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Arms to be top target for Rangers this winter

With only two starters returning, plenty of work must be done
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' offseason plans seem to revolve around Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese superstar who is both an outstanding pitcher and a hitter.

Nobody is sure what is going to happen with Ohtani, but all indications are he will be posted to come to the United States. The economics are murky and so is exactly what his role will be in the Major Leagues.

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' offseason plans seem to revolve around Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese superstar who is both an outstanding pitcher and a hitter.

Nobody is sure what is going to happen with Ohtani, but all indications are he will be posted to come to the United States. The economics are murky and so is exactly what his role will be in the Major Leagues.

Rangers' 2017 full of peaks and valleys

But the Rangers are interested and club officials say they have put themselves in good position to be legitimate suitors. If the Rangers can pull this off and if Ohtani is as good as advertised, this could be a huge offseason.

Biggest Needs

1. Starting pitching: The Rangers' need for starting pitching is well documented. They have Cole Hamels and Martin Perez ($6 million club option) coming back, and that's it. Nick Martinez and A.J. Griffin will also be back unless traded or non-tendered, but they are not guaranteed spots. The Rangers' best young pitching prospects are not expected to be ready at the beginning of next season, unless they are put on a fast track.

The Rangers will need at least two legitimate starting pitchers this offseason, preferably both ready to go from Spring Training and not rehab projects. Ohtani is one of them. Don't look for Yu Darvish to be the other.

Possible FA fits: RHP Andrew Cashner, RHP Lance Lynn, RHP Alex Cobb, RHP John Lackey, RHP Jake Arrieta.

2. Bullpen: The Rangers need a closer and have three choices. They could stick with Alex Claudio, try either Matt Bush or Keone Kela, or acquire a closer. Wade Davis will be a free-agent possibility if the Rangers want to pay big money for an established closer. Sometimes you need to take a chance, like the Rockies did with Greg Holland, or get lucky, like the Brewers did with Corey Knebel.

Also back on the market: Joaquin Benoit, Mark Lowe, Neftali Feliz and Koji Uehara. Remember them?

Possible FA fits: RHP Pat Neshek, RHP Brandon Kintzler, RHP Steve Cishek, RHP Addison Reed, RHP Luke Gregerson, LHP Brad Hand.

3. Center field: This may come down to if the Rangers want to re-sign Carlos Gomez or if they are willing to go with Delino DeShields in center. DeShields could also stay in left if Gomez is re-signed.

Want an intriguing idea? The Pirates don't pick up an option on Andrew McCutchen and the Rangers sign him to be a corner outfield/designated hitter.

Possible FA fits: Lorenzo Cain, Austin Jackson.

Gray Areas

1. Second base: Think the Rangers could trade Rougned Odor? He is signed through 2022 with low batting and on-base averages. But he won't be 24 until February and he does have some serious power for a middle infielder. He may be the Rangers' best bait to acquire starting pitching.

X-factors

1. Money to burn? The Rangers had an Opening Day payroll of $165 million. The departures of players through trades and free agency will slice about $55 million off that, giving the Rangers what appears to be significant financial flexibility this offseason. The question is if they will splurge or hold back for 2018, when there is a potentially more robust free-agent class.

2. Where's Gallo? Joey Gallo's position for 2018 is undetermined. First base is open and seems likely. Gallo's favorite position is third base … but Adrian Beltre is there for at least one more year. Left field is a possibility, but the outfield can be physically demanding for a player who is far more vital as an offensive weapon.

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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