ARLINGTON -- Rangers general manager Jon Daniels made it clear on Sunday that his No. 1 priority remains to upgrade the bullpen before next Sunday's non-waiver Trade Deadline."We have looked at a few different things, but the bullpen is still our priority," Daniels said. "We're having conversations, but I can't say for sure which way it will go ... 50-50 [a deal gets done], maybe less than that." Daniels declined to discuss specific trade targets, but it is also known that the Rangers have shown interest in center fielder Carlos Beltran. The Mets also have scouts looking at the Rangers' farm system. Sources said the Rangers like the player and wouldn't mind an outfield that includes Beltran, Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. But there are obstacles. Beltran will be a free agent after the season and, according to his contract, he cannot be offered arbitration after the season. That means the team he last played for would not get Draft picks as compensation if he signed with another club. That would make him a straight two-month rental for any team that acquires him. The Rangers gave up four players in return for Cliff Lee last season. But they also received pitcher Mark Lowe, who is their primary right-handed setup reliever, and they received two Draft picks as compensation for losing Lee via free agency. A similar deal for Carlos Lee in 2006 with the Brewers also brought Cruz and two Draft picks. A prospect-costly trade for Beltran could leave the Rangers empty-handed in November. There are also rumors that Beltran, who has a no-trade clause, wants to stay in the National League, although it would be hard to pass up a chance to play for the defending American League champions, who are back in first place in the AL West. The Rangers see Beltran as a possible significant upgrade, but they don't see outfield or offense as a specific glaring need. "We're looking at any possible way to help the club," Daniels said.
Starting pitching appears to be even less of a priority, even though the Rangers have scouted Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda and have been rumored to be interested in Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez.The Rangers' rotation is the primary reason why they had won 14 of their previous 16 games going into Sunday's contest with the Blue Jays. Texas has C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando in the rotation and Tommy Hunter and Scott Feldman ready in the bullpen if needed. Feldman made his first appearance off the disabled list on Friday and threw a scoreless inning. "We like our starting five," Daniels said. "We like our seven guys, including Hunter and Feldman. I thought Feldman threw the ball well the other day. We've connected on a few guys that might be available, but for us to do something, it would have to be a significant upgrade. If it's not, it doesn't make much sense. We like what we have." Lee represented a significant upgrade last season. Beltran probably offers the best chance of a significant upgrade if the Rangers want to take that risk, and there is no doubt they like the player. But right now the focus is on the bullpen and all the familiar names remain in play. So does the competition, as just about every contending team is trying to reinforce their bullpen for the stretch run. Almost everybody is certain the Padres will trade closer Heath Bell in the next week, and the Rangers have obvious interest in him as well as Mike Adams. Chad Qualls is another Padres reliever who could be available. The Marlins have closer Leo Nunez, the Nationals have All-Star right-hander Tyler Clippard and the Orioles are willing to move Koji Uehara. The Blue Jays have relief help that could be available. The struggling Mariners may be willing to talk about All-Star closer Brandon League, and the Athletics' struggles mean they are likely to talk about relievers Grant Balfour, Michael Wuertz, Brian Fuentes and Craig Breslow. The Rangers have an established track record of checking every possible avenue to improve their team and casting as wide of a net as possible. Beltran is among the targets, but Daniels is still focused on the bullpen with one week to go before the Trade Deadline. "We're having a lot of conversations, but right now we're not sitting on anything specific, something we can say yes or no to," Daniels said.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his 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.