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Mailbag: Evaluating Rangers' roster

Mailbag: Evaluating Rangers' roster

What do you think of the Rangers moving Frank Catalanotto to first base and having Jarrod Saltalamacchia become the starting catcher? They could sign Torii Hunter to play center field, with Marlon Byrd and Nelson Cruz playing the corner outfield spots and a fourth outfielder come from within, or maybe Brad Wilkerson, if he's still here.
-- Matt A. Fort Worth, Texas

The Rangers have done a terrific job of being evasive, vague or unavailable in regard to answering such matters. Here is what we can surmise:

• The Rangers are going after a center fielder in the offseason. Hunter, Andruw Jones and Aaron Rowand are at the top of the list. Corey Patterson and Mike Cameron are next. The Rangers have made this clear: they have to get more athletic in the outfield.

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• Byrd is getting a chance in center this year, but the Rangers see him as a fourth outfielder. He has been a good pickup.

• Cruz is getting a chance to play right field, but it seems there is much skepticism as to whether he can play every day at this level. That will take a leap of faith that hasn't surfaced yet.

• The Rangers have Catalanotto under contract for two more years. Wilkerson is a free agent after this season. It's hard to see them both on the same team unless the Rangers commit to Wilkerson at first base.

• Jason Botts is getting a chance to be the everyday designated hitter.

• The Rangers are going to spend the next two months looking hard at both Saltalamacchia and Gerald Laird. The competition could continue into next year, unless the Rangers trade Laird in the offseason. It just seems that Saltalamacchia would be a top-tier hitting catcher, but not quite at that level at first base. The Rangers want defense first at catcher, and that's where Laird has to convince management that he is their guy.

Do you think the Rangers might still have a chance or interest in re-signing Eric Gagne in the offseason?
-- Mike E., Austin, Texas

The Rangers spoke of it briefly after the trade to the Red Sox, but wisely backed off to avoid tampering charges. They should have interest, but Gagne's price could be substantial depending how the Red Sox finish. My opinion is to give C.J. Wilson every opportunity in the next two months.

What are the chances that the Rangers 2008 rotation might include Thomas Diamond, Eric Hurley, Edinson Volquez or Mike Wood?
-- Scott P., Dallas, Texas

Hurley will definitely be given a shot. Wood's future is as a reliever/spot starter. Diamond will miss this entire season because of Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. Then comes 2008, the year of recovery. He won't be a factor at the Major League level until 2009.

Volquez? It will take another leap of faith by the Rangers to give him an extended shot at the rotation. He may get another shot, but the memory of past struggles will be hard to erase if he's not an immediate success.

With Travis Metcalf doing so well and the ongoing struggles of Hank Blalock, what do you think is likely to happen in the future at third base for the Rangers?
-- Kevin T., Austin, Texas

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Let me offer one personal observation. Metcalf should not be in the Minors. He should be in the Rangers' lineup every day while Blalock is out. They are 20-15 when he plays.

Blalock is signed for $5.95 million in 2008, with a club option of $6.2 million in 2009. He'll likely be the Rangers' starting third baseman in 2008, while Metcalf starts at Triple-A. Their performances will likely dictate their future. Metcalf is a Major League defender who still has to show he can provide third-base production. Blalock still has 100-RBI capability.

Why did the Rangers trade Kenny Lofton for a catcher when they already had Laird, Chris Stewart and Adam Melhuse?
-- Jard T., Colbert, Okla.

Max Ramirez, who was acquired from the Indians, is a guy who is looked at as a top hitting prospect, but needs much work on his defensive skills. It will be at least a couple of years before he threatens anybody's job at the big-league level.

What do you think about the idea of trying Joaquin Benoit as a starter again next year? He was banished to long relief several years ago, but he has finally figured it out.
-- Patrick M. North Richland Hills, Texas

I would leave Benoit alone. He has done too well as a middle/setup reliever, and those pitchers are still quite valuable. He does not need to be a rotation candidate.

Who are the good, quality starting pitchers that will be free agents during the coming offseason that the Rangers might go after?
-- Matt P. Round Rock, Texas

Time to round up the usual candidates of another suspect list.

Carlos Zambrano is the star of the class. Others who would be highly-regarded include Livan Hernandez, Curt Schilling and Randy Wolf.

Damaged or suspect goods include Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Jason Jennings, Eric Milton, Jaret Wright, Carlos Silva, Matt Clement, Rodrigo Lopez and, yes, Kenny Rogers.

How close are we to seeing Daniel Herrera in the bullpen for the Rangers?
-- Mark C., Austin, Texas

Herrera, the Rangers' 45th round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, is left-handed and has good Minor League numbers. That means one thing: he will not lack for chances at the big-league level. Legitimate left-handers never run out of chances. Right now, he is pitching well at Double-A Frisco, but his time is coming.

I read recently in Sports Illustrated that the Rangers have shown some interest in re-acquiring Alex Rodriguez. The story says Tom Hicks is willing to throw a 10-year deal down on the table? Is that possible or even logical?
-- Jeff C., Quitman, Texas

Stick to the swimsuit issue.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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