Before we put our mittens on, as the Hot Stove is heating up, I would like to boast one thing first.  My wife and I have found out that we are pregnant with our first child and I couldn’t be happier.  I always thought the Rangers making it to the World Series would make me smile more than anything, not true, knowing I will be a daddy in June tops that a hundred fold.

Ok with that and a hope that all of you enjoyed your Thanksgiving, let’s take a look at some of the rumors, free agency “Hot Stove”, and the trade market news that has occurred the past few days. 

  • Cliff Lee – I have said it numerous times that nothing would heat up in the Cliff Lee Sweepstakes till after Thanksgiving and nothing has.  The Winter Meetings are in a couple of weeks, look for a little bit of action before that and then a quick boil of activity to come from those meetings.  Lee will sign somewhere before Christmas, I’m very confident in saying that.  Also, I’m even more confident in saying that Lee will be a Ranger or a Yankee come Opening Day.  Teams like the Red Sox, Angels, Nationals, Mets, and White Sox will continue to throw their name in the hat, but these are all publicity moves to keep their fan bases happy.  Some of y’all might have heard earlier this week that the Yankees were about to offer Lee “just short of $140MM over six years.”  Two things on that, one is that just as fast as we learned that knowledge is that it came down that this was false and the rumor had no legs, and two, even though it was false look for Lee to sign for six years and the price to be right around that ballpark figure. 

 

  • Arbitration – The Rangers offered arbitration to Cliff Lee and Frankie Francisco, but not to Vladimir Guerrero and Bengie Molina.  I spoke earlier this week about this, and I expected all four moves.  Lee was offered and will decline, but Texas did this to guarantee they receive the compensation draft picks in the event his signs elsewhere.  Frankie’s situation could be similar, but at the same time it is being rumored he will accept and be a Ranger again in 2011.  As for Vlad and Bengie, both were not offered but this doesn’t mean either, if not both could be back in uniform as Rangers next season.  However at the moment, I view both players as potential back-up plans, more on that in a minute.

 

  • Texas Rangers Big Splash – We all know that the biggest piece the Rangers are attempting to resign is Cliff Lee, and Buster Olney of ESPN reaffirmed that this week stating that he is still the Rangers’ priority.  However writers like Olney, Jayson Stark of ESPN, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports spent time this week to theorize what the Rangers would do if Lee signs elsewhere.  All agree that Texas has the money and is ready to start spending it on payroll, and expected $30MM+ increase from 2010.  Backed by some of the thoughts of these baseball writers, I touched on last week the possibility of trading for Zack Greinke and/or signing Brandon Webb if Lee goes elsewhere.  Olney went even further saying that some rival executives see Texas as the team that’s most likely to acquire Greinke.  But again don’t look for much to happen here until after Lee signs.

 

  • Alternative Plans – If Texas is unable to sign Cliff Lee, and I stress the “if” because I still believe they will win the Cliff Lee Sweepstakes, here are a few other big names to keep your eye on.
    • Starting Pitchers – As stated before watch for Texas to maybe trade for Greinke or sign Webb, but I would also like to add into that mix, pitchers like Jorge de la Rosa and Carl Pavano as potential targets.
    • Carl Crawford – Both Olney and Stark stated this week that they “expect” the Rangers to aggressively pursue after Crawford if Lee signs elsewhere.  Acquiring Crawford would instantly improve the outfield defense to one of the best in baseball with the likes of Hamilton and Crawford roaming the left and center fields.  Plus adding his bat to the #2 or #3 hole would give Texas tons of speed at the top of the lineup (Andrus and Crawford) for the big bats to drive in (Hamilton, Cruz, and Kinsler).  Still most experts believe that Crawford will end up in Anaheim this offseason, if Texas doesn’t land Lee, this is a possibility.
    • Adam Dunn - this idea was suggested by Olney this week and would be a “formidable power threat” for the Rangers if added.  Dunn would likely command a contract similar to that if not a little more than what the Tigers gave Victor Martinez this week (4-year, $50MM).  Dunn would be a solid, versatile addition as opposed to a Vlad.  Vlad, after the debacle in the World Series, will likely be a DH and only a DH going forward.  Dunn brings in the ability to play 1B, corner OF, and DH.  Not to mention adding a powerful bat that consistently hits 40+ HRs and drives in 100+ RBI.
    • Paul Konerko – Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune has “singled out” Texas and Boston as having “intensified interest” in Konerko.  Like Dunn adding Konerko would be a boost in power and versatility.  Though unable to play in the OF, Konerko would still be an upgrade from Vlad in both areas.  Konerko would likely be signed as the primary DH, but would likely see some time at 1B to either give Mitch Moreland some days off or if he struggles in his sophomore season.  Similar to V-Mart setting the market, Konerko would cost a multiple year contract (3-5 years) and upwards of $12MM a season.  He did state last week that he is looking to sign his last contract of his career.
    • My initial thoughts on both Dunn and Konerko are very positive and would welcome both players to this team in a heartbeat.  If I had to choose I would go after Dunn before Konerko, being that he is a little bit more versatile and younger, but would take either bat and at the price of $10-12MM a year.  I’m a fan of Vlad, and very appreciative of what he did for the team this season, not only on the field but also in the clubhouse.  It is always a great benefit to have a future Hall of Famer mix in the clubhouse with a young, up-and-coming team, and I truly believe a lot of the success this season can be attributed to the type of teammate Vlad is.  But with all that said, the man is aging and aging a little quicker that most of us thought back in June and July.  The Rangers need to add a power bat to go with Hamilton and Cruz, and any of these three candidates would make a solid addition.  But now with an ownership in place that is willing to spend money and a successful postseason under our belt, it’s time to make a big splash with another power bat.  Give me Dunn, next Konerko, and then if neither signs with the team we have a solid Plan C with bringing back Vlad.

