Daniels: 'We're not shopping at the top'
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers head to Indianapolis, home of one of the world's most famous car races, looking to kick the tires on a few possible acquisitions at Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings, which start Monday.
But actually purchasing the car and driving off with a high-priced, new addition is extremely unlikely.
In other words: The Rangers won't be taking the Rolls Royce for a spin.
"We've been candid that we're not shopping at the top of the market," general manager Jon Daniels said Thursday. "We're not involved in the top-headline free agents, but I don't think you have to be to improve the club."
The still unresolved ownership situation means Daniels and Nolan Ryan will go to the meetings with a budget that isn't as large as last season and limited wiggle room to make any huge signings.
That doesn't mean Daniels can't make some moves to help his club. He'll just have to get creative about what kind of trades he executes. He's looking for affordable pieces to plug key areas and may be forced to decide if he gives up some minor-league talent to get those bargains.
Daniels did say he wouldn't be surprised if they "got some business done in the next 7 to 10 days."
"We have a pretty clear idea of what we want to accomplish," Daniels said. "We have our budget and off-season plan and the spots we want to address. We like our team. This is not about reinventing the club. It's about finding the winning pieces and continuing to build on positives in 2009. We have been talking to a number of clubs and agents and we'll continue to do that."
The areas the Rangers will focus in on, in no particular order: catcher, a middle-of-the-order bat, a utility infielder and bullpen help.
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Catcher became a part of the list this week, when Jarrod Saltalamacchia left in the second inning of a game Wednesday in the Dominican League with shoulder soreness. The Rangers have offered salary arbitration to veteran Pudge Rodriguez, but they don't expect him to accept it. They would still like to negotiate with Rodriguez, but he will likely test the market to see what kind of value he has to various teams.
Daniels said if Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden are healthy, the club is comfortable with both of them behind the plate.
"Adding a veteran to the mix is something we'll look at, but it has to be the right guy," Daniels said. "Those two guys are most talented than most of the guys on the market. If it's the right fit, we'll consider it."
The club also expects outfielder Marlon Byrd to decline his salary arbitration offer. Byrd, who has said he'd like to stay in Texas, wants a multi-year deal and his solid 2009 season should have clubs interested. If the Rangers aren't in a position to match it, they'll need to look elsewhere.
Daniels said the club is pleased with Julio Borbon's progress -- he's working with outfield coach Gary Pettis in the Dominican Republic this winter -- and feel like he can be the starting center fielder if Byrd isn't re-signed.
The Rangers would prefer to move Josh Hamilton to a corner outfield spot to protect his body from wear and tear. That doesn't mean he still wouldn't play some in center. Daniels said manager Ron Washington could move the outfielders around and use the designated hitter spot to give certain guys rest when needed.
That doesn't mean the club wouldn't use that spot to fill with a viable hitter for the middle of the lineup.
They'd prefer that bat to be right-handed and for it to be someone that can play the field to give them flexibility.
"We're open to a more traditional DH if it's the right fit for us," Daniels said.
The departure of Omar Vizquel to the White Sox leaves a hole at the utility infield spot. Daniels wants a player that can handle shortstop to fill that position. Utility infielder Esteban German is considered more of a second and third baseman. So the Rangers will search for some bargains on players that can step in should an injury occur.
Daniels is always in the market for pitching. But during these meetings, he's likely to talk more about bullpen help. The club has a large group of starters with at least a sprinkling of major-league experience and they would have no problems going to spring training with that group. Some of those who don't make the rotation could end up in the bullpen.
But that won't keep Daniels from pursuing options.
He did say that the club wants to give lefty C.J. Wilson a chance to start, but that depends on whether they find suitable enough late-inning bullpen help -- right-handed or left-handed.
The Rangers also would look into added a right-handed hitting first baseman. Daniels said Chris Davis goes into spring training with the best chance to win the job. But Justin Smoak, Mitch Moreland and Chad Tracy could give the club something to think about with solid spring trainings.
That's months away. Next week, Daniels and his staff will see what's out there, regardless of the financial situation.
"We've advanced the ball on a couple of areas," Daniels said. "We want to make the club better. That's what we're going to try to do."
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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