Rangers realize how important offseason is
ARLINGTON, Texas — A week ago the Texas Rangers expected to be preparing for Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Rangers Ballpark.
Instead of that, Tuesday was spent talking about what went wrong over the final month of the season and what the club can to be better in 2013.
There were no clear reasons given for the collapse from sure-fire American League West champs to a wild-card team that was booted from the postseason by Baltimore. But one thing that general manager Jon Daniels, manager Ron Washington and team president Nolan Ryan made clear was that the ending was unacceptable and the uncertain future will be bright.
“As far as expectations going forward, nothing’s changed,” said Daniels. “We expect to win next year and for the long term. We’ve had a heck of a four-year run here making the playoffs the last three years, close to 300 wins over that period counting the postseason. A ton of firsts, a ton of accomplishments. A lot of things we’re very proud of. That doesn’t take away from the sting of how we finished. That’s the reality. We’ve got something here we’re extremely proud of and are going to continue to build off that.”
Just how the club will do that remains to be seen.
Daniels said the club wasn’t expecting to be talking about offseason moves this early. The Rangers haven’t decided the makeup of the major-league coaching staff for next year yet. They will begin having organizational meetings next week to talk about that and on-field personnel.
The biggest question surrounds Josh Hamilton. The club has an exclusive right to negotiate with Hamilton right now but will not make him an offer. That was something that the Rangers and Hamilton agreed to in the spring and nothing has changed.
“The realities are when a guy goes out and tests the market you get this close you’re not going to preempt it,” Daniels said. “I think he’s going to go out there, test the market and then come back to us. No door’s been closed. We’re also very realistic about when a star player hits free agency at this point the history of them returning to their original club. I think we have to prepare both ways and prepare the club for the possibility that he’s not back but we haven’t closed any doors.”
There was also no finger-pointing at Hamilton for his play at the end of the season. It was a strong season overall, but Hamilton missed five games with an eye issue, dropped a key pop-up in Oakland and then went 0-for-4 and was showered by boos in the 5-1 loss to Baltimore.
While the season’s end wasn’t what the Rangers wanted from Hamilton, that doesn’t mean they don’t want him back.
“Obviously I think Josh probably would have liked to finish stronger and we would have liked to see him finish stronger,” Ryan said. “Will it impact our position as far as going forward? No I don’t think so. We’ll consider the entire season because it is an entire season that affects the outcome.”
Ian Kinsler and Michael Young also had down years but the Rangers remain optimistic on both of them. Washington said he expects Kinsler to bounce back next season. Young, who will be entering the final year of his contract, was slowed by an Achilles injury late in the season. Daniels said the club hasn’t decided on the role Young will play with the club next year.
The same goes for super prospect Jurickson Profar.
“As far as an evaluation, he’s a gifted young player,” Daniels said. “He brings energy. He’s obviously capable of doing some different things. As far as what the role is and when he’ll take that next step, we haven’t formalized that discussion yet.”
Hamilton isn’t the only player the Rangers have to make decisions on. Texas has to piece together a starting rotation for next year that will likely be headlined by Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison. Daniels said they haven’t decided what role reliever Alexi Ogando will play. But even if Ogando does make the switch back to the rotation, the club will still likely have to go outside the organization for starting help.
“We’re going to need to add to it,” Daniels said. “Potentially Alexi or Robbie (Ross) could make the move. But likely we’ll look to supplement from outside as well.”
While the Rangers weren’t publicly talking about any decisions they have already made or will be making, they do realize how important this offseason is. They face more questions now than they did in 2010 or 2011 and know they have to make the right moves if they want to continue to be a postseason factor.
“We’ve just got maybe some more decisions to make, whereas the last winter or two it was one or two pieces,” Daniels said. “This may be more than that. We may have to rebuild the bullpen and look at some different spots. That for me is exciting. That’s an opportunity for us, three of us, and all our staffs, and everybody that is involved, to really put our best foot forward and make some good calls and really continue what we’re doing.”