ARLINGTON -- Rangers general manager Jon Daniels took time out before Game 5 of the World Series to discuss some offseason issues facing the club. At the time, he hoped he would have a few more days before devoting all his time to those questions. But after a 3-1 loss to the Giants in Game 5 of the World Series on Monday night, Daniels has no more baseball to distract him.One thing Daniels made clear is the Rangers need to be better in 2011 than they were in 2010. "I think we've accomplished certain goals, but there's definitely some areas we can do better," Daniels said. "I mean, the way I look at it is: the previous two years Anaheim won 197 games, and we won the division this year with 90. I think we're going to have to be better to win the division next year, better than we were this year. So there's certainly a challenge there." Among the top priorities, according to Daniels, is a contract extension done with manager Ron Washington. That could come soon, possibly the first order of business. "I don't think that'll be an issue whatsoever," Daniels said. "I would imagine once it's all said and done, we will sit down and resolve that pretty quickly, and there's no doubt in anybody's mind that he'll be the skipper here for some time to come."
The next priority will be the Rangers' own impending free agents. Cliff Lee is foremost among them, but he is not the only key part with an uncertain contract situation.
Vladimir Guerrero could be a free agent. He and the club hold a mutual $9 million option on his services for next season. The Rangers could decline the option and pay a $1 million buyout. Or Guerrero could walk away. Both sides have been happy with the way the season has gone, and Guerrero said after Monday's game he would like to be back."Of course I would like to be back," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "I like it over here. [There is] good camaraderie on the whole team. There is a lot of young talent, so this is a good future with the team."
Guerrero enjoyed a terrific comeback season at age 35 and hit .300 with 29 home runs and 115 RBIs during the regular season. But he tailed off during the second half -- he had only nine homers after the All-Star break -- and struggled in the postseason. He went 1-for-14 (.071) in the World Series and finished the postseason 13-for-59 (.220). He had only three extra-base hits (all doubles) and now has only two home runs in 171 career postseason plate appearances.How much will Guerrero's performance in the playoffs influence the Rangers' decision? "He's got a pretty big body of work that we can evaluate," Daniels said. "And obviously we'll look at it all in context, but we're not going to evaluate him on the two weeks of games when he's had, whatever it is, a 10-, 15-year career of excellent performance." The Rangers have other key free agents, most notably catchers Bengie Molina and Matt Treanor, and right-handed setup reliever Frank Francisco. Taylor Teagarden will be back next season at catcher, but if Molina and Treanor do not return, the position will likely be a high priority in the offseason. Treanor wants to keep playing, but Molina has talked about retiring after this season. He reaffirmed that Monday after the game. "Right now it's probably closer to not playing than yes," Molina said. "I don't want to decide right now and then something could happen later on and I would come back. I just want to spend time with my family right now -- my mom, my wife and my kids -- and I'll make a decision." "We've got to sit down and address those guys," Daniels said. "I think, in general, the core of the club is going to be here for some time." Most of the other positions are set. The Rangers look at Mitch Moreland as their best option at first base but have not given up on Chris Davis. The rest of the infield is set, with second baseman Ian Kinsler, shortstop Elvis Andrus and third baseman Michael Young. So too is most of the outfield, with David Murphy, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Julio Borbon all back next season. Jeff Francoeur, who made $5 million this season, is eligible for arbitration and at one point was considered a non-tender candidate. But that may change if the Rangers can work out a reasonable deal with him. The Rangers view him as having a positive impact in the short time he has been on the ballclub. "I've enjoyed my time here," Francoeur said. "For me, that's something that is up to management obviously, up to the team. But I've enjoyed my time here. What a blast. What a ride we had. For me, just two and half months ago, I was planning my offseason. To play all the way into November and have a chance to play with all these guys was something I'll never forget. "
Lee's situation hangs over the rotation. The Rangers will have Colby Lewis, C.J. Wilson and Tommy Hunter back next year, plus viable rotation candidates that include Scott Feldman, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Michael Kirkman. Brandon McCarthy is still with the organization.But if the Rangers don't re-sign Lee, they will have a void at the front of the rotation. They are unlikely to fill it completely with another free-agent starter. The only pitcher who could fill that spot by sheer tremendous talent is closer Neftali Feliz. There is talk about moving him back to the rotation, which is where he was for most of his Minor League career. But that would leave a void in the back end of the bullpen and that may not appeal to the Rangers. "We looked at Feliz when he was coming up as a guy who just had a special arm, a special talent, and did everything exceptionally easy," Daniels said. "Probably the two questions were: 'Can he close?' and 'Can he start?' I think we've definitively answered one of them. There's no doubt in anybody's mind he can close. "We don't know whether he can start, and I don't know that we're going to find out. We've talked about it at some point that we might. I would never close that door, but I'm expecting him to be our closer." The Rangers have much to talk about during the offseason. Despite Daniels' hopes before Game 5, they can start talking now.
T.R. Sullivan and Thomas Boorstein are reporters for MLB.com. Read Sullivan's blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.