switch to pitching and was clocked at 99 mph. Gose went 0-2 with a 7.59 ERA in 11 appearances at Class A Advanced Lakeland before being shut down on July 2 with elbow inflammation.

Video: DET@MIA: Gose drives in two runs in the 6th

In addition, the Rangers signed left-hander David Hurlbut, who spent all of last season at Triple-A Rochester in the Twins' organization and finished 10-8 with a 3.44 ERA and 1.39 WHIP over 23 games (22 starts). The 28-year-old has averaged an attractive two walks per nine innings in seven Minor League seasons.

The Rangers also signed infielder Christian Lopes out of the Blue Jays' organization. The 25-year-old played in 92 games at Triple-A Buffalo this past season and hit .261 with a .349 on-base percentage and a .402 slugging percentage. Lopes knocked six home runs and stole 18 bases. A right-handed hitter, he has been a second baseman for most of his career with only limited experience at shortstop and third base.

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.

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

Texas Rangers, Tony Barnette, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Anthony Gose

Minor unexpectedly dominant in '17

Lefty ranked as Top 10 Statcast reliever despite just six wins, six saves
MLB.com @mike_petriello

The Rangers have signed free-agent pitcher Mike Minor to a three-year deal, continuing their pitching overhaul. Texas already signed Doug Fister to a one-year deal in late November, and it is currently one of the finalists to sign Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, too, hoping to reinforce a rotation that can currently rely on only Cole Hamels and Martin Perez.

Minor is an interesting case, because if you were to simply look at his career numbers, you might not be impressed. After all, a 44-42 record and a 3.93 ERA don't exactly shout "stardom," and he pitched zero Major League innings in 2015 and '16 after injuring his left shoulder pitching for Atlanta in '14.

The Rangers have signed free-agent pitcher Mike Minor to a three-year deal, continuing their pitching overhaul. Texas already signed Doug Fister to a one-year deal in late November, and it is currently one of the finalists to sign Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, too, hoping to reinforce a rotation that can currently rely on only Cole Hamels and Martin Perez.

Minor is an interesting case, because if you were to simply look at his career numbers, you might not be impressed. After all, a 44-42 record and a 3.93 ERA don't exactly shout "stardom," and he pitched zero Major League innings in 2015 and '16 after injuring his left shoulder pitching for Atlanta in '14.

But we know that career numbers tell you more about what a player has been and less about what a player will be, and if you look at the work Minor gave the Royals in 2017, you'd find a different story. After two years out of the game, he was legitimately one of the best relievers in baseball last year. Texas plans to use Minor as a starter in 2018, as he was with the Braves from 2010-14. We'll get back to that in a second.

The surface-level stats (2.55 ERA, 88 strikeouts in 77 2/3 innings) are a good start. The advanced stats (2.62 FIP) back that performance up. But it's the Statcast™ metrics that really show just how good Minor was in 2017 -- by the most advanced metric we have, Minor was a Top 10 reliever last season.

Video: Zinkie on Minor's fantasy value with the Rangers

The way we measure that is with expected wOBA (or xwOBA), which sounds complicated, but really isn't. It measures two things, the two most important things a pitcher can do. First, it looks at strikeouts and walks, or amount of contact; second, it looks at the usual outcomes of batted balls using exit velocity and launch angle, or quality of contact. Then, it expresses that with wOBA, which is basically on-base percentage, except with more credit given to extra base hits. The 2017 Major League average wOBA was .327.

There were 254 pitchers who faced at least 100 batters as a reliever. If you look at the top 10, you will see a list of baseball's most dominant relievers -- and Minor right in the middle.

2017's top relievers by expected wOBA (minimum 100 batters faced)
.198:
Kenley Jansen
.216: Pat Neshek
.217: Sean Doolittle
.232: Craig Kimbrel
.233: Andrew Miller and Roberto Osuna
.234: Tommy Hunter
.238: Minor
.240: Chad Green and Brandon Morrow

How? In large part, it's because of the familiar story when a starter moves to the bullpen: Minor's velocity played up, and he was able to drop the pitches that didn't work as well.

Consider Minor's fastball, for example. As an Atlanta starter, he consistently sat in the 91-92 mph range. As a reliever with Kansas City, Minor averaged 94.9, topping 96 mph 48 times -- and reaching as high as 97.2 mph in September. After striking out between 19 and 23 percent of hitters as a Braves starter, he whiffed nearly 29 percent with the Royals.

Tweet from @mike_petriello: Mike Minor was a starter from 2010-2014, and a reliever in 2017... in case his fastball velocity chart didn't make that clear. pic.twitter.com/SDfddUDimG

Not only was Minor's heater coming in faster, it was coming in with a great deal of spin. His four-seam spin rate is 2,604 rpm, which is elite; of the 576 pitchers who threw at least 50 four-seamers, Minor's spin rate was fourth highest, and well above the 2,255 rpm Major League average. High fastball spin can allow the pitch to defy gravity for slightly longer and create the "rising fastball" effect, which can often lead to swinging strikes and popups. Minor allowed just a .210 average on his fastball.

When he was a starter, Minor threw, at times, five pitches -- a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a curve, a slider and a change. But as a reliever, he primarily became a four-seam/slider pitcher, with those two pitches comprising 80 percent of his pitches, and the slider was effective. Batters hit just .176 against it; no regular lefty reliever threw their slider harder than his 88.5 mph.

