Who's on third? Rangers have options for 2020

September 7th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- Third base may be the most interesting position to watch with the Rangers this offseason.

To state the obvious, the Rangers don’t have a slam-dunk answer for the position right now. What is also obvious is there will be some attractive free agent third basemen available this winter.

of the Nationals is No. 1 on the list, a right-handed power-hitter who is from Texas and would be a perfect fit for the Rangers if they are willing to spend big money. , a left-handed hitter on the Brewers, and the Braves' could be good fits on a shorter deal.

But the Rangers' priority is to see what they have internally, and started at third for the second straight game on Saturday against the Orioles. It was just his fifth start overall this season at his most inexperienced infield position. Manager Chris Woodward said Santana made a couple of nice plays on hard-hit grounders in Friday’s 7-6 win, and handled a ninth-inning sacrifice bunt smoothly in a pivotal situation.

“Yeah, he looks good over there,” Woodward said. “I know he has been working hard, but you never know how it’s going to translate. I think playing first has helped him because when you play the corners, you get similar balls from left-handers [at first base] as you do from right-handers. The way he played first base – he attacked a lot of balls – playing third would be easier if you have that attack mentality. Typically, the guys who struggle at third base let the ball play them. He’s not afraid to attack.”

Woodward said he wants to look at at third base, too. Solak has started there twice for the Rangers after being strictly a second baseman in the Minor Leagues.

“I like the way he attacks the ball, especially in practice,” Woodward said. “I haven’t seen a ton of it in games. The way he uses his hands and his footwork -- I know he has been a second baseman, so sometimes when he throws the ball it kind of runs up the line. If he can straighten those out, he is going to be fine. Athletically, he is kind of a dirt-bag player, so I’m guessing he’ll love to dive. He’ll be good at the reaction stuff.”

The Rangers' most experienced third baseman is , but he is a free agent this winter. That doesn’t preclude the Rangers from re-signing him, but right now the priority is to look at Santana, Solak and .

“I want to see those guys and see what it looks like,” Woodward said. “Maybe not for the everyday purposes, but to see if they can handle the position for next year. If we don’t sign an everyday third baseman, somebody is going to have to play there, whether it’s a rotating thing or one of them takes the job. But we have to keep it open and see what it looks like.”

Rangers beat

• Right-hander Jonathan Hernandez started for the Rangers on Saturday night. He is the 18th starting pitcher used by the Rangers this season, the most in club history. The Rangers used 17 in 1973 and 2014.

• Right-hander Ariel Jurado is scheduled to pitch Wednesday against the Rays, but Woodward said he may use an opener for that game. Edinson Volquez opened for Jurado on Tuesday in New York.

• Mike Minor, who pitches Sunday, has 180 strikeouts on the season with four starts left. He and Lance Lynn could end up with over 200 strikeouts on the season, and that would be only the second time that’s happened in Rangers history. Nolan Ryan (232) and Bobby Witt (221) both hit the 200-mark in 1990.