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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.

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