At the start of the 2010 season the Rangers had Chris Davis as their starting first baseman, Justin Smoak at Triple-A with talks of him getting some looks as the season progressed, and Mitch Moreland playing more right field than first base in the Minors.
Today, Smoak is a Mariner (part of the Cliff Lee trade), Davis has been promoted to the Majors and then re-demoted to the Minors, Mitch Moreland moved back to first base in the Minors and then got promoted to the Majors, and the Rangers traded for Florida 1B/3B Jorge Cantu.
Cantu brings a soild, right-handed bat to the mix, that will likely involve Davis again as the regular season reaches the end and the team plays for October.
With the ownership situation still in question, a handcuffed general manager, Jon Daniels, did the best he could to improve the position of first base that the Rangers will need production from down the stretch. In my opinion Daniels has done an outstanding job improving the big league club without being able to increase the payroll.
But in my opinion this is a 2-3 month quick fix.
Now before anything can happen, a complete transition of ownership must be finalized. Until then, nothing major is going to happen. But let's assume everything does get worked out by season's end, as it likely will.
Cantu, though only 29, is not likely the franchise first baseman of the future. The front office's patience with Davis is beginning to be affected, and it's too early to tell if Moreland is the answer; I see Daniels and his team making a "big splash" this offseason. And there are a couple of ways they can go about this "big splash".
A quick side note, I think the first priority of new ownership should be to resign Cliff Lee to a multi-year contract. But's lets endulge our "national baseball experts" a little, who say he will be a Yankee next season. These are the same "experts" who at the beginning of the season said the Mariners would win the AL West, you know the 39-65 Mariners.
First, the Rangers could sign a free agent first baseman. The best options as we stand today (Age): Jorge Cantu (29), Adam Dunn (31), Victor Martinez (32), Carlos Pena (33), and Aubrey Huff (34). I would love to see Dunn, Huff, or even the return of Pena to the Rangers for 2011, but with reservations. Dunn and Pena both struggle with low batting averages, but that could be offset by their potential to both be 40+ HR hitters at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Huff is another that could thrive at the hitter-friendly ballpark, but because of age is not a long-term option.
Second, the Rangers could trade for a high-end first baseman with an expiring contract and then resign him to a multi-year contract. When looking at hitters with expiring contracts there are only two legit options the Rangers should consider, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez.
All season long we had heard that Gonzalez was likely to be a prized trading piece this year, but the first place status of the Padres threw that out the window. Therefore unless the Padres, during the offseason, don't think they can compete in 2011, A-Gon wouldn't even be considered until June or July.
This leaves Prince Fielder. I know as soon as you read this you might either laugh or think I have completely lost it. But this is not as far-fetched as it might seem.
Look, the Brewers are not on the up-swing and are likely to go into a state of rebuilding a little bit. Therefore, it's not likely they would ante-up the money to resign Fielder, who is going to command Ryan Howard type money (5-year, $125 million). Also, a couple of days ago Daniels inquired the Brewers about what it would take to get Fielder. Now the talks didn't get far, mainly because of the financial situation the Rangers are currently in. But the fact that these talks have already occurred once...well I really believe this conversation, though dormant right now, is nowhere near dead.
If the trade was done in the offseason the Rangers would be getting Fielder for the entire 2011 season. The Rangers would have both the 2011 and 2012 offseasons to attempt to resign Fielder, and if unsuccessful then would obtain the two draft picks from the team that does sign him. But before the Rangers resign Fielder, we would have to acquire his services from Milwaukee via a blockbuster type trade that could potentially backfire like Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay for Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Beau Jones did to the Braves.
Likely, for these talks to even begin the Rangers are going to have to prepare to part with: 1) Major League ready starting pitcher (Derek Holland, Tanner Scheppers, or maybe even Martin Perez), 2) Chris Davis, 3) pitching prospect (Robbie Erlin, Michael Kirkman, or Richard Bleier), and 4) hitting prospect (Engel Beltre, Miguel Velasquez, or Jurickson Profar).
I agree that this seems like a lot to give up for one first baseman, but imagine a guy who has missed a total of 12 games from 2006-present with these numbers mixed with the likes of Hamilton, Cruz, Young, Kinsler, Andrus, Borbon, and maybe even Guerrero:
2006 - .271/.347/.483 28 HRs, 81 RBI (rookie year)
2007 - .288/.395/.618 50 HRs, 119 RBI
2008 - .276/.372/.507 34 HRs, 102 RBI
2009 - .299/.412/.602 46 HRs, 141 RBI
2010 - .257/.396/.495 24 HRs, 46 RBI (through 104 games)
Tell me that you don't get super excited about the idea of getting this guy. If the Rangers are able to resign him to a multi-year contract, then we would be able to justify the Major League success of some of the prospects listed above, who would be in the NL and not the AL.
I'm not saying that this is going to happen, but to keep an eye on the situation as we move forward. A lot still needs to fall in place with the sale of the franchise, the success of this season, continued development of Davis and Moreland, and the willingness of a new owner to spend money.