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Wilson headlines Rangers' crop of free agents

Wilson headlines Rangers' crop of free agents

Wilson headlines Rangers' crop of free agents
ARLINGTON -- C.J. Wilson isn't sure what will transpire over the next few months. All he knows right now is he is a free agent, and by Thursday, he will be able to sign with any team.

"I don't know how it's going to work," Wilson said at the end of the World Series. "I don't know if I'm going to get a text saying, 'X amount of years, are you in or out?' I have no clue. I don't know if somebody's going to be like, 'Yo, we're going to get you your own blimp. ... We will blimp you to the field.' I have no idea what's out there. I literally don't have any idea."

The Rangers aren't sure either, but they do know that starting pitching will again be a high priority during free agency. They are interested in re-signing Wilson, but nobody is quite sure what the price will be and what other teams are interested.

It is obvious that starting pitching will be highly coveted on the free-agent market -- when is it not? -- and Wilson remains among the best who are available. That list also includes Mark Buehrle, Javier Vazquez, Erik Bedard, Aaron Harang, Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Roy Oswalt, among others.

Oswalt's name seems popular because of his prior relationship with club president Nolan Ryan while both were with the Astros. But he has also dealt with back and hip issues for much of the past six years, and that may scare people off.

One thing that should be remembered about the Rangers when it comes to free agency is they investigate all possibilities and always look for "high-ceiling, low-risk" free agents. Third baseman Adrian Beltre was the biggest name they signed last winter, but don't forget they also signed pitchers Brandon Webb and Dave Bush. Webb never pitched for the Rangers and Bush only spent a couple of months with them, but that's not likely to deter Texas again this winter.

So while everybody is rounding up the usual starting-pitcher candidates and wondering if the Rangers will really stay away from Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, there is still a strong chance they will sign some intriguing marquee name that is on the comeback trail.

After all, who can forget Arthur Rhodes and Seth McClung, Khalil Greene and Edgardo Alfonzo, Brendan Donnelly and Derrick Turnbow, Andruw Jones and Sammy Sosa, or Eric Gagne and Omar Vizquel.

Maybe this winter the Rangers think they can get lucky with outfielder Grady Sizemore. Maybe they think that Joe Nathan or Jonathan Broxton have one good year left in them as a closer, or that it might be worth bringing in Kevin Millwood or Doug Davis into camp. Where would the Rangers have been this summer if they had not felt Endy Chavez was worth having around?

There are over 200 players who are officially free agents. Carlos Beltran is looking for a job, but so is Laynce Nix.

Armando Galarraga, anybody?

CONTRACT ISSUES

Free agents: LHP Wilson; LHP Darren Oliver; LHP Michael Gonzalez; OF Chavez; RHP Webb; C Matt Treanor

Club/player options: None

Arbitration-eligible: C Mike Napoli; SS Elvis Andrus; OF David Murphy; RF Nelson Cruz; LHP Matt Harrison; RHP Mike Adams; RHP Mark Lowe; INF Esteban German; INF Andres Blanco; RHP Darren O'Day

AREAS OF NEED

Starting pitching: With Wilson becoming a free agent, the Rangers have a hole in their rotation. They return Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Harrison and Alexi Ogando. They need one more. They have three internal candidates. They could fall back on Scott Feldman, who was a 17-game winner in 2009 before a knee injury set him back, they could move closer Neftali Feliz to the rotation or they could go with Eric Hurley, a former first-round Draft pick who has spent the past three seasons trying to recover from injuries.

Closer: This only becomes a need if the Rangers move Feliz to the rotation. The internal candidates are Adams and Lowe. The free-agent market is loaded with potential closers, including Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon, Nathan, Francisco Cordero, Broxton and Kyle Farnsworth, among others.

Left-handed relief: Oliver and Gonzalez are both free agents. Oliver hasn't decided if he'll play again next year. The Rangers will have to reinforce this side of the bullpen.

2012 PAYROLL

The Rangers were at $92 million last year. With all the pay increases due the players coming back, they should go past the $100 million mark.

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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