ARLINGTON -- A trip to the World Series put the Rangers behind in the offseason. "We've been trying to catch up for the most part," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "Now I've got to get some players." The annual General Managers Meetings will be a good place to start. Daniels was to be in Orlando on Monday to begin three days of meetings with his counterparts, an arrangement that will allow face-to-face discussions between teams.
There have already been phone calls made to touch base with every team. Daniels has a pretty good idea of what is out there, what is available and what his team needs. "We've been engaged with some clubs to see what they have," Daniels said. "This is a chance to meet face-to-face." If Cliff Lee is the big pitching prize on the free-agent market, then Royals right-hander Zack Greinke is the equivalent on the trade front. Daniels knows Greinke is available, and he knows that it will take a blockbuster trade to acquire him. Royals general manager Dayton Moore has already made it clear that his club will have to consider a trade if it can't sign Greinke to another contract extension. "Then we are going to have to make a decision to move him at some point in time," Moore said in an interview with MLB Network Radio last week. "Is that this winter? I don't know. Is it prior to the deadline in 2011? Possibly. Is it offseason 2011? But we will have to make that determination no different than other clubs have had to make. So we will have to maximize his value certainly at some point in time." The Rangers could end up being first in line. The Rangers, as they showed last July with Lee, are not afraid to get involved in trade discussions that are classified as "blockbusters." They still have a deep enough farm system to do so, but the Royals' demands are likely to start with right-hander Tanner Scheppers and left-hander Martin Perez, the top two pitchers in Texas' farm system. That doesn't mean it will end that way. The Rangers' first choice is to re-sign Lee, but they know the Yankees are hard after him, and he may not return to the Texas rotation. The Rangers have to be ready for Plan B, whether it's with free agency or in trades. "It's too early to say," Daniels said. "There might be opportunities in both. There are going to be good players in both markets." The Rangers already know about the free-agent market with Lee and catcher Victor Martinez high on their list. Now they will investigate the trade market more extensively at the GM Meetings. Texas' offseason search usually begins with starting pitching, and that will be the case again. Both the Rays and the White Sox have starting pitching available. The Rangers and the Rays have never made a trade with each other, but that could change. Tampa Bay needs to cut payroll and is willing to talk about Matt Garza (15-10, 3.91 ERA) and James Shields (13-15, 5.18). The Rays need a left fielder, with Carl Crawford likely leaving, and they have an opening at first base if Carlos Pena doesn't re-sign. They could also use major help in the bullpen. The White Sox could be willing to talk about Edwin Jackson (4-2, 3.24) or Gavin Floyd (10-13, 4.08). But they need a left-handed run producer, bullpen help, a catcher -- if A.J. Pierzynski doesn't re-sign -- and a first baseman if Paul Konerko doesn't come back. There are also the Pirates, who may be willing to talk about left-handers Zach Duke and/or Paul Maholm, and the Reds will likely seek a new home for either Homer Bailey and/or Travis Wood. The Rangers would rather look at an impact pitcher. With their deep farm system and their new financial resources, they no longer have to settle for second- and third-tier material when making offseason decisions. Texas also has other needs, most notably at catcher. The club would like to fill that hole with Victor Martinez or John Buck, who are free agents. There is catching available through trade, as the Angels will likely try to move either Jeff Mathis or Mike Napoli, the Rays will talk about Dioner Navarro or Kelly Shoppach, and the Pirates are willing to trade Ryan Doumit, who has 38 home runs over the past three seasons, but also threw out just six of 85 attempted basestealers last season. The Rangers also need offensive help, especially if they don't re-sign Vladimir Guerrero. They are planning to go with Mitch Moreland as their first baseman after he played so well in the postseason, but two of the biggest names possibly available on the trade market are first basemen. The Padres will at least talk about Adrian Gonzalez, and the Brewers will do the same with Prince Fielder because both can be free agents after next season. With a deep farm system, Texas is a legitimate suitor for any big name available by trade. But the club may be limited as to what it can do at the big league level. Its starting pitching depth took a hit when Scott Feldman underwent knee surgery. He is not expected to be ready for Spring Training. That leaves the Rangers with a rotation of C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter. Until the Rangers re-sign Lee or acquire another starter, the fifth spot right now appears to be between left-handers Matt Harrison and Michael Kirkman. The Rangers have a set infield with little depth unless they find a team that is convinced Chris Davis will ultimately hit at the Major League level. If there is such a team, it is unlikely to give up much in return to find out and it's not likely to be a front-line starter unless Texas is willing to absorb somebody's bad contract. The Rangers do have some depth in the outfield, but only if they can re-sign Guerrero to be their designated hitter. Julio Borbon was used sparingly in the playoffs, but the Nationals, Cubs, Reds and the Angels are among the teams looking for speed and/or a leadoff hitter. There are a number of teams looking for offensive power, but Texas isn't likely to be willing to discuss Josh Hamilton or Nelson Cruz. There was a time they might have been forced into that position because of economics, but that is no longer the case. Now the Rangers have the financial clout to make an offseason impact. They're still in the process of seeing if it's better to do so through trade or free agency.
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.