Rangers will likely seek to bolster rotation

Catcher, veteran reliever also on club's Hot Stove wish list

Rangers will likely seek to bolster rotation

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers expect right-hander Yu Darvish to be on the mound next season. He may not be ready until May, but the return of Darvish from Tommy John surgery will likely be the biggest boost to the roster for next season.

They would still like to upgrade their rotation so starting pitching, a right-handed bat and another arm for the bullpen are likely to be at the top of the Rangers' shopping list as they go into the Hot Stove season.

"Somebody said if you don't have enough pitching in April, you're almost definitely not going to have enough in September and that's the case," general manager Jon Daniels said. "I'd expect this winter ... we'll look to add some stability to the rotation."

When healthy, Darvish would join a rotation that includes left-handers Cole Hamels, Derek Holland and Martin Perez. That leaves one spot open.

The Rangers will make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to right-hander Yovani Gallardo, but the club still expects him to test the free-agent market looking for the best deal. They have also expressed interest in re-signing right-hander Colby Lewis, who led Texas in wins and innings pitched.

The Rangers will need depth, especially if Darvish tarries in his return, but they have Chi Chi Gonzalez, Nick Martinez and Anthony Ranaudo available to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation if needed.

Free agents/options: RHP Gallardo, RHP Lewis, RHP Ross Ohlendorf; 1B Mike Napoli; OF Will Venable, OF Drew Stubbs

Stubbs and Venable aren't expected back. The biggest question is will the Rangers re-sign Napoli to fill their need for a right-handed bat. He has expressed interest in returning although it would be as a part-time player. But if Napoli did return, the Rangers would have a full Spring Training to try him in the outfield if he is still inclined to attempt that role.

Trade assets: Holland
Yes, Holland could be the Rangers best trade chip. He signed for $10 million in 2015 with club options of $11 million in '16 and $11.5 million for '17. Those are favorable terms for the Rangers and any other clubs looking for starting pitching.

Holland is just 29 and, by his own admission, has yet to achieve a consistent level of excellence after two injury-shortened seasons. But if the Rangers were able to trade Holland, it could help clear up salary space for a plunge into the free-agent market.

Rangers wrap up 2015 season

It would seem contrary to the Rangers' aim of upgrading their rotation this winter. But the free-agent starting pitching market this winter appears relatively attractive. The possible list includes Zack Greinke, David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Marco Estrada, Mike Leake, John Lackey, Scott Kazmir, Hisashi Iwakuma, Gallardo and Lewis.

The Rangers' other interesting trade chip is center fielder Leonys Martin, who is a superior defensive player but lost his starting spot to Delino DeShields. The Rangers tried to drum up interest in Martin before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Needs
Catcher is the most interesting position for the Rangers. Robinson Chirinos and Carlos Corporan were the starters for the first four months and Chris Gimenez and Bobby Wilson held down the position for the final two. Gimenez and Chirinos started in postseason and Corporan became a free agent after the season.

The Rangers could try to upgrade the position in the winter, either by trying to trade for Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers or signing free agent Matt Wieters.

Potential targets
The Rangers are loaded with hard-throwing relievers but will likely invest in at least one more veteran arm if Ohlendorf leaves as a free agent. Among the attractive right-handers out there as free agents are Darren O'Day, Tyler Clippard, Ryan Madson, Matt Albers, Joakim Soria and Ryan Webb.

Financial situation
The Rangers had a payroll of about $141 million in 2015 and will likely be in that neighborhood again in '16. They have nine players signed for 2015 at an obligation of approximately $110 million. They also have 11 players eligible for arbitration although that list could get trimmed as the winter progresses.

Bottom line
The Rangers always go into the offseason stating they don't expect to play at the high end of the free-agent market. But before it's over, they are at least hanging on the periphery or ready to take a deep plunge. They will at least go poking around again.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.