For Rangers, it all starts with Lee

For Rangers, it all starts with Lee

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are going to the Winter Meetings to see if they can re-sign Cliff Lee.

That is their top priority. They have met with Lee in Arkansas twice this offseason, and as recently as Tuesday. Now they should find out if Lee is returning to Texas, going to sign with the Yankees or land with another team.

The Rangers have other needs, and they have already added to the bullpen and catching corps this offseason. But any major moves seem to be waiting on Lee.

The Rangers, under general manager Jon Daniels, always go to the Winter Meetings with a specific plan in mind. This year, they will have to consider other options if they are unable to re-sign Lee.

No matter what happens with the most sought-after free-agent pitcher on the market, the Rangers are determined to put together a team that can compete for an American League West title and go far into the playoffs. Texas' new ownership group under Chuck Greenberg expects the club to have a payroll that allows it to be competitive with the elite teams in baseball. Next week's Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., should be the first real indication just how serious the Rangers are in that resolve.

The Rangers still have a talented nucleus and only have a few spots that need to be filled in order to remain competitive. But they are crucial spots. They need one more starting pitcher and they need a big bat in the middle of their lineup.

Rangers needs

Starting pitching: They want Lee back badly. If not, they could be in the market for a front-line starter, and they will most likely investigate the possibility of acquiring Zack Greinke from the Royals. They could also move either Neftali Feliz or Alexi Ogando into the rotation. Right now, the Rangers have a rotation that includes C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter. Scott Feldman is the fifth starter but is coming off knee surgery and may not be ready for the start of the season. Left-handers Matt Harrison and Michael Kirkman are the best among the internal candidates, but the Rangers will look for one more starting pitcher.

Catching: The Rangers signed Yorvit Torrealba to be their No. 1 catcher. They are looking for a backup. They could re-sign Matt Treanor and they still have Taylor Teagarden.

Big bat: The Rangers are talking about re-signing Vladimir Guerrero. But he wants a multiyear deal and the Rangers are only willing to do a one-year pact. If they don't spend big money on Lee, they could go after Paul Konerko or Adam Dunn. Lance Berman is also a one-year-deal possibility.

Relief pitching: The Rangers like to stockpile arms. They need a right-handed reliever.

Players who could be traded

1B Chris Davis: Great glove, hasn't hit yet, blocked by Mitch Moreland.

OF Julio Borbon: Good defense, leadoff type. Rangers like him but he played little in the playoffs. There are teams looking for a player like him.

LHP Derek Holland: Clubs will be interested in him if the Rangers are looking for a big-ticket starter like Greinke.

RHP Tommy Hunter: Again, it would be for a significant upgrade in the starting rotation.

Top prospects: The three players most mentioned are pitchers Martin Perez and Tanner Scheppers and outfielder Engel Beltre.

They are likely to be the guys other teams want if the Rangers go after Greinke or another big-name player in a trade.

Big contracts that might unloaded


Arbitration eligible

OF Josh Hamilton; OF David Murphy; OF Nelson Cruz; P Colby Lewis; P C.J. Wilson.

Payroll summation

The Rangers' payroll is going to skyrocket from $65 million to about $90 million or more. The new ownership group has made it clear the club has the financial resources to keep up with the top teams.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for 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.