ARLINGTON -- When the Winter Meetings come to Dallas, the Rangers have been known to make big news in their own backyard.They dominated the 2000 Winter Meetings with four free-agent signings in four days, a run that ended with Alex Rodriguez agreeing to a 10-year, $252 million contract to come to Texas. In the first Meetings for general manager Jon Daniels in '05, the Rangers traded second baseman Alfonso Soriano to the Nationals for three players. This time around? Well, there are first basemen Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, if the Rangers really want to shake up the town. There are pitchers C.J. Wilson or Mark Buehrle if Texas is really serious about being willing to upgrade their rotation. Or there are relievers Darren Oliver and Frank Francisco if the Rangers are really just focused on their bullpen. The Rangers have already made one big move this winter, signing pitcher Joe Nathan to be their closer. The corresponding move was Neftali Feliz to the rotation to join Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando. That addresses two key needs for the AL champions.
Now they have to decide how far they really want to go this winter. Another big-time starting pitcher? A power-hitting first baseman? A front-line center fielder?There are two traditions surrounding the Winter Meetings in Dallas: big moves by the Rangers and ice storms bringing the affair to a close. So far, the weather forecast calls for some badly needed rain but no ice, at least not yet. The Rangers? They're not likely to sit around and let others have the fun. Club needs: Left-handed relief: The Rangers remain interested in re-signing Oliver, who wants to pitch one more year. They will probably look for at least one more lefty, and the Giants may be interested in trading Jeremy Affeldt. The best of the free agents include John Grabow, George Sherrill, Trever Miller, J.C. Romero and two who were with the Rangers this past season: Arthur Rhodes and Michael Gonzalez. First base: Mitch Moreland, in his first full season in the Majors, hit .259 with 16 home runs and 51 RBIs in 134 games. He had a .320 on-base and .414 slugging percentage. He hit .272 with a .334 on-base percentage and a .449 slugging percentage in the first half and .241/.300/.367 in the second half while bothered by a sore right wrist. The Rangers still express confidence in him; it's just a matter if they're willing to spend big money on Fielder or Pujols. Center field: The Rangers had four center fielders in 2011: Josh Hamilton, Craig Gentry, Endy Chavez and Julio Borbon. They also signed Cuban defector Leonys Martin, who has just a half-season of Minor League experience, but they prefer Hamilton in left. Gentry is a right-handed hitter with exceptional speed and defense, but the Rangers have yet to commit to him as a full-time player. Borbon has been the Rangers' Opening Day center fielder for two straight seasons, but has been unable to hold on to the job. Chavez, who was terrific for the Rangers in a part-time role, is a free agent. Martin may not be ready. Who they can or need to trade:
C Yorvit Torrealba: He split time with Mike Napoli last season, but clearly was the backup in September and the playoffs. If the Rangers commit to Napoli as their full-time catcher, they will probably look to move Torrealba.RHP Mark Lowe: The Rangers have three quality right-handed setup relievers: Lowe, Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. They also have Scott Feldman and Yoshinori Tateyama. If they want to deal from strength, they may look to swap a right-hander for a left-hander. OF Julio Borbon: The Rangers may go in a different direction in center field. Top prospects: LHP Martin Perez and Robbie Ross; RHP Neil Ramirez and Tanner Scheppers; 3B Mike Olt, OF Leonys Martin and Engel Beltre; and SS Jurickson Profar. Olt is blocked by Adrian Beltre and may be available. Engel Beltre has fallen behind Martin and could be moved. The Rangers are intent on developing their own pitching and -- having traded good young arms away last summer -- need to hold tight to Perez, Ramirez and Ross. Profar better not be going anywhere. Big contracts they might unload: IF Michael Young: It's that time of the year again. The Rangers' super utility infielder has two years and $32 million left on his contract. The Rangers have not been shy in the past talking with other clubs about Young. Arbitration-eligible: RHP Mark Lowe and Mike Adams; LHP Matt Harrison; C Mike Napoli; SS Elvis Andrus; and OF David Murphy and Nelson Cruz. Payroll summation: The Rangers will break the $100-million barrier. It's just a matter of how high they want to go.
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.