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Rangers embracing underdog role in AL West

Daniels working to build a contender without taking all-in approach
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers were 78-84 last season, they are in the same division as the World Series champion Astros, and there is a widespread perception they could do more to improve this team before the offseason is over.

That leads to the opinion that the Rangers are not going to be serious contenders for the postseason in 2018.

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers were 78-84 last season, they are in the same division as the World Series champion Astros, and there is a widespread perception they could do more to improve this team before the offseason is over.

That leads to the opinion that the Rangers are not going to be serious contenders for the postseason in 2018.

"I like it," second baseman Rougned Odor said. "I like when people say that. That makes us play better and play harder."

Center fielder Delino DeShields, who was a rookie in 2015, said this isn't anything new.

"Ever since I have been here we have been underdogs," DeShields said. "People have always been counting us out. But we have a good team and a good mix of young guys and old guys. Now it's go time. No excuses. Put up or shut up."

Rangers' Spring Training info

That's what the Rangers expect in 2018 regardless of what moves have or have not been made. The Rangers envision themselves as a contending team.

That's the approach they always take, and it continues this season and beyond as the Rangers approach the new ballpark in 2020. They aren't interested in a major rebuilding program, and the players don't see it being the case this year.

"Everybody has high hopes, whether you have a dream team or just a regular team," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "I believe in my team. I feel we have a team that can win and compete."

General manager Jon Daniels has said this is not the winter the Rangers are going "all in" to win the division. They also aren't running up the white flag.

Video: Keone Kela on the Rangers' young core

The Rangers' basic philosophy this offseason is to prepare to give young players an opportunity and fill other needs with what they hope will turn out to be shrewd acquisitions. That's why most of their efforts have been directed toward rebuilding the rotation by signing free agents Doug Fister and Mike Minor, and acquiring Matt Moore from the Giants.

They go with Cole Hamels and Martin Perez to give the Rangers five veteran starters. Chris Martin and Tony Barnette were signed to address the bullpen.

"I think we have always tried to look realistically where we are and make decisions based on that," Daniels said. "You have a long-term plan in place, but you have to adjust based on where things stand. We considered everything from all in to pulling back. This is where we think the wisest play is, at this time. We are very realistic about the team and the division.

"It's just looking at the whole scheme of things and looking at all our options and what makes the most sense, now and in the future. Sometimes patience isn't the most fun thing and the most attractive thing, but it's a prudent move, and that's where we are at."

The Rangers' strength is going to be their lineup, especially if Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Odor and DeShields continue to rise toward their maximum level. That would mix well with veterans Adrian Beltre, Robinson Chirinos, Shin-Soo Choo and Andrus ... provided they stay healthy. Left field is still to be decided, but scoring runs shouldn't be an issue.

If it is, the Rangers could be in deep trouble. But it will likely come down to Minor, Moore and Fister being part of a steady rotation and the Rangers being able to put together a supporting bullpen, even without a clear-cut closer.

"Every year is different, but this year I feel good going into Spring Training," Choo said. "We added a lot of good pitchers ... Minor, Moore, Fister. I like those three guys. I have played against them. They are good pitchers."

Video: Daniels doesn't see Darvish in Rangers' plans

There are still free agents who could help the Rangers, including either Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta in the rotation or Greg Holland as the closer. Until everybody finds a job, there are always moves that can be made.

But the Rangers appear to be close to a finished product, and they believe this team will contend for the postseason.

"We have gone through some trials and travails, but now we are ready to come together and play ball," reliever Keone Kela said. "Lone Star grit ... people are not putting us at the forefront, but everybody knows we are still going to be a force."

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.

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