Did the Rangers make a mistake in signing Derek Holland to a long-term contract rather than Matt Harrison?
-- Michael C., Oklahoma City
Harrison, who is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season, will be a priority for the Rangers in the offseason. It may not get addressed until after the New Year or in Spring Training, but clubs have been quite proactive in signing young pitching to long-term deals, and the Rangers obviously place a premium on it. Harrison has proven worthy, and he turns 27 in September. Signing Holland wasn't a mistake; the Rangers have financial flexibility for both, and Harrison will be addressed this coming offseason.
Why does Ron Washington keep running Michael Young out there every day when it's obvious that there is a better alternative in Mike Olt?
-- Fred H., Arlington, Texas
Young has not had a good season. There is no sugarcoating that simple fact. Olt certainly has a chance to be something special, but after less than one full season in Double-A, Washington is concerned about overexposing Olt by playing him every day. He would rather pick his spots.
This situation seems similar to Cal Ripken in the latter part of his record-breaking consecutive games streak with the Orioles. Many believed Ripken needed to come out of the lineup long before he finally did. But it was like Johnny Oates told me: "Every day I went to the ballpark, I always felt my best lineup always included Cal at shortstop."
That is simply the way Washington feels right now, that his best lineup includes Young in there somewhere. He's just not going to back off that, especially since he has a high regard for Young's leadership and his experience in postseason play.
Rangers fans have gone from just being happy to getting into the playoffs to thinking the season is a failure if they don't go to the World Series. What are your thoughts? Do the Rangers have to win the World Series for this to be a successful season?
-- Pete C., Fort Worth, Texas
There does seem to be that feeling and it definitely exists to some extent within the organization, especially knowing that this may be Josh Hamilton's final season in Texas, and a window might be closing. The big thing will not be overreacting and doing something rash if it doesn't happen. The Rangers are at a point where they should be annual contenders for an extended period of time if they continue to make smart decisions. After the playoff runs of the late 1990s came up short, the Rangers made a series of rash decisions that led to possibly the worst decade in the franchise history.
Assuming the Rangers make the playoffs, which team or teams do you think would be their most dangerous opponent?
-- Eileen C., Fort Worth
The Rangers have found out the past two seasons that the team to fear most is the team that is hot going into the playoffs. Last year, they were able to handle the Rays and Tigers, but not the high-flying Cardinals, who barely made it into the playoffs and then ended up winning it all. So obviously, Oakland could be that team this year because of its young pitching, just like the Giants two years ago. The Athletics have a tough September schedule that includes series with the Orioles, Yankees and Tigers, as well as their West opponents, so if they do make the playoffs, it won't be a fluke.
Why would the Rangers call up Jurickson Profar in September if he's not going to be playing? They would be putting him on the 40-man roster at least a year too early.
-- Alan S., Houston
That could be a drawback, but Profar may simply be their best option as a utility infielder. Just the experience of being around a playoff-bound team could be good for him, and he could get a little playing time once they clinch. Profar also offers speed off the bench, and that's something clubs like to add in September with the expanded rosters.
When Mike Napoli returns, will he resume being the full-time catcher over Geovany Soto?
-- Alden A., Dayton, Ohio
Not necessarily. Washington made it clear that Soto will continue to get playing time. The Rangers do want to get Napoli as many at-bats as possible to see if he can get hot going into the playoffs, but that doesn't necessarily mean they all have to be at catcher. As he did last postseason, Washington could end up going with the "hot hand" at catcher, and that could be Soto. He has done well lately, although Napoli will certainly be given every opportunity to seize the job again.
When the Rangers acquired Soto, it was brought up that he was a non-tender candidate this winter because of his salary and having one year to go before free agency. Is that still the case?
-- John G., Plano, Texas
Soto is making $4.3 million this season, and he is eligible for arbitration. If the Rangers don't re-sign Napoli, they are going to be looking hard for a catcher, because they don't have any front-line candidates within the system. The best free agents are Napoli, Russell Martin and A.J. Pierzynski, who is having a great season. My guess is the Rangers will at least explore a one-year deal with Soto before the non-tender date at a salary close to what he is making this season.
If the Rangers win the World Series, how will you celebrate?
-- James P., New York
By watching the San Francisco 49ers win the Super Bowl.