Club has holes to fill in starting rotation

Club has holes to fill in starting rotation

ARLINGTON -- There isn't going to be any massive rebuilding or youth movement in Arlington this offseason. The Rangers aren't about to tear this apart and start over after just one losing season.

This is going to be business as usual for the Rangers this winter. Once they have taken care of the usual after-season housework, the Rangers will go to work in trying to put together a contending team for 2018.

"I believe our front office will get a group together that will allow us to win a lot of games next year," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "They know what to do. This is not their first offseason. I believe in them."

Rebuilding? Youth movement?

First of all, the youth movement is already here with the starting lineup. Right now the Rangers Opening Day lineup projects to have five players under 30: Andrus, Rougned Odor, Joey Gallo, Delino DeShields and Nomar Mazara. There could be a sixth with Drew Robinson, Ryan Rua or Willie Calhoun in left field.

DeShields' diving catch

That leaves Adrian Beltre and Shin-Soo Choo, plus Robinson Chirinos behind the plate with Brett Nicholas as a backup. The Rangers have Jose Trevino on the rise, the club's No. 13 ranked prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.

The two biggest questions with the lineup are where Gallo will play and if they want one more veteran outfielder, either a front-line defensive center fielder that moves DeShields to left, or a right-handed hitter to balance the attack.

The offense next year is going to rise and fall on the development of their younger players, not what moves are made this offseason.

"Internal improvements are No. 1," manager Jeff Banister said. "That's going to happen with the natural growth of a number of these guys. That arrow is going in the right direction. All those guys did something this year that's pretty significant."

Secondly, there is no youth to be found in the starting rotation. The Rangers have two starters coming back in Cole Hamels and Martin Perez. They have Nick Martinez and A.J. Griffin as alternatives. They have three spots officially open and there are no young prospects who appear ready to compete for a spot in Spring Training.

Perez's quality start

The Rangers believe they are one or two years away from another strong wave of young pitchers rising to the top of the farm system. But the ones closest to the big leagues -- Yohander Mendez, Ariel Jurado, Collin Wiles and Connor Sadzeck -- were in Double-A this season and still need a year more of development.

The Rangers need to fill out their rotation through free agency or trades this winter, and they need to do it for two reasons. One is to put together a contending team and the other is to give the young pitchers time to develop.

Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani is the pitcher everybody will be watching this winter. But there are plenty of other interesting free agents including Jake Arrieta, Andrew Cashner, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn and Jason Vargas.

The Rangers have the financial flexibility to be active in the free-agent market, whether they want to be active in the biggest names or spread their resources among multiple candidates.

"There is no doubt we have a lot of questions to be answered," Beltre said. "Only two starters coming back. ... and the bullpen might need a little help, too. I believe in this lineup. There are a lot of things I see that are positive. It's going to be an interesting time to see what's happening in the front office."

A massive rebuild isn't on the list of coming attractions.

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.