Rangers fail to create ‘dominating juggernaut’

After a successful run in the playoffs, a new owner and a renewed fan base, the Texas Rangers were expected to bully their way through the Hot Stove League sessions to improve their roster and gear up for another baseball season. Texas will still be favorites in the AL West Division this year, but ultimately, the Rangers failed to create the dominating juggernaut that they set out to make.

The primary goal of the offseason, winning the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, was a complete bust for Texas. Even after an all-in offer that rivaled the New York Yankees’ bid, the Rangers lost out in the bidding to a devastating blow by the Philadelphia Phillies. To just about everyone, it was absolutely inconceivable that Lee, the ALCS MVP, would take less years and less money with a ball club that showed up out of nowhere. Despite losing out on Lee, the Rangers made a handful of efforts in hopes of aquiring another dominating starter.

Immediately after Lee went to the Phillies, Kansas City Royals’ pitcher Zach Grienke and Tampa Bay Rays’ pitcher Matt Garza, both very viable players that would have been solid anchors for the Rangers pitching rotation, landed on the trading block. While the Rangers made a valiant effort to acquire them, they simply didn’t have anything that either the Royals or Rays were interested in. With no other big-ticket pitchers left on the market, the Rangers turned to Brandon Webb. The 2006 Cy Young winner has accomplished incredible pitching milestones, but hasn’t been on the mound since 2009 because of a shoulder injury.

Unless Webb stays healthy for the duration of the season, there is a huge question mark on the back end of the starting rotation. Will Neftali Feliz or Alexi Ogando have to switch from the bullpen to the starting rotation? Will Tommy Hunter remain consistent as the fourth starter? Will Derek Holland or Michael Kirkman develop into reliable starters? Although C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis were Texas’ most consistent starting pitchers during the 2010 regular season, they alone will not win a championship for the Rangers.

Pitching was the biggest concern for Texas and they couldn’t hit their target. Third baseman Adrian Beltre was this year’s “big fish” signing for Texas, but he was an overpriced commodity. Although Beltre will be a great addition to the team, he was signed for a six-year, $96 million contract. Beltre comes off a strong season with the Red Sox, but is far too inconsistent to be given such a large and long contract.

The Rangers could have taken a history lesson from their AL West foes. The last time Beltre was offered such a large contract was in 2005, when the Seattle Mariners offered the slugger a five-year, $64 million deal. The year before, Beltre had a fantastic season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, hitting .334 with 48 home runs and 121 RBI. However, in the length of his contract with the Mariners, Beltre never hit more than .276 and never hit more than 26 home runs in a season. In his final contract year, Beltre played in 111 games, hitting a mere .265 with only eight homers and 44 RBI. While his career has had a recent resurgence in Boston, the evidence of his legacy proves that the Rangers cannot expect a long-time stellar performance from the two-time Silver Slugger.

What leaves the rest of the free agent pickups? GM Jon Daniels did a great job of replacing catcher Bengie Molina with Yorbit Torrealba and Matt Treanor. As for the bullpen, Arthur Rhodes has one or two good seasons left in him and will bring experience. Standing pat with infielders Michael Young and Mitch Moreland was an excellent move. In covering the basics, Daniels and the rest of the brass in Arlington, Tex. did very well.

Unfortunately, the offseason for Texas has resulted in just that8212; covering the basics. This improved Texas squad will still march to an AL West title, but they are definitely not the juggernauts that Rangers’ President Nolan Ryan set out to create.

J.D. Moore is a freshman journalism major from Honolulu, Hawaii