Texas tendering all five arbitration-eligible players
Established big leaguers remain in Rangers' plans as Winter Meetings approach
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are tendering contracts to all of their unsigned players before Monday's 10:59 p.m. CT deadline. Players who are not tendered contracts before that deadline will become free agents.
The main reason clubs might non-tender players is because they are eligible for arbitration and due for a raise higher than a team is willing to pay. The Rangers have five players eligible, and all five are in their plans for the offseason: first baseman Mitch Moreland, outfielder Craig Gentry, and pitchers Neftali Feliz, Alexi Ogando and Neal Cotts.
A trade is always a possibility, especially with Moreland, who lost his job at first base after the Rangers acquired Prince Fielder from the Tigers. The Rays, Pirates and Brewers are all looking for a first baseman. But Moreland is currently the leading candidate to be Texas' designated hitter, and the Rangers aren't going to discard him as a non-tender even though he'll likely get a raise from $502,000 to $2.5-3 million in 2014.
The Rangers still need to do some roster pruning at some point this winter. They currently have 39 players on their 40-man roster after claiming outfielder Rafael Ortega off waivers from the Rockies on Wednesday. That leaves one roster spot open for a club that is looking for at least one more outfielder and one backup catcher going into the Winter Meetings, which start Dec. 8 in San Diego.
The Rangers had 10 players eligible for free agency going into the offseason, but re-signed catcher Geovany Soto and pitcher Jason Frasor. They activated pitcher Matt Harrison off the 60-day disabled list, claimed Ortega and pitchers Chaz Roe and Shawn Tolleson off waivers, and added infielder Luis Sardinas and pitchers Lisalverto Bonilla and Ben Rowen from the Minor Leagues to the 40-man roster.
Roe, who was claimed from the D-backs, is one of three players on the 40-man roster who are out of options. The others are outfielder Engel Beltre and pitcher Michael Kirkman. They have to make the Opening Day roster in Spring Training or be put through outright waivers before they can be sent to the Minors.
Beltre was 10-for-40 (.250) in limited time with the Rangers this past season while hitting .292 with seven home runs, 34 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 94 games at Triple-A Round Rock. Beltre, Gentry and Jim Adduci are the three candidates to play left field for the Rangers in the highly unlikely event they do not acquire a proven Major League outfielder.
This will be the second straight spring that Kirkman has been in this position. He made the team out of camp last year, but ended up missing almost three months while recovering from a recurring case of lymphoma. The Rangers have used three options on pitcher Wilmer Font, but he has been granted a fourth by the Commissioner's Office.
The Rangers have two Minor League pitchers coming off surgery. Roman Mendez, 23, was 2-0 with a 1.82 ERA in 16 games at Double-A Frisco before undergoing surgery to repair a fractured right elbow at the end of May. He did not pitch the rest of the season, but should be ready in Spring Training. Matt West missed nearly all of 2013 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He was 1-0 with a 3.72 ERA in 10 relief appearances in the Arizona Fall League and should be at full strength in Spring Training.
Mendez was one of three players on the 40-man roster in September who was not called up to the big leagues when the active roster was expanded. The others were first baseman Chris McGuiness and pitcher Josh Lindblom, although both had short stints with the Rangers earlier in the season.
Lindblom was acquired along with Bonilla from the Phillies for infielder Michael Young last winter. After failing to make the team as a reliever out of Spring Training, Lindblom was converted into a starter at Triple-A Round Rock. He went 8-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 18 starts and two relief appearances for the Express. He was also 1-3 with a 5.46 ERA in five starts and three relief appearances for the Rangers.
McGuiness was taken by the Indians in the Rule 5 Draft last winter, but returned to the Rangers at the end of Spring Training. He played in 10 games for the Rangers last summer while Moreland was on the disabled list and was 6-for-34 (.176) with one RBI. He spent the rest of the season at Triple-A, hitting .246 with 11 home runs and 63 RBIs in 104 games.
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.