Daniels enters offseason with high '17 expectations

Rangers plan to pick up Lucroy's option, then focus on pitching, 1B, CF

Daniels enters offseason with high '17 expectations

ARLINGTON -- General manager Jon Daniels made it clear what the Rangers' intentions are in 2017.

"We expect to win," Daniels said on Tuesday at the club's post-season press conference.

Daniels does not see a window closing.

"Our job as a baseball leadership team, if we are doing our jobs right -- I don't think the window, there is an open and closed period. Good organizations find a way to win year in and year out. I don't think after an x number of years, you do about face and change plans."

So after two straight division titles, the Rangers have to figure out how to make it three in a row. They also need to find a way to advance deeper into the postseason after losing two straight Division Series to the Blue Jays.

There is much work to do with starting pitching being the top priority, followed by center field and first base. All three spots will be impacted by free agency.

The Rangers have five prominent free agents in pitcher Colby Lewis, first baseman Mitch Moreland and outfielders Ian Desmond, Carlos Gomez and Carlos Beltran. They also have options on pitcher Derek Holland and catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

Lucroy's solo homer

"We've got to make some decisions," Daniels said. "All those free agents, under the right circumstances, we would love to have back. It's about allocating resources."

Lucroy will be automatic. Daniels said the Rangers will pick up his $5.25 million option.

The Rangers are undecided about both picking up Holland's option and re-signing Lewis. Both have made it clear they would like to be back next year, but that is far from a given.

Holland turned 30 on Sunday but is coming off three years of injuries. Lewis remains a medical marvel but is 37. He got off to a great start this season, but missed 2 1/2 months with a strained shoulder muscle and did not pitch well in his September return or the postseason.

Yet the Rangers will need to add starting pitching this winter to go with Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Martin Perez. The free-agent market is perceived to be below average, with the list headed by right-handers Doug Fister, Ivan Nova, Andrew Cashner and Jeremy Hellickson, and left-handers Rich Hill and Jorge De La Rosa.

Blue Jays chase Hamels

The Rangers still have right-hander A.J. Griffin on the roster, along with Nick Martinez, Chi Chi Gonzalez and Lucas Harrell, and Daniels said they still have enough Minor League talent to make a major trade. The Rangers could re-engage with the White Sox about Chris Sale. They will exhaust every possibility to fulfill Daniels prediction about the 2017 rotation.

"We will be better," Daniels said.

The Rangers' first choice to play center field is Desmond. But he is a free agent and has played his way into a chance for a big contract somewhere. The fact that he has shown he can play the outfield opens up far more possibilities than when he was a free agent last year as a shortstop. Gomez could be the cheaper alternative if the Rangers are convinced he has overcome the problems that led him to be released by the Astros .

"We like what we saw from Gomez," manager Jeff Banister said. "We feel like he is a quality player."

First base could be the landing spot for infielder Joey Gallo if the Rangers feel he is ready for an everyday role. His Minor League numbers have been impressive, but he has yet to show it at the Major League level. He will play first base in winter ball in Venezuela.

"Joey is still a premium talent," Banister said. "This guy has what very few in the game have. His raw power is off the charts. The power shows up, but it's the hit-ability and the consistency that has to get better."

Gallo's solo homer

The Rangers know what they will get from Moreland. He has career average of .254 with a .438 slugging percentage and averages 23 home runs and 74 RBIs per 162 games. He is strong defensively and highly-regarded as a teammate with a strong clubhouse presence.

Gallo is among many young Rangers players who have seen Major League time over the past 1-3 seasons and shown signs of being able to perform at that level. But they haven't established themselves completely, and the Rangers have much evaluating to do this winter.

That list includes outfielders Ryan Rua, Delino DeShields and Jared Hoying, infielder Hanser Alberto and catcher Brett Nicholas. Martinez, Gonzalez and reliever Tanner Scheppers are in a similar situation.

"We are going to go through all of them," Daniels said. "We have a number of guys we believe in and have talent. They are certainly going to get opportunities. Competition is very healthy."

Profar shows off his speed

Then there is Jurickson Profar, the Rangers' multitalented utility player who made a nice comeback after missing two years because of shoulder problems. The Rangers are convinced that he can be an impact player at the Major League level, even if there isn't a spot for him in the infield.

Profar badly wants to be a starting shortstop, but he is blocked by Elvis Andrus. Profar could be a prime candidate to be traded for pitching this offseason, but the Rangers also recognize the value of having a utility player who can play multiple positions.

"As I sit here today, my expectation is for [Profar] to be on the ballclub in a winning role," Daniels said. "I think he is a winning piece."

The Rangers will be looking for more of those this winter. The offseason is just starting, and the Rangers are determined to win next year.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. 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.