Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

January 12, 2013

Wills: Are the Rangers better off than last year?

Texas should be fine and will continue to strive to be the best

Corsicana — What to make of the Rangers’ turbulent offseason in which they won baseball winter meetings as far as headlines — even though they didn’t do anything besides sign reliever Joakim Soria and trade the face of the franchise, Michael Young.

Only to lose the offseason when every big free agent signed elsewhere — the best pitcher, Zack Greinke to the Dodgers, and the best hitter, their own guy, Josh Hamilton, to the rival Angels.

Only to recover nicely with the additions of Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski, two veteran left-handed hitters who, if healthy, could use Rangers Ballpark in Arlington as their home-run hitting gallery.

Which ultimately leads to this question five weeks away from the opening of Spring Training — are the Rangers better off, or worse off, from the ballclub that lagged to the finish line last season dazed and confused and choked away the American League West. The year ending for Texas with only Yu Darvish showing up in an AL Wildcard game loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said what you would expect him to say this week on ESPN 103.3-FM radio in Dallas when asked about the Rangers’ 2013 roster as currently constructed.

“We really like our club,” Daniels said. “We’ve got some work to do and address some needs. You could move some of your core players or change the look of your team, but the more we looked at it the more it didn’t make sense for what we were doing. Our commitment to our fans, our ownership and our players is to be in this every year.”

So should Rangers fans expect a team that can contend for the World Series in 2013?

A nice nucleus is still here — Darvish, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando form a solid start to the rotation. Darvish’s performance in the Wildcard game alone offers confidence he is ready to be an ace.

The top of the batting order with shortstop Elvis Andrus, second baseman Ian Kinsler, Berkman and third baseman Adrian Beltre are as good as any in baseball. It’s the best infield in the game.

The bullpen should be one of the best in the game. A healthy Joe Nathan is dependable. And Soria, if he recovers from Tommy John surgery, will be one of the best free-agent pickups of the offseason.

And the Rangers still have moves they can make.

Free agent outfielder Michael Bourn and pitcher Kyle Lohse, two solid players, are still on the market. Trade rumors involving Arizona All-State outfielder Justin Upton will continue to swirl around the Rangers and Diamondbacks.

Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliez should return around the All-Star break. No one should underestimate how crushing it was to not have either pitcher around as the Rangers blew a huge division lead in September.

Daniels isn’t guaranteeing anything, other than to say the Rangers should be fine and will continue to strive to be the best.

“I can’t tell you what year we’re going to make it to the World Series or win it, but our goal is to have a chance every year,” Daniels said. “We don't want to make moves that would cut our legs out from under us and close that window. We really thought there were a lot of good players on the market. Let’s pick up the right veteran guys that fill our needs at certain spots; we feel we’ve done that.”

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