12/31/09 4:43 PM EST
Texas looking to fill Byrd's void in lineup
Many bargains available on market to fulfill Rangers' wish list
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
The Rangers, having concentrated on pitching up to this point of the offseason, would still like to do something to address an offense that scored 784 runs in 2009. That was a drop of 117 runs from the 901 scored the previous season. Losing Byrd, who led the Rangers in RBIs in '09 and wanted to come back, is not going to help and only adds to the importance of the mission."We'd like to add a presence in the lineup," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We'd like to add at least one bat, if not potentially two. We may still do something on the pitching side, but we're focused more on the hitting side right now." There are at least 50 free agents of all sizes, positions and descriptions who could fit the Rangers' wish list. The Rangers aren't exactly eager to announce who they are pursuing, but there are obvious clues that narrow down the options. Daniels made it clear that the Rangers are not going to play "at the top of the market." That has been obvious for some time -- Matt Holliday being obvious -- but was reinforced when Byrd, who wanted to return to Texas, agreed to a three-year deal with the Cubs. That's not exactly a bank-breaking number unless a franchise is on a tight budget. The Rangers, with their ownership sale still pending and unlikely to be resolved quickly, are on a tight budget and likely only have about $5-$7 million available. They are also still investigating the starting-pitching market. Texas would prefer a right-handed bat. But Daniels said the Rangers are not married to that idea. If the Rangers can find a left-handed hitter who improves their offense at the right price, they will settle for that option. They are looking for somebody who can hit in the middle of the order. There are a couple of top-of-the-order premium bats still available -- Johnny Damon, Scott Podsednik -- but the Rangers want some muscle for the middle of the order. Defensive position? Some first base, limited outfield exposure, mostly designated hitter, but also third base would be nice. Mainly, the Rangers are looking for a "presence." That seems to be the operative word. They also have a history of looking for impact free agents at discounted prices. In the past three years, they signed Sammy Sosa, Kenny Lofton, Eric Gagne, Milton Bradley, Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel to one-year deals. All had the same general description of a high-profile player with a proven track record and winning pedigree, but also on the possible downside of his career with significant issues -- physical or otherwise -- that needed to be addressed. Their one-year deals left them with a label of "low-risk, high-reward." Mike Lowell fit the exact same description, but a deal with the Red Sox fell through because he needed surgery on his right thumb. So which free agents fit the Rangers' help-wanted ad? Here are 10 who stand out: Vladimir Guerrero -- He is the definition of presence. Guerrero, who turns 35 in February, hit .295 with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs in 100 games and 383 at-bats this past season. He missed time because of a strained right knee and torn chest muscle. He is likely looking for a two-year deal and may be too expensive. Jermaine Dye -- He turns 36 in January, but has had at least 500 at-bats in six straight seasons. He hit .250 with 27 home runs and 81 RBIs in 141 games and 503 at-bats for White Sox, but he slumped badly in the second half. Dye is a strong club presence and a 2005 World Series MVP, but he has expressed reluctance to get the majority of his at-bats at DH. Gary Sheffield -- He is another huge presence guy who turned 41 in November and has been dealing with physical issues the past few years. He hit .276 with 10 home runs and 43 RBIs in 100 games and 268 at-bats for the Mets, but a .450 slugging percentage marked the fourth straight year he has been under .500 in that department. He's strictly a DH at this point. Xavier Nady -- Intriguing name. He played in just seven games in 2009 before undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. But in 2008, he hit .305 with 25 home runs, 97 RBIs and a .510 slugging percentage with the Pirates and Yankees while playing in two ballparks that were tough on right-handed hitters. Jim Thome -- He's the first left-handed hitter listed and the Rangers have shown some interest. Thome, 39, hit .249 with 23 home runs and 74 RBIs in 107 games and 345 at-bats for the White Sox before finishing the season as a pinch-hitter for the Dodgers. Not a right-handed hitter, but again, the emphasis is on presence. Carlos Delgado -- It's the same scenario as Thome as far as being a left-handed hitter with presence. Delgado is 37 years old and played in just 26 games for the Mets this past season while dealing with a bad hip. But he hit .271 with 38 home runs, 115 RBIs and a .521 slugging percentage in 2008. Garret Anderson -- This former Angel hit .268 with 13 home runs and 61 RBIs in 135 games and 496 at-bats for the Braves. He has a reputation for being a winner and a professional left-handed hitter but without great on-base or slugging percentage numbers. His OPS (on-base plus slugging) has been over .800 just once in the past six years. Melvin Mora -- He turns 38 in February and may be a luxury the Rangers can't afford. But Mora is a solid right-handed bat who can play multiple positions in the infield and outfield. Unfortunately, shortstop is not at the top of the list. Mike Sweeney -- The former Royals right-handed-hitting All-Star hit .281 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs in 242 at-bats for the Mariners. He is 36 and almost strictly a DH. He has played just 28 games at first base over the past four years.
Aubrey Huff -- The veteran is another left-handed hitter who just turned 33 after hitting .241 with 15 home runs and 85 RBIs in 536 at-bats for the Orioles and Tigers. He hit .304 with 32 home runs and 108 RBIs for the Orioles in 2008. Mainly a DH, Huff can play first and third on a short-term basis.There are a long list of others who might interest the Rangers, including Craig Monroe, Ryan Garko, Marcus Thames, Austin Kearns, Jonny Gomes, Randy Winn, Fernando Tatis, Rocco Baldelli and Emil Brown. But those 10 seem to best fit what the Rangers are looking for if they can fit into the club's financial parameters.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.