ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have three philosophical decisions to make while building a 26-man roster for next season:
- Do they spend more on a big-ticket free agent for the rotation or at third base?
- Which positions are higher priorities: catcher, first base or center field?
- Which pitchers need to be used as starters, and who should remain a reliever?
Locks: Jose Trevino
Possibilities: Jeff Mathis
Mathis is signed for next season at $3 million. The Rangers could absorb that contract if they can find somebody better, but that probably won’t be determined until Spring Training. Texas will likely sign veteran free agents to Minor League contracts and give Mathis some competition. It would be a surprise if Trevino is not on the team; the question is if it will be as the starter, sharing the position or as the backup.
Possibilities: Ronald Guzmán
Guzmán, a left-handed swinger, hit just .219 this year with a .414 slugging percentage, so it’s difficult to say he is a lock for next season. José Abreu would be a great addition, but he’s likely to stay with the White Sox. Ryan Zimmerman might be a nice right-handed complement to Guzmán, but he is almost as much of a fixture in D.C. as the Jefferson Memorial. Mitch Moreland is a free agent, but the Rangers may prefer to take a chance on Guzmán’s higher upside.
Locks: Elvis Andrus
Possibilities: Danny Santana
Andrus isn’t going anywhere.
Possibilities: Isiah Kiner-Falefa
This is Texas' No. 1 need. The Rangers would love Anthony Rendon, but they don’t want to offer more than a five-year contract. Josh Donaldson could be more to their liking. Todd Frazier could be a lesser option. Mike Moustakas would be another left-handed bat on a team that seems to need right-handed balance.
Locks: Danny Santana
Possibilities: Nick Solak, Isiah Kiner-Falefa
The Rangers seem to prefer Santana’s versatility to locking him into one position. Kiner-Falefa needs to show he can handle shortstop if he wants to be the utility infielder.
Locks: Joey Gallo, Shin-Soo Choo, Delino DeShields, Nomar Mazara, Willie Calhoun
Possibilities: Scott Heineman, Nick Solak, Danny Santana
This all comes down to if the Rangers are going to keep the top five or move one of them in the offseason. Texas would probably prefer breaking the logjam by finding a creative solution for Mazara, Calhoun or Choo. They are all left-handed hitters. But that would presume the Rangers are willing to commit to DeShields in center, which is premature.
Locks: Lance Lynn, Mike Minor
Possibilities: Free agent or Trade; Brock Burke, Kolby Allard, Joe Palumbo, Ariel Jurado, Yohander Méndez
The Rangers will sign at least one and possibly two veteran starters. That would leave 1-2 spots open for the younger pitchers. All of them could use more development time, although Jurado may have hit his ceiling by now.
Locks: José Leclerc, Rafael Montero, Emmanuel Clase, Jesse Chavez
Possibilities: Jonathan Hernandez, Adrian Sampson, Luke Farrell, Ian Gibaut, Joe Barlow, Demarcus Evans
Texas must decide if it feels Hernández or Sampson could be a starter. Otherwise, there is plenty of talent -- most of it unproven -- to compete for spots in an eight-man bullpen.
Possibilities: Brett Martin, Yohander Méndez, Jeffrey Springs, Kyle Bird, Jesse Biddle, Locke St. John
The Rangers also have to decide if Méndez can be a starter or if he is better out of the bullpen. There have also been discussions about Martin being used as a starter. They could use one and maybe two left-handed relievers in next year’s bullpen.