Now, can Minor maintain that if he returns to the rotation? In some sense, it depends on what that means. If he's expected to be a traditional starter, getting into the seventh inning, he will almost certainly need to use more than his two best pitches, and it's probable that his velocity could decline. But we know that's not necessarily how starters work these days; it's possible, given Minor's track record, that shorter, more productive starts are acceptable.

Video: KC@OAK: Minor whiffs Pinder in the 8th

Set to return to the rotation, he'll be doing something relatively unusual, in that he'd have been a starting pitcher, then a reliever, then back to the rotation. Over the past two decades, only seven pitchers have done the same, which we'll define as having one season of at least 25 starts, then a season with at least 50 relief appearances, then another season of at least 25 starts.

Those seven were Ryan Dempster, John Smoltz, Kelvim Escobar, Miguel Batista, Jamey Wright, Kent Bottenfield and Danny Darwin, but Smoltz may be the most comparable, spending four very good years in relief after missing all of 2000 due to injury. Minor isn't Smoltz, but it's a transition that's at least possible. It's just difficult to see Minor being as strong in the rotation as he was in relief, as Royals GM Dayton Moore said last month.

"Even if Mike isn't as dominant as a starter -- and he could be dominant, he certainly can -- you know you'll get dominance from him in the bullpen as a one-inning guy or two-inning guy," said Moore. "He's proved it."

Moore wasn't wrong on that. Minor did prove it in 2017, even if six wins and six saves aren't the traditional numbers you'd expect. What we know is that Minor has the talent to make a big difference for the Rangers, and that's exactly what Texas is signing up for.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.

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

Texas Rangers, Mike Minor

Rangers target pitching at Winter Meetings

Club seeks front-line starter in addition to 'pen, outfield help
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers came into the offseason looking to acquire starting pitching in bulk. They are off to a fast start.

The club has agreed to contracts with free agents Doug Fister and Mike Minor, while acquiring rookie right-hander Ronald Herrera in a trade with the Yankees. Left-hander David Hurlbut, who pitched at Triple-A for the Twins in 2017, was among the Rangers' first Minor League signings.

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers came into the offseason looking to acquire starting pitching in bulk. They are off to a fast start.

The club has agreed to contracts with free agents Doug Fister and Mike Minor, while acquiring rookie right-hander Ronald Herrera in a trade with the Yankees. Left-hander David Hurlbut, who pitched at Triple-A for the Twins in 2017, was among the Rangers' first Minor League signings.

Hot Stove Tracker

The candidates for the back of the rotation are piling up. Now everybody waits to see if the Rangers can add a headline starter who can join Cole Hamels and Martin Perez atop the rotation. Shohei Ohtani is the No. 1 choice to fill that role and that drama continues to unfold as the Winter Meetings approach.

Video: T.R. Sullivan discusses Mike Minor heading to Rangers

But Ohtani is hardly the only front-line starter on the Rangers' list even if club officials are feeling good about their chances of signing the two-way Japanese star. The club also remains in contact with top free agents Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn and Jake Arrieta among others.

There is always the possibility the Rangers could re-engage with Yu Darvish, who is a free agent. The club is looking everywhere for starting pitching, which is why it is also considering moving reliever Matt Bush into the rotation as well.

Club Needs
Starting pitching: So far the zealous pursuit of starting pitching candidates suggest the Rangers are serious about letting some of their top prospects -- including left-hander Yohander Mendez and right-hander Ariel Jurado -- get more development time rather than be rushed to the big leagues.

Video: TEX@CLE: Bush closes out 9th inning, notches save

Relief pitching: The Rangers need bullpen help almost as much as they do starters, which makes the decision to move Bush into the rotation all the more curious. If Bush makes the move, the club is left with right-handers Keone Kela and Tony Barnette, and left-handers Alex Claudio and Jake Diekman to build around. Who closes may end up being the biggest question.

Outfield: The Rangers are still debating the need to add a defensive center fielder and use Delino DeShields in center. If they keep DeShields in center field, they could use a right-handed bat on the corner to go with Nomar Mazara, Willie Calhoun and Shin-Soo Choo.

Who can they trade if necessary
Jurickison Profar: He is stuck behind second baseman Rougned Odor. This is an older story than the pursuit of starting pitching. But, unless the Rangers want to take another big hit to their farm system, they really don't have much depth at the big league level to pull off a big trade at the Winter Meetings.

Video: BOS@TEX: Profar plates a pair on a double

Top prospects
The Rangers have two interesting prospects coming to Spring Training in first baseman Ronald Guzman, ranked as the club's No. 3 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, and catcher Jose Trevino. They are long shots to make the roster, but they are definitely worth watching.

Rule 5 Draft
The Rangers switched outfielder Jairo Beras to the mound last summer and then left him unprotected for the Rule 5 Draft. He is far from a finished product as a pitcher, but his powerful arm may be attractive to another club.

Video: OAK@TEX: Choo doubles Rangers' lead with two-run jack

Big contracts they might unload
Choo is still signed for three more years and $62 million. But when he is healthy, Choo has delivered what the Rangers should have expected when they originally signed him four years ago. Odor is only into one season of his six-year contract extension signed last spring.

Payroll summary
The Rangers expect to be in the $150-160 million range. That may be slightly down from last year, but it should be in the upper quadrant among Major League teams and be enough for one big-ticket purchase in the starting pitching department.

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.

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

Texas Rangers