The Texas Rangers trade for Prince Fielder Wednesday filled a huge hole in the lineup by providing the power bat the Rangers need.
But the trade didn’t answer all the questions the Rangers need to answer before heading to Surprise next February.
Here are five looming questions the Rangers still need to address. 1. Who’s in left field? Texas general manager Jon Daniels spoke highly of Craig Gentry’s play in left during Wednesday’s conference call. But is Gentry ready to be an everyday leftfielder. The corner outfield spots are normally reserved for run producers and while Gentry can run, power and RBI aren’t a strong suit of his game. Moving Mitch Moreland to left would fill some of the power void but Moreland still hasn’t shown he can be consistent enough at the plate. The Rangers could still make a move for someone outside the organization, because a starting outfield trio of Gentry, Leonys Martin and Alex Rios will provide some speed, but very little pop.
2. Who moves to the top of the batting order? Whether or not you thought Ian Kinsler popped up too much is irrelevant now. The Rangers need a leadoff hitter to replace Kinsler and the internal candidates all have warts. Kinsler had a .355 on-base percentage last year, which wasn’t great but he also hit for power. Elvis Andrus hit just .231 from the leadoff spot when he filled in for an injured Kinsler. Leonys Martin started 31 games from the leadoff spot and hit just .238 with an on-base percentage of .301. That’s not going to get it done. Maybe Craig Gentry could do it, but he’s first got to win a starting spot. Someone outside the organization like a Shin-Soo Choo could handle the role and play left. He had a .423 on-base percentage for Cincinnati in 2013.
3. What happens with Brian McCann? The Rangers still like McCann and he could still be a fit with Texas, but his price tag could derail that. Getting McCann would allow the Rangers to use him at designated hitter, first base and catch some too. While Geovany Soto was signed to be the everyday catcher, his credentials offensively are nowhere near McCann’s level. Signing McCann would really leave the Rangers with just one hole offensively, that being in left field.
4. But if you don’t get Brian McCann? The Rangers would still have a big hole at DH and catcher. While the Rangers are saying they’re sold on Geovany Soto being the everyday guy behind the plate, he hasn’t played in more than 99 games since 2011 and he hasn’t hit better than .245 for a season since 2010. The Rangers keep saying that the No. 1 job for their catchers is to work with the pitching staff. That sounds great, but they still need some offensive production. When the second-best catcher on your team is first-base coach Bengie Molina, then you’ve still got questions behind the plate.
5. Is Jurickson Profar ready to play every day? Right now the second base job is his to lose. But Profar, who is still just 20, has a total of 303 at-bats at the big-league level. He has shown flashes at the plate, as he hit .234 despite getting irregular playing time in 2013. But can the switch-hitting Profar hit left-handed pitching? He hasn’t shown that yet as he batted just .188 against left-handers this year. And is second base really his job? The Rangers have already made one big splash this offseason, taking on Fielder and his big contract. While they’re at it, why can’t they just go sign Robinson Cano and trade Profar away too. Talk about making a splash in the offseason.