NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Rangers could bring back Eric Gagne as their closer or add LaTroy Hawkins to the mix of candidates for that job. They are one of a number of teams that have asked about Pirates outfielder Jason Bay and they are still pursuing Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. They are checking the medical records of free-agent pitchers Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Jason Jennings. They are preparing to go to Spring Training with Marlon Byrd and David Murphy as their center-field candidates while focusing more on their corner-outfield spots.
The Winter Meetings are under way here and the Rangers are addressing a number of areas of concern. Relief pitching is one of them and general manager Jon Daniels said Monday the Rangers have interest in bringing back Gagne as their closer. Gagne led the Rangers with 16 saves this past season before being traded to the Boston Red Sox on July 31. He is a free agent and Daniels said the Rangers would like to talk to agent Scott Boras while they are here in Nashville. The four-day meetings continue through Thursday. "Eric is on the list of guys we have expressed interest in," Daniels said. "He's the only guy we'd be interested in to be our closer. Anybody else would be added to the mix of potential closer candidates." Hawkins would be another possibility in the Rangers' quest to add a veteran arm to the back of their bullpen and Daniels spoke to his agent, Larry Reynolds, on Sunday. Hawkins, 35, was 2-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 62 games in 2007 for the National League champion Colorado Rockies, who declined to offer him arbitration. The Detroit Tigers are also pursuing him. Other names that the Rangers have considered are Shawn Chacon, Luis Vizcaino, Trever Miller and Octavio Dotel. The Rangers had interest in David Riske, but he's likely to get a three-year deal to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers. The Rangers aren't willing to go that long with any reliever. The Rangers offered Gagne a two-year deal with two option years before he was traded to the Red Sox. But Daniels said the Rangers would likely go just one year guaranteed on any deal with a free agent reliever. Center field was another area of focus for the Rangers but that's starting to fade. The Rangers have found the cost of acquiring a center fielder either through trade or free agency is too high, so they are moving on with the idea of Byrd and Murphy filling that spot.
"More likely than not," Daniels said. "Possibly that could change, but that's likely how it's going to go."The Rangers had extensive talks with the Arizona Diamondbacks about Carlos Gonzalez, the New York Mets about Carlos Gomez and the Chicago Cubs about Felix Pie. But the Diamondbacks wanted top pitching prospect Eric Hurley, the Mets weren't interested in trading for catcher Gerald Laird and the Cubs have decided that Pie will be their center fielder. "The cost and value of a young player is so high that it's awfully tough to trade for a guy who is within one year of the big leagues or who has some big league time," Daniels said in turning the Rangers attention to the corner outfield. The Rangers are competing with the Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres, Kansas City Royals and the Cubs for Fukudome, who is expected to leave Japan and play in the United States next year. "He's one of a couple of guys we have spoken to," Daniels said, while declining to say if the Rangers have made an offer. "We've made some offers to some free agents but I'm not going to say to who." Bay is another corner outfielder who could see a change of address this winter. Major League officials say a number of teams have asked about Bay, who hit .247 with 21 home runs and 84 RBIs in 2007 after two straight seasons with more than 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. The Pirates, who are looking for relief help, have other outfielders who are available including two potential center fielders in Nate McLouth and Chris Duffy. "We've had some conversations with them, but nothing has bubbled to the surface," Daniels said. Starting pitching, in an unusual twist of the Rangers, is not a priority at these meetings. Daniels said he is satisfied with the Rangers starting pitching depth, but that hasn't kept them from at least exploring the possibility of going after Colon, Garcia or Jennings. Colon is coming off two years of arm and shoulder injuries with the Angels after winning a Cy Young Award in 2005, Garcia is coming off shoulder surgery after winning one game for the Phillies this year and Jennings won just two games for the Astros while dealing with elbow problems. Right now the Rangers are studying their medical reports and will determine their level of interest, Daniels said. But any deal would likely be for one year and laden with incentives. There were also rumblings at the meetings that the Rangers were being asked about third baseman Hank Blalock, with the Dodgers being one of those teams. But Daniels reiterated the Rangers weren't interested in moving Blalock, who right now is their main power threat.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.