If Byrd leaves, Rangers have options

If Byrd leaves, Rangers have options

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers, faced with the real possibility of Marlon Byrd not coming back, will be look for a right-handed bat when the free agency bidding officially begins at 11:01 p.m. CT on Thursday night.

That's when clubs lose exclusive rights to their own players and free agents are able to sign with any team. The Rangers had hopes of re-signing Byrd, but that doesn't appear likely at this point after general manager Jon Daniels met with Byrd's agent Sam Levinson in Chicago earlier this month.

"We've had a decent amount of conversation," Daniels said. "I expect them to test the market. Based on what they're looking for ... we're not in a position to do that right now. We expect them to talk with other clubs and see what's out there. We're going to be looking at alternatives."

Byrd hit .283 with 20 home runs and a club-leading 89 RBIs for the Rangers in 2008. He also anchored the outfield defense with 104 games in center field while Josh Hamilton was battling injuries and rookie Julio Borbon was adjusting to the Major Leagues as a designated hitter and occasional left fielder.

Borbon and Hamilton are candidates to be the center fielder in 2010. The Rangers, if they can't re-sign Byrd, will be looking to replace his right-handed bat more than they will his Gold Glove-caliber defense.

"We're certainly looking for a middle-of-the-order power guy," Daniels said. "As an organization, we want to have Marlon back. He was a big part of our club. But we're also confident going with Julio and Josh. We know we have center field covered. If we don't bring Marlon back, we don't expect to be looking for a center fielder."

Right-handed bats that could grab the Rangers interest include Jermaine Dye, Vladimir Guerrero, Gary Sheffield and Fernando Tatis. The Giants have also told Randy Winn that they are not going to re-sign him and Mike Cameron is looking for a job now that the Brewers have acquired Carlos Gomez from the Twins for shortstop J.J. Hardy. Both are expected to be of interest to the Rangers.

The Rangers, when it comes to the free agent market, aren't going to rush into anything. They only have limited financial flexibility while the potential sale of the franchise remains unresolved.

But they also know that Bobby Abreu was the best bargain on last year's free-agent market and he didn't sign with the Angels until right before Spring Training.

"I don't expect us to be big players," Daniels said. "I don't think you'll see us focused on a lot of the top-of-the-market guys ... not where we are right now. But there are a lot of quality winning players that fit what we're trying to do that we'll have interest in."

The Rangers had interest in re-signing Omar Vizquel and at one point were thought to be close to a deal. But Vizquel is going to test the market and there is a possibility he could sign with either the Phillies or the Red Sox.

So the Rangers will look for a utility infielder in the free-agent market and there is a long list of names including Jamey Carroll, Juan Uribe, Mark Loretta, Alex Cora and John McDonald. They will also look at depth at catcher.

Right now the possibility of Ivan Rodriguez returning appears dim. Much still depends on how Jarrod Saltalamacchia recovers from shoulder issues and the Rangers will get a better gauge next month when he begins playing Winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

The Rangers would like a possible veteran for insurance but Daniels said, "That's more of a luxury than a necessity."

Then there is pitching. The Rangers always go into free agency looking for pitching and will again this year. But there are two differences. Their need isn't as dire and they have two ways to go.

They could go the usual route for starting pitching -- although they are not in the John Lackey chase -- or they could move Neftali Feliz and/or C.J. Wilson into the rotation. That would mean focusing their free agency attention on rebuilding the bullpen. The Rangers continue to monitor Ben Sheets in his recovery from elbow surgery and remain interested.

"We have a pretty flexible roster," Daniels said. "We just want to find the right fit, whether it's starter or reliever."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.