Given Josh Hamilton's situation and past history, it would seem that other teams will be reluctant to pursue him, especially if the Rangers aren't willing to step up immediately and sign him right now. What are the chances of the Rangers coming back later in the offseason and re-signing him, say, on a three-year discounted deal?
-- Paul F., Fort Worth
Highly doubtful for that length of time. Look, Hamilton is the premier free agent on the market, and he did hit 43 home runs with 128 RBIs. That is going to get people's attention this winter. As for all that other stuff and the theory that Arlington is the only place Hamilton can succeed, don't count on it. It seems like a solid bet that there will be at least one team, if not more, that will decide two things. One, it will decide that Hamilton's significant production is worth the investment. Secondly, it will also decide that its organization, city and clubhouse will work and allow Hamilton to thrive. In other words, there will be at least one organization with enough confidence in its own environment to believe that it can get the maximum production out of Hamilton and that he is too good to pass up.
If the Rangers don't re-sign Hamilton, what free agents do you think they will pursue?
-- Mary P., Fort Worth
Zack Greinke. The Rangers made a strong push for him at the Trade Deadline, he is the premier pitching free agent on the market and this is still an organization that wants to build around pitching. That's where the club wants to spend its money. Look for the Rangers to be one of the major pursuers for Greinke this winter in an attempt to reinforce their rotation.
Do you think the Rangers will make the qualifying offer to Mike Napoli necessary to ensure Draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere?
-- Matt E., Ada, Okla.
The Rangers are still working through all of those issues and are unsure about what to do with Napoli. The offer would have to be around $13 million, which is pricey. Not sure if Napoli would be willing to accept a one-year contract. Maybe he doesn't accept it, especially considering the need for good catching around baseball. But maybe he accepts it with the idea that a healthy, productive 2013 would translate into better offers on the free-agent market than what he might find out there this winter. Getting any productive player on a one-year deal is usually a good thing, but the $13 million price tag may make the Rangers uncomfortable.
How likely do you think it is that if Hamilton signs elsewhere, the Rangers pull the trigger on a Justin Upton deal?
-- Bret B., Oklahoma City
Upton is 25 years old and due to make $38.5 million over the next three seasons. That's not a bad contract for a young outfielder, if he's really good. Upton has been in the past, but he hit .280 this year with 17 home runs and 67 RBIs in 150 games. He struck out 121 times and had a .430 slugging percentage. He has always played right field for the D-backs, and defensively, he was ranked about the same level as Nelson Cruz. The Rangers need a center fielder, not another corner outfielder -- unless they make a move with Cruz.
I keep hearing Jacoby Ellsbury's name as a possible replacement for Hamilton. Do you think the Rangers would trade either Derek Holland or Elvis Andrus for him?
-- Brian O., Oklahoma City
For Holland? Absolutely not. That's ludicrous. For Andrus? No thank you. Ellsbury, 29, will be a free agent after this coming season. He had a tremendous MVP-caliber season in 2011 but played in 18 games in 2010 and 74 last year while dealing with injuries. Cruz for Ellsbury, maybe. But it would seem more logical to take a chance on Leonys Martin than give up substantial talent for an injury-prone outfielder who can walk after next season.
Should the Rangers re-sign Mike Adams, even with his Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?
-- Pablo G., Irving, Texas
Definitely if he wants to come back on a one-year deal. But even if he is coming off surgery, there still might be a team willing to do a two- or three-year deal considering he has been one of the top setup relievers in the game the past few seasons.
Looking ahead, I understand the organization's desire to try and get Jurickson Profar in the lineup, but what is the logic behind moving Ian Kinsler? Even during a "bad" year, he is an elite second baseman with a highly productive offensive game. Call me crazy, but don't his stats translate into an average outfielder? Moving him diminishes his value in my opinion.
-- Jay P., Dallas
Actually, Kinsler's offensive statistics as an outfielder would be comparable, if not better, than Ellsbury's and Upton's. Kinsler is 30. Hall of Famer Robin Yount was 29 when he moved from shortstop to center field, although the defensive metrics suggest he was slightly below average in the field. If Kinsler, in the event that Hamilton doesn't re-sign, could make the switch from second to center field, that would clear up a lot of questions for the Rangers. That is a complete unknown at this point. But there is little in the way of dissenting opinion when it comes to the belief that Profar has a chance to be an impact player.
The number of stolen bases was down significantly this season, while at the same time the Rangers led the league in pickoffs. This has certainly affected run production and is like a gift to the opposing pitcher and defense. Is this a function of the team's age, loss of focus on the basepaths, change in coaching approach or fatigue as the season grinds on? Is there any explanation?
-- Howard G., Falconer, N.Y.
Manager Ron Washington believes that was caused by two things. One is teams have become more aware of the Rangers' aggressive baserunnning and have done more to defend against it. Secondly, his players grew sloppy on the basepaths this season, partly out of frustration that teams were doing more to guard against it. Washington is adamant that the Rangers tighten up that part of the game going into next season. Any suggestions that first-base coach Gary Pettis, who is responsible for the Rangers' running game, should shoulder the blame for the baserunning mistakes is way off base, so to speak. He is the one who made it a major strength when things were going well.
When and if Neftali Feliz comes back healthy, will he be a starter or back in the 'pen?
-- Brandon H., Amarillo
Feliz was shut down in May because of arm problems and underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery at the beginning of August. In my opinion, losing Feliz was at the absolute top of the list of what went wrong for the Rangers this season. It was the biggest blow to the team. Recovery time from Tommy John is usually one year, but it takes longer to regain peak effectiveness. It's doubtful that Feliz will be back to normal next season, so if and when he does return in the second half of 2013, it will almost certainly be as a reliever.
As Michael Young ages and his ability to produce diminishes, do you think the Rangers will ever consider trading him?
-- Ken B., Arlington
Young is coming off his worst season in the Majors and enters the final year of his contract at $16 million. Setting aside Young's intangibles, he is still a valuable player, given his ability to play multiple positions. No, he is not considered a plus defender at any of those positions, but that's an extremely difficult proposition for any player who moves around. No, his offense was not good this season, especially hitting in the No. 6 spot. Look, the guy should be hitting in the second spot and nowhere else, but the configuration of the Rangers' lineup with Kinsler and Andrus at the top didn't allow it. But, since he has only one year left on his contract, there could be interest from other teams this winter, especially a team in need of veteran leadership, as well as somebody who can play second base. Defensively, that's where Young needs to be.