2007 Record: 75-87
Fourth in the NL West – 19 games back
Ready to Patrol
OF Milton Bradley (signed as free agent from San Diego Padres)
1B Ben Broussard (trade from Seattle Mariners)
RP Eddie Guardado (signed as free agent from Cincinnati Reds)
OF Josh Hamilton (trade from Cincinnati Reds)
SP Jason Jennings (signed as free agent from Houston Astros)
Couldn’t Stand being Lone
SP Bruce Chen (free agent)
OF Victor Diaz (spring training invite with Houston Astros)
OF Willie Hairston (free agent)
RP Akinori Otsuka (non-tendered, free agent)
SP Edison Volquez (trade to Cincinnati Reds)
OF Sammy Sosa (free agent)
1B Brad Wilkerson (free agent)
The Skinny: The Texas Rangers once again finished far out of contention behind several strong ballclubs. Despite their willingness to spend money, they have not been able to put together a competitive team.
And sadly, there may be more of the same next season. The team attempted to shore up their beleaguered rotation with starting pitcher Jason Jennings, who was injured the majority of last season. Relief pitcher Eddie Guardado should provide some innings to a bullpen that should see much work next year, too. And the offense may be improved with outfielder Josh Hamilton and his power bat stepping in, but it may not be enough.
Strengths: As seemingly is always the case with the Rangers, their biggest strength is a strong offense. Ian Kinsler and Michael Young, the double play combination, should be a terrific duo in the Nos. 2 and 3 slots in the lineup, while the power of Hamilton and Bradley, when he returns from injury, should play well at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
It may be a stretch to say this, but if the Rangers can get leads into the latter portions of games, they have a good chance of winning. C.J. Wilson, a southpaw, looks to be an effective closer, while Joaquin Benoit, a failed starter, looked good 82 innings of 2.85 ERA ball last year. A solid setup man and closer these guys are, but their specific jobs may have to be determined.
Weaknesses: It does not take a baseball expert to say this, but the weakness of the 2008 Rangers will be their starting pitching. The projected rotation had only one person, Brandon McCarthy, with an ERA below 5.00 and more than 90 innings pitched last year. Jennings, if healthy, should provide the team with some quality. However, it remains to be seen just what he will contribute.
LF Marlon Byrd
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Michael Young
CF Josh Hamilton
3B Hank Blalock
1B Ben Broussard / Jarrod Saltalamacchia
C Gerald Laird / Jarrod Saltalamacchia
DH Chris Shelton / Frank Catalanotto
RF Donnie Murphy / Nelson Cruz
(Notes: Milton Bradley figures to slot into right field and a higher spot in the lineup when he returns from his knee injury; also, Jason Botts, who spent the majority of last season in Class AAA, should be ready to take the role of DH sometime this year.)
Set Frank Francisco
Set Joaquin Benoit
Closer CJ Wilson
Keys to success: It depends on how you define success. If that means lose less than 90 games, then the Rangers will have to get the real Michael Young (i.e. the one to whom they paid big money) to start producing, a healthy season from Josh Hamilton, and either Brandon McCarthy or Jason Jennings (preferably both) to step forward and put up 200 innings with a low 4.00 ERA. In other words, it is going to take multiple contributions across the board.
Prediction: Things will not be completely awful in Arlington, because the middle of the order will display power all year long. Hamilton was on pace for 35+ last season, but injuries derailed him. With that jet-stream out in right field, the left-handed hitting Hamilton will just have to pull the ball. Jason Botts has a good stroke and could be a decent contributor on this ballclub, if he gets the chance to play.
All of these heroics, however, will be for naught. The Rangers will spend another season out of contention and finish with approximately 76-79 wins.