Following back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011, the mighty Texas Rangers slipped up just enough in 2012 to wind up vulnerable in the newly established one game Wild Card playoff, in which they fell to the Baltimore Orioles. This offseason hasn't been particularly kind to Texas' top team as they've missed out on Zack Greinke among others and seen a couple offensive stars move on, but they've begun retooling and have a number of top prospects waiting to contribute, keeping them a top contender for the American League West.
Jamey Newberg of The Newberg Report pops in to help us wrap up our first round of check-ins across the A.L. West.
Jon: The Rangers lost one of the biggest names in the sport in Josh Hamilton. Just when it was looking like a return to Arlington was inevitable, the A.L. West rival Los Angeles Angels swooped in late. What was your reaction to seeing Hamilton walk? How is the fan base coping?
Jamey: I didnít mind Texas not ending up with the player at 5/125 Ė itís a bad contract Ė but obviously would have preferred that he not end up with the Angels. Interestingly, the fan base seems to have really turned on Hamilton, an extension of how he was treated at seasonís end, and it seemed to take on an even greater intensity after the way he handled himself at his introductory presser in Los Angeles.
Jon: The free agent exits of Hamilton and Mike Napoli stripped a fair amount of offensive firepower from the Ranger lineup. What have the Rangers done this offseason to fill the gaps?
Jamey: A.J. Pierzynski was brought in to replace Napoli Ė and there still seems to be a slim chance that Napoli returns, as his deal with Boston hangs in the balance Ė and Lance Berkman was brought in to give Texas a presence from the left side in Hamiltonís absence. Berkman wonít be expected to replace Hamiltonís offense Ė few players could be asked to fill those shoes Ė but if healthy heíll add a dimension thatís been missing, a middle-of-the-lineup bat who forces pitchers to throw strikes.
Jon: Do the Rangers have anything else up their sleeve this offseason? Are there any roster spots you'd like to see upgraded before Spring Training?
Jamey: If thereís an opportunity to bring in an impact right-handed bat at a cost that makes sense, Iím interested. The best fit would be in the outfield, but Iíd also be fired up to see Napoli back.
Jon: Teenage infielder Jurickson Profar, one of the most highly-rated prospects in the game, made his Major League debut last September. What kind of role will he play for the 2013 Rangers? How good is he expected to be once he gets his footing?
With the Berkman signing, it appears more likely that Profar will start the season in AAA. But the winterís not over, and there are still scenarios that could open a spot for him to break camp with Texas. Heís expected to be part of the core of this club, offensively and defensively and in the clubhouse, for many years.
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