 

  • Catcher – The Rangers this week made a run at Victor Martinez, until he signed with Detroit .  We may never know how much interest we garnered from him or what type of deal was to be offered.  Now that he is off the market two things have changed in the Rangers mind set: one, talks of Dunn and Konerko are gaining steam and two, the Rangers might be willing to hold off on discussing catching options until after the big fish (Lee, Crawford, Dunn, and Konerko) have found homes.  Whenever the talks do start up again here are the names to keep your eye on.
    • Internal Candidates – Bengie Molina and Matt Treanor, now I know that both are free agents and not part of the team today, but it is likely that Texas could sign either, if not both for the 2011 season.  Right now the team is not too optimistic with the progress of Taylor Teagarden, but I stress “at the moment.”  Don’t get me wrong, we are looking to improve at catcher, but these two players names are likely to consistently come up as resigning.
    • External Candidates – With V-Mart off the market, the biggest name out there is A.J. Pierzynski, and as expected he will cost the most money as well.  With A.J. there are issues of his age, cost, and attitude problems in the past, however there is no mistaking it would be an improvement in experience and hitting.  At the moment I’m not a fan of bringing on A.J., but if we don’t sign the offensive threats of Crawford, Dunn, or Konerko, then Pierzynski might be a viable option.  Also keep an ear out for Miguel Olivo and Yorvit Torrealba, both are in their early 30s and both are looking for a more stable home, and I would be happy with either catcher.  The final name I have heard is Russell Martin, who is an arbitration-eligible player that could be non-tendered by the Dodgers next Thursday, basically making him a free agent.  Though he had some struggles in 2009 and 2010, he led the Majors in games and innings caught from 2007-09 and still some pop left in his bat and arm.

 

  • Coaching – With the departure of hitting coach Clint Hurdle to the vacant managerial position in Pittsburgh , Texas was once again looking for a hitting coach.  This week the team landed on and hired former Ranger player Thad Bosley.  He directly comes from a head coaching position at Southwestern College in Arizona, but before that was a hitting coach with the Oakland A’s.  He was the A’s hitting coach while Wash was the 3rd Base coach, and has been tabbed with helping the likes of Miguel Tejada and Jason Giambi become successful Major League hitters.

 I know that so far this offseason it has been fairly uneventful, but believe me there is a reason this time of year has been nicknamed the “Hot Stove.”  There are a lot of players still looking for homes in 2011 and in a short amount of time, and just like dominoes, all it takes is that first big one to fall before they all start falling and in a hurry.  So with my last shameless cliché, the Hot Stove may only be on lukewarm at the moment, but it takes no time at all (and usually at the Winter Meetings) for it to get to a roaring boil. 

I don’t know what is going to happen, I don’t know who will end up where, I won’t even pretend to know, and neither should any baseball writer, all we can tell you is what we “see” happening and what the possibilities are.  That was my purpose behind this article, to give you a feel of who the possible additions to the 2011 AL Champion Texas Rangers could be.  But if you want me to nail down some predictions, fine here you go.  I believe that Texas will resign Cliff Lee and it’ll cost a six-year, $140MM.  After that I see the team making their second splash by adding either Adam Dunn or Paul Konerko as the primary DH, and therefore not bringing back Vlad.  Finally with the two big splashes Texas will not go after a high-priced catcher but instead bring back Bengie Molina for one more season.  But don’t hold me to this.

 

And as always, stay tuned, I will keep you update as the dominoes begin to fall.