Editor's Note: This is the seventh in a 10-part series that will focus on questions the Texas Rangers must answer this offseason. These questions are in no particular order.
Today’s question: What do the Rangers do to address left field?
Left field was a black hole for the Rangers in 2013. There's nothing about the team that needs to be addressed more than the lack of production from this important corner outfield spot.
The Rangers are in a position to upgrade things because David Murphy, who was given every chance to to be an everyday producer in left field is a free agent. Murphy will be missed as a respected and member of the ball club. But it's almost certain he'll try to bounce back from a painful 2013 with another team, maybe hometown Houston.
So what do the Rangers do?
The first option is to bring back Nelson Cruz and let him try left field with Alex Rios back to play right field. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said last week that he expects the club to offer Cruz a qualifying offer of $14 million for 2014. Cruz can take the deal or test the free-agent market for a multi-year contract. Either way, expect the Rangers to be involved.
There's also the final portion of Craig Gentry's season to consider. Gentry was the Rangers' player of the month for September after batting .354. He did most of his damage starting 11 of the Rangers' last 12 games, batting .462 with four RBIs, nine runs and 10 stolen bases.
It's no coincidence that the Rangers won seven straight games to end the season before the wild-card tiebreaker loss to Tampa Bay. Gentry solidified left field for the first time all season. He's an exciting player that gives the Rangers another a speed dimension. Has he earned a chance for a increased role?
That would be a risk for the Rangers, who would basically be doing what they tried this season by giving Murphy the everyday position.
The result was the Rangers were 28th out of 30 teams with 64 runs scored from the position. They had 60 RBIs from left fielders -- only Toronto and Baltimore had less run production from the position. The Rangers' slash of .249/.309/.413/.722 just isn't up to standards for a corner outfield spot. They were middle of the pack in the American League in OPS (which combines on-base and slugging percentage).
There's also a chance to go after Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury and fit him in somewhere in the outfield.
One thing is certain. Expect the Rangers to look drastically different in left field in 2014, even if that means Cruz shifting over from right.