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Rangers winter meetings preview

SAN DIEGO -- The Texas Rangers come to the baseball's annual winter meetings taking a slow approach to the biggest offseason event in the sport.

Prior to the 2013 season, the club made two major changes to the roster: trading Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder and signing Shin-Soo Choo to a seven-year, $130 million contract.

Injuries and down years for a few players slowed the Rangers' quest to become contenders, and they ended up losing 95 games.

This year, the club wants to improve, but GM Jon Daniels said they will take a slow, measured approach.

Here's a preview of the three key areas the Rangers would like to improve this offseason.

Starting pitcher

Like everybody else, the Rangers are seeking more starting pitching. The club won't be involved for high-end talent such as Jon Lester and Max Scherzer. Yu Darvish and Derek Holland lead the front of the rotation, and newly signed Colby Lewis takes care of the back end.

So what's left?

Expect the club to give Nick Martinez, Nick Tepesch and quite possibly Alex Gonzalez a shot to become a No. 5 starter. So that leaves the free-agent market, from which the club is interested in finding a No. 3 starter.

"We got some guys that we like, but [we would] feel better if we had one more," Daniels said. "A guy who can fit in and provide some stability in the rotation."

Among some of the names being mentioned from media reports for the Rangers include: Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Justin Masterson, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee.

Daniels has a strong relationship with San Diego Padres GM A.J. Preller, who used to be the Rangers assistant GM, so a trade is possible between those clubs. Likewise with Atlanta Braves -- and former Rangers -- GM John Hart, who is the president of baseball operations.

Left field

Choo will move from left field to right, so the club is trying to find a power hitter for the other corner outfield spot. There was a brief interest in free agent Torii Hunter, but he signed a $10.5 million deal with the Minnesota Twins. Daniels said he liked Hunter's veteran makeup -- clubhouse presence and ability to still hit for power. With Hunter off the market, the Rangers have expressed interest in several players. The high-end players have been Matt Kemp and Justin Upton.

Getting one of those players could be costly in terms of trading prospects. Daniels said among the minor leaguers, nobody is untouchable. However, the reality is Joey Gallo and Jorge Alfaro are prospects the club will not trade.

It would have to be a special situation to let veteran shortstop Elvis Andrus go for a power-hitting left fielder. The contract (eight years, $118 million) is one thing, and making sure his replacement is on the roster is another. Jurickson Profar is a potential replacement for Andrus, but shoulder injuries all of last season prevent him from being trade bait.

The Rangers have made a commitment to Andrus financially and have said all the right things about keeping him.

Settling for an outfielder such as Jonny Gomes is a possibility. If someone can't be found, Daniels said Mitch Moreland, Jake Smolinski and Michael Choice are internal candidates for left field.

Catcher

The club is looking for a veteran backup to starter Robinson Chirinos.

"Our opinion on Robinson is high. He's earned that opportunity to go out and continue to show he's working out the way he is right now," Daniels said. "He bypassed winter ball and spent the winter getting together here."

Chirinos has gotten over his concussion problems, and Daniels believes he's a 100-plus-game catcher. Somebody of interest to the Rangers is Geovany Soto, who was supposed to be the starter last season for the club, but injuries allowed Chirinos to claim the starting job.

Soto was eventually traded to the Oakland A's in midseason, but he's on the market now.

"The door is open," Daniels said of the possibility of adding Soto. "I have not talked to [his agent recently]. It’s a possibility. He's looking at possibilities, as are we."