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5 highlights from Rangers' spring briefing

@Sullivan_Ranger
February 12, 2020

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and manager Chris Woodward both held media briefings before the first workout on Wednesday. Here are five highlights:

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and manager Chris Woodward both held media briefings before the first workout on Wednesday.

Here are five highlights:

1. Rangers pitching staff…the best in baseball?

Yes, that’s the goal Woodward has set for his team.

The Rangers haven’t led the American League in team ERA since 1983, but they like the idea of being known as a pitching-first organization.

“My challenge to them is, 'Let’s be the best in baseball,'” Woodward said. “There is a lot that goes into it, but if you set the ceiling high, the bar high, I want our guys to take ownership in that.”

2. Rangers seeking more offensive help

The perception is the Rangers need at least one more big right-handed bat for their lineup.

“I don’t know if it is right or left, but I would agree,” Daniels said. “I would love to add another middle-of-the-order offensive player. If there are opportunities out there, we’ll explore them. But we are preparing to go with this group.”

There is still some unknown about the futures of Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. Trade speculation surrounding both will likely continue through Spring Training.

“There is nothing active now,” Daniels said. “Stuff happens. We’ll have discussions and see what happens. There is nothing close or anything like that.”

3. The closer’s role

Woodward was asked if Cody Allen and José Leclerc are battling for the closer’s role.

“I don’t think so,” Woodward said. “I think that’s a fair question because of Cody’s history and José’s struggles last year, but I don’t think so. If Cody comes out and absolutely dominates in Spring Training, then it presents a great opportunity. I can sit down with Leclerc and say, 'We can use you in other spots much more effectively, be like a closer in the sixth and seventh and eighth.' That’s down the road.”

4. What about center field?

Daniels admitted the Rangers need to address center and decide if Danny Santana is better there or as a utility player.

“Danny certainly comes in with the expectation he is going to get the bulk of the playing time out there,” Daniels said. “But we really like him in that versatile role. We have to make that call.”

The Rangers will look at Scott Heineman, Nick Solak, Eli White and Adolis García as options in center. Solak and White are infielders who have the athletic ability to play out there. Heineman and Garcia are outfielders who have played more in the corner spots in the Minor Leagues.

The Rangers did investigate free-agent possibilities. They showed some interest in both Billy Hamilton and Jarrod Dyson, but they signed elsewhere. The Rangers were not active suitors for Kevin Pillar, who appears headed to the Red Sox.

“We talked to some of the guys out there,” Daniels said. “Ultimately, we decided for what it was going to cost…we preferred to go with the guys we have and stay flexible. We’ll continue to look outside and see if there are some fits, but we feel confident with the group we have in here.”

5. Top prospect not in CF running

Leody Taveras, 21, is in his first big league camp and the Rangers consider him a plus defensive center fielder. But Daniels said he is not a candidate to make the Opening Day roster.

“He still has some offensive development,” Daniels said of the organization's fifth-ranked prospect. “He is only 21 years old.”

Taveras, a switch-hitter, played in 65 games at Double-A Frisco last season and hit .265/.320/.375. Shortstop Elvis Andrus was 20 years old when he made the jump from Double-A to Texas' Opening Day shortstop in 2009, but the Rangers aren’t going there just yet with Taveras.

“Not at this point,” Daniels said. “At some point we might get there, but we’re not there yet now. We feel he has a chance to make some meaningful changes offensively, and we want to give him the opportunity to make those changes not with the pressure of being in the big leagues.”

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.