Editor's note: We continue our look at some of the needs the Texas Rangers hope to address at the winter meetings next week in Nashville.
Today's position: Outfield
Obviously, Josh Hamilton is the big name where the outfield is concerned. Don't let the fact Hamilton had a poor final few weeks make you think the club isn't interested in bringing him back. The Rangers are. But this is a front office that believes firmly in making smart deals with the future in mind. So I think they'll want to re-sign Hamilton on their terms. And exactly what those terms will be isn't known at this point. My bet is somewhere around three guaranteed years. The question is whether they step past that or hold firm and if there's some wiggle room in between -- perhaps a vesting option or two based on games played to give the club some protection. They know the pros and cons of having Hamilton and how important his bat was on the No. 3 hole of that lineup the past five seasons.
If Hamilton's market doesn't expand and there isn't a five-year or six-year guaranteed offer, the Rangers could then become favorites to retain him. He likes Texas and knows this area. He's got a support system in place. It just depends on what the market does.
But while Hamilton is at the top of the list, CEO Nolan Ryan made it clear earlier this month that the club can't afford to simply wait around on Hamilton, either. They've got holes to fill this offseason and must go about doing that no matter what happens.
Should Hamilton and his 43 homers and 128 RBIs go elsewhere, general manager Jon Daniels and crew must try to figure out how to make up that production. Justin Upton clearly has some intrigue, but various reports show the Diamondbacks wanting a shortstop and the Rangers unwilling to part with Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar. Perhaps there's still a creative way to make that happen.
B.J. Upton is a free-agent option, though most reports have that coming down to a choice between the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves, who expect Michael Bourn to go elsewhere (I can't see Bourn in Texas mainly because I think the club would prefer someone with more power who can hit in the middle of the lineup).
But the Rangers don't simply have to go out and get a center fielder. Remember, Hamilton played a fair amount in left field and the club has invested in Leonys Martin, hoping he can stand up and seize that job. Craig Gentry provided some solid play in 2012, as well, and can handle the position. So they could look to bolster a corner spot (like with Justin Upton) rather than simply grab someone in the middle. Nick Swisher is one option and he could play some first base (and he's a switch-hitter).
The preference would be a left-handed bat with such a right-handed-heavy lineup. But the entire position starts with Hamilton. If he's back, the Rangers are settled in that area, though they could still look at moving Ian Kinsler to a corner spot to make room for Profar if they don't trade Andrus. If Hamilton goes, they'll look at all options. And right now, with the market for Hamilton still forming, they'll work under the assumption that he's not coming back so that they can be ready once he makes a decision.