Now that the Rangers have signed Kyle McClellan as a starter, could they still be interested in signing Kyle Lohse?
-- Patrick S., Kilgore, Texas
The Rangers are interested in Lohse and they have been in regular contact with his agent, Scott Boras. The biggest obstacle appears to be length of contract. The Rangers would prefer a short-term deal, and Boras (like all agents) is trying to get as many years as possible. Lohse is 34 and coming off two excellent seasons for the Cardinals, going a combined 30-11 with a 3.11 ERA. In the two seasons before, he was 10-18 with a 5.44 ERA.
The Rangers know that McClellan can start, although they continue to consider the possibility of Robbie Ross moving to the rotation, and they also believe Colby Lewis will be back by June 1. But they remember the number of injuries to their rotation last season and are obviously unsure of whether Martin Perez is ready to be the fifth starter. The possibility of Lohse signing with the Rangers by Spring Training is definitely still in play.
With Spring Training right around the corner and the outlook of the outfield, do you think the Rangers are in desperate need of another power-hitting outfielder?
-- David M., Austin, Texas
Among position players, two free agents seem to stand out immediately: outfielder Juan Rivera and infielder Ronny Cedeno. The Rangers don't seem to have interest in either player, but they reflect two of their biggest bench needs. Rivera is a right-handed hitter with good numbers against left-handers who can play first base, designated hitter or one of the corner-outfield spots. Cedeno is one of the few utility infielders left who can play shortstop.
In the last five years or so, the Rangers have not been able to keep any of their own significant free agents once they hit the market. Also, they have not been able to attract any top-of-the-order free-agent starters. At what point will the owners and management realize that, in some instances, you have to overpay a player in order to keep or sign them? Have the 3.5 million fans not been enough to get them to be more aggressive?
-- Mark B., North Richland Hills, Texas
Are you referring to the ownership group that spent $108 million to bring Yu Darvish to the United States? First of all, very few top-of-the-rotation starters ever make it to the free-agent market, as teams have been aggressive in re-signing guys like Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander, Matt Cain and Felix Hernandez. Secondly, Carlos Zambrano has averaged $18.3 million in salary over the past five years while delivering 10 wins per season. The Mets paid Johan Santana $70 million over the past three seasons and got 17 wins total in return. But Giants pitcher Barry Zito will be a free agent after this season.
Zito is in the last season of a seven-year, $126 million contract and the Giants have won two of the last three World Series. But they did that mainly by developing their own players, including Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Sergio Romo. Brian Wilson was a 24th-round pick in the 2003 Draft out of LSU. In that same round, the Rangers took a right-handed pitcher from Oregon State who never made it to the Majors. But at least the Rangers don't have to look at The Beard every day.
If Jurickson Profar begins the season at Triple-A, do the Rangers favor Leury Garcia as their utility infielder? Or will they pursue a veteran?
-- Trog D., Addison, Texas
Ryan Theriot is another utility-infield candidate who would be great for the Rangers, but he is a guy who is used to getting 350-450 at-bats a year. That's part of the Rangers' problem when trying to acquire a utility infielder. With Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler, any utility infielder knows that they are going to get limited playing time no matter how determined manager Ron Washington is to use his bench. That's why the Rangers have had a hard time attracting veteran utility infielders and why Garcia will get a good look this spring.
What is the status of Julio Borbon? I have not noticed if he will be at Spring Training nor mentioned in any trades. It appears that the candidates for center field are Leonys Martin, Craig Gentry and Adrian Beltre; no mention of Borbon.
-- Bill H., Garland, Texas
Borbon is still on the 40-man roster and he will be in Spring Training. This seems to be a bit mystifying as to why the Rangers haven't been able to trade Borbon. He has physical talent, he can run and he has shown he can hit at the big league level. But there just hasn't been any real interest in him from other teams.
Since Giancarlo Stanton has expressed interest in leaving Miami, would a multi-player trade including Mike Olt and possibly even Perez be possible?
-- Jake B., Frisco, Texas
If that trade were possible, the Rangers would have done it by now. As much as they like Olt and Perez, they would have likely moved both to Miami for Stanton. It seems like the Marlins are determined to hold onto him.
With the No. 3 spot open in the batting order, would the Rangers consider slotting David Murphy behind Andrus? Murphy maintains a high batting average, high on-base percentage, a solid walks-to-strikeouts ratio, brings a left-handed bat behind Kinsler and Andrus and he can hit for power, although not at the level of Josh Hamilton.
-- Larry B., Fort Worth, Texas
First of all, lineup speculation in the offseason and Spring Training seems almost useless. Certainly the batting order is important, but the daily lineup -- despite all the planning done before Opening Day -- often gets dictated by injuries, matchups and other unforeseen factors that arise each day. Right now, Washington is planning on using Lance Berkman in the No. 3 spot because of his high on-base percentage.
Contacts in St. Louis tell me that slugger Matt Holliday would be available in a multiple-player trade that included Andrus or Profar. Would the Rangers have any interest? Holliday would hit very well in Arlington in the Rangers' lineup.
-- Gregg S., Arlington
Any team should have interest in Holliday, who brings power, run production and a good on-base percentage to the middle of any order. But the Cardinals are trying to win now, Holliday is a big part of their lineup and they have Rafael Furcal to play shortstop. The concern with Holliday is he just turned 33 and is signed for four more years for a total of $68 million. Still, he has stayed relatively healthy.
Which of the young Minor League players do you expect to have a breakout year?
-- Bill M., Amarillo, Texas
Nick Tepesch, 24, a right-hander from the University of Missouri who was 6-3 with a 4.28 ERA in a half-season at Double-A Frisco. The Rangers got him in the 14th round in 2010 and he has moved quickly through the system. Also keep an eye on catcher Jorge Alfaro.
Do the Rangers have the speed to return to small ball and aggressively run the bases?
-- Mike F., Longview, Texas
Andrus can run, and so can the center-field tandem of Martin and Gentry. The rest of the lineup has a chance to be really slow. The Rangers really need Kinsler at full speed again after three years of dealing with a chronic ankle sprain, but this could end up being a somewhat limited offense.
I am looking forward to Ross being given a chance to start. Any concern about three lefties in the starting rotation?
-- Derek H., Bastrop, Texas
That would be a good thing, especially considering the configuration of the Ballpark in Arlington, which seems to favor left-handed pitching. The biggest concern about Ross going into the rotation is what it might do to the bullpen. He was the Rangers' best left-handed reliever this past season.
When will the Rangers announce the times for their home games? And what's involved in that process, anyway? It seems they're one of the few yet to do so, and I'm eager to add the schedule to my phone's calendar.
-- Richard L., Indianapolis
The times have been announced, so you can put them down in your phone. Then could you please help me figured out how to use my new phone? Right now I'm completely befuddled by it. It's supposedly a smart phone, but the user is clueless.