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Rangers enter Meetings clear on goals

Rangers enter Meetings clear on goals

ARLINGTON -- Plan A this offseason is to re-sign free agent pitcher Cliff Lee. That is the one thing the Rangers have made clear from the beginning.

They are working on Plan B if that doesn't happen. It could involve making a strong run to trade for Royals pitcher Zack Greinke, or it could mean strengthening the bullpen through free agency so closer Neftali Feliz can move to the rotation.

The Rangers are keeping Plan B under wraps, but they are preparing for multiple options with the Winter Meetings getting ready to open on Sunday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

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"It's hard to say how things will fall," general manager Jon Daniels said on Monday morning. "My sense is things will pick up this week and we'll see a fair amount of activity at the Winter Meetings. We have a good idea of what we want to accomplish. There are a variety of options and we're working them through."

The Rangers had a specific plan last year in Indianapolis and pretty much executed the blue print. They traded pitcher Kevin Millwood to free up salary space within a tight budget and eventually signed pitchers Rich Harden and Darren Oliver and outfielder Vladimir Guerrero.

"Our guys did a great job and things fell into line," Daniels said. "Most things worked out, a couple didn't. That's the nature of the game and it's easier to do things when you have a mature club. You only need to address a couple of specific areas to strengthen the club. You're not trying to throw a net out there, picking up whatever you can to improve the club.

"It's definitely easier when you are more precise and more targeted. Hopefully that will be the same this year."

The Rangers have their targets. They went into the offseason needing a starting pitcher, a designated hitter and a catcher. They were able to accomplish the first step on Monday by signing free-agent catcher Yorvit Torrealba to a two-year, $6.25 million contract.

The starting pitcher will be addressed if they can re-sign Lee. The Yankees remain the financial front-runner and Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, has made it clear other teams are being considered. Lee and Braunecker have shown no signs of being in a hurry.

Daniels insisted the Rangers are not sitting around and doing nothing while Lee makes up his mind. They continue to examine all contingencies.

"Does it impact certain things?" Daniels said. "Of course, simply by the nature of the commitment you have to make. But by no means are we exclusively waiting on that. Nothing has changed in regard to our desire to have him back. But we still have to be realistic and understand we may not get him back. I hope that's not the case, but if it is, we'll have to do what we can."

That will likely mean continuing conversations with the Royals concerning Greinke, the 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner. Greinke, 27, was 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA with the offensively challenged Royals this past season and is signed for two more seasons at $13.5 million annually.

The Royals have made it clear they will listen to offers but are not pressed to make a trade. It will likely take at least three good young players for a team to get him and the Rangers aren't interested in trading some of their best young pitching prospects, most notably left-hander Martin Perez or right-hander Tanner Scheppers.

The Rangers may be more inclined to strengthen the bullpen to free up Feliz to move to the rotation, but they are unlikely to pursue Rafael Soriano to be their closer. Despite their vastly improved financial situation, the Rangers don't like the idea of committing big dollars over multiple years to closers. They may pursue somebody like Kerry Wood as a potential closer to allow Feliz to move to the rotation, or even sign a setup reliever and move Ogando to the rotation.

"We've talked about building up the bullpen and give our young pitchers the option of going to the rotation," Daniels said. "When that might be and when we'll pursue that, I don't know. They might stay in their current roles, it might change. That's the great thing about flexibility when you have that kind of talent.

"That doesn't mean we're going to make a change. It's a comfortable feeling to have those guys in the bullpen but if you look at C.J. Wilson a year ago, he clearly meant more to us with 200 innings in the rotation rather than 70 innings in the bullpen."

The starting pitcher deliberations have not hindered the Rangers' search for a catcher. Torrealba gives the Rangers a strong defensive presence as their No. 1 catcher and they will continue to look for a backup to help him with the workload. Re-signing Matt Treanor is a possibility but Torrealba's presence makes it certain that Bengie Molina won't be back.

The search for a designated hitter may have to wait on what happens with Lee if the Rangers want to get heavily involved in talks for either Paul Konerko or Adam Dunn. The Rangers still want to re-sign Guerrero but that may be held up by his desire for a multiyear deal. Lance Berkman could be another option.

The Rangers will examine multiple options, beginning with Plan A and working on down the priority list.

"We're pretty comfortable we've got our arms around our options and know what we'd like to do," Daniels said. "It's not easy to make trades, We just have to wait until the free-agent market develops."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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