Rangers' offseason focus shifts to minor parts

GM Daniels says club mostly looking for depth signings similar to Griffin deal

Rangers' offseason focus shifts to minor parts

ARLINGTON -- Of all the Rangers' offseason acquisitions to this point, right-hander A.J. Griffin may be the most intriguing.

Griffin, who turns 28 on Jan. 28, was 21-11 with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP for the Athletics in 2012-13 and appeared to be an emerging young starter on a team that won two division titles. But Griffin missed all of '14 because of Tommy John surgery, and his potential return this past season was cut off by shoulder soreness after four outings on medical rehab assignment.

The Rangers have signed him to a Minor League contract in the hopes that he will be at full strength in Spring Training and able to compete for a spot in the rotation.

Rangers sign pitcher Griffin to Minors deal

"I like that signing," general manager Jon Daniels said. "Like many guys, it is health-dependent. He had Tommy John and some shoulder soreness, but now he has had an extended period to recover and we are pretty optimistic from what we have seen that he can come in and compete for a job. You don't usually get a chance to sign a controllable young pitcher like that to a Minor League contract."

Griffin's seven strikeouts

That's the kind of acquisition the Rangers are looking for in the final six weeks of the offseason. They have done most of their heavy lifting and now it's mostly about doing some minor fine tuning.

"There are a number of things we are still working on, but most of it falls into the depth and competition category," Daniels said Monday morning. "It's more on the pitching side and we're looking into a few things. If we can upgrade our offensive side, we will. But for the most part this is the group that we will be taking to Arizona in Spring Training."

The Rangers still have one significant signing that has yet to be announced. They are in agreement with right-hander Colby Lewis on a one-year, $6 million contract pending a physical that has been delayed by holiday and vacation schedules. It is expected to get done in the next two weeks.

Lewis notches 17th win

But that will likely be their most expensive acquisition this winter. With a set lineup, an overloaded bullpen and four spots in the rotation accounted for, the Rangers don't have an overwhelming desire to spend big. They have four starting pitchers under multi-year contracts along with outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, designated hitter Prince Fielder and shortstop Elvis Andrus. Third baseman Adrian Beltre is in the final season of his six-year deal.

"If we could find something like Griffin that is potentially low risk and high potential, you could see something else," Daniels said. "But for the most part, these are our guys."

The Rangers do have impressive depth in their bullpen. They have Shawn Tolleson returning as closer along with right-handed setup relievers Sam Dyson, Keone Kela, Luke Jackson and Tanner Scheppers, and left-handers Jake Diekman, Sam Freeman, Andrew Faulkner and Alex Claudio. They also acquired veteran right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen from the Mariners and signed right-hander Tony Barnette from Japan.

That puts the Rangers in a position to trade for help in other areas, but Daniels is not in a rush to do that.

"There is going to be interest in our relievers the whole time," Daniels said. "There will always be a market for relief pitching … in January, in March, in July. We like our group and we like the competition. If these guys all throw like they're capable in Spring Training, we'll review it. We're in no hurry."

The Rangers still aren't ready to hibernate through the remainder of the winter. There are plenty of free agents looking for work and may end up settling for a non-roster spot just to get into Spring Training.

Last offseason, in the final weeks leading up to camp, the Rangers signed veterans Ross Ohlendorf (Jan. 26), Carlos Peguero (Jan. 29), Ryan Ludwick (Feb. 4), Nate Schierholtz (Feb. 6) and Jamey Wright (Feb. 14) to Minor League deals.

Those kind of players will still be out there in the next six weeks, and the Rangers may offer a chance to somebody. But, for the most part, the Rangers' heavy lifting appears done.

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.