Need proof that baseball can be cruel? Look no further than the Rangers, who won an American League-best 95 games yet were abruptly swept aside by the Blue Jays in the ALDS. Texas has reached the postseason five times in the past seven years, and there’s a strong core in place with Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus, Nomar Mazara and Adrian Beltre. But there’s work to be done to in order for the Rangers’ recent success to continue. The prominent items on their offseason to-do list:
Reinforce that rotation
Although Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish were disastrous in the ALDS, they are just about as a solid 1-2 rotation punch as there is in the majors. It’s the Nos. 3-5 spots that must be addressed. The combination of Derek Holland ($11 million team option), Colby Lewis (free agent), A.J. Griffin, Martin Perez, Nick Martinez and others again was a monstrous blob of inconsistency and injuries in 2016. However, the Rangers will have plenty of competition for the few quality free-agent arms (Rich Hill, Andrew Cashner, Jeremy Hellickson) and might lack the prospects to trade for an impact starter.
Reel in some relief
Texas’ bullpen posted a putrid 4.35 ERA, which ranked 25th in the majors. There were some positives, including Sam Dyson, Matt Bush and Tony Barnette, but also enough negatives that this need must be addressed. Unlike the rotation market, the free-agent reliever pool (Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon, not to mention the setup men) is deep. Texas must decide whether Dyson is a closer or an eighth-inning man and then spend accordingly.
Don't overlook the O
Even after losing Prince Fielder to a career-ending neck surgery and suffering through yet another injury-plagued season from Shin-Soo Choo, the Rangers ranked fifth in the majors in batting average (.262), sixth in slugging percentage (.433) and seventh in runs per game (4.72). However, they have some serious decision to make about their offense. Among Texas’ free agents: Carlos Gomez, Carlos Beltran, Mitch Moreland and, most important, Ian Desmond. First base and center field are the priorities for a team that stands to lose a big chunk of its run production. Among the most interesting names already linked to the Rangers: Edwin Encarnacion. Finally, it’s time to decide whether Joey Gallo is a part of the Rangers’ future.