I know a goal of the Rangers' offseason is to lock up the "core" of the team and that makes them unlikely to sign Prince Fielder. How much would a huge signing like Fielder paralyze the Rangers financially?
-- Sean H., Salado, Texas
Let's say Fielder commands $120 million over six years. That will push the Rangers' payroll to the $120 million range next season. They could probably afford that in 2013 as well, although Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli are free agents after next year. Beyond that is the danger, because their young pitchers will start hitting arbitration and free agency. Nelson Cruz, Michael Young and Ian Kinsler will also be free agents after 2013.
The Rangers, if they re-sign Hamilton and keep Young, may also become bloated at designated hitter. But maybe you roll the dice knowing what Fielder can do this year and worry about the future later. That's what big-market clubs do.
Will manager Ron Washington leave in 2013, and if he does, what will happen?
-- Alex P., Richardson, Texas
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At some point this offseason, the Rangers will almost assuredly sign Washington to a contract extension and keep that from happening. I doubt he is going anywhere. Right now, general manager Jon Daniels is staying quite busy plugging other critical holes.
With Neftali Feliz being moved into the rotation, is there a possibility of him starting out in the Minors if he were to show in Spring Training that he is not yet ready to start at the Major League level? Wouldn't a month of good/average Scott Feldman be better than a month of a bad Feliz?
-- Pablo G., Irving, Texas
That's an intriguing point. There are no guarantees with such a switch, and bringing in Joe Nathan certainly precludes Feliz going back to the closer's spot. Anything is possible, but the Rangers have faith that somebody as talented as Feliz is not going to flop. It would certainly have to be a really bad spring for that to be considered, and probably would need to include an injury as the primary reason.
What do you think about making another run and trading for Matt Garza from the Cubs?
-- Paul F., Fort Worth
Why? First of all, he has two years of arbitration left, so you could be looking at a $16 million-plus investment. The Rangers have a set rotation and it is hard to see Garza being that much of an improvement over what they have to justify the prospects that it might cost to get him. He is talented, but doesn't seem to be a front-of-the-rotation difference-maker.
Do you think Washington will ever trust reliever Koji Uehara?
-- James B., Plano, Texas
Uehara will get a chance to pitch next season. At that point, it's a matter of getting people out and earning that trust. I never met a manager yet that did not ride a hot hand out of the bullpen. Uehara did pitch well in Baltimore.
Why don't the Rangers try getting a weak lefty starting pitcher like Zach Duke and try to make him a reliever? They have been successful doing the reverse.
-- Vinay J., Bangalore, India
Not a bad idea. Duke did spend the second half of last season in the D-backs' bullpen and had a 3.86 ERA as a reliever. He'll probably look for a job as a starter, but there are a number of veteran left-handed pitchers who successfully prolonged their career by switching from the rotation to the bullpen. Darren Oliver, Greg Swindell and Rick Honeycutt are three names that might be familiar.
Why did Texas not give permission to Feliz and Alexi Ogando to play Winter Ball? I think playing there will help them gain experience and strength for next season.
-- Willvin G., Dominican Republic
Because they both just finished a grueling seven-month season and don't need work, strength or experience. They both need rest. Both will get plenty of innings next season. It's hard to see how 25 innings this winter is going to help either one.
Will the Rangers extend some of their own players this offseason? Hamilton? Elvis Andrus?
-- Alex M., Carrollton, Texas
That is their intention. Hamilton will certainly be a high priority because he can be a free agent after next season. That's going to be a tough sign because both sides have to reconcile his tremendous talent and irreplaceable production against his history of injuries. Length of contract is usually a bigger obstacle than average salary in these matters, and if Hamilton is looking for a five-to-seven-year deal, that could make it tough. He turns 31 in May. The Rangers may seek a deal that gives them some sort of protection against injury, possibly an opt-out clause if he spends excessive time on the disabled list.
I am 6 years old and the Rangers are the best! Can you get pictures of the mascot if I write him a letter?
-- Sammy B., Surprise, Ariz.
The Rangers Captain has his own page where you can get all sorts of neat stuff, including photos.
Juan Pierre is my favorite player in baseball. Do you think it's possible that the Rangers could/would sign him?
-- Jake N., Bonham, Texas
Pierre has not played center field regularly since 2007, so he would probably not fit for the Rangers. If the Rangers add an outfielder this winter, he will almost assuredly have to be able to play center field.
How about Ogando and Cruz to the Giants for Brandon Belt and Matt Cain?
-- John E., Lewisville, Texas
No thank you. Cain makes $15 million next season and then can be a free agent. Ogando can't be a free agent for five more years and could be as good or better than Cain. Always remember: service time and contract status are huge in these matters. Cruz for Belt? The Rangers aren't rebuilding and Cruz is two years away from free agency.
I don't think James Loney is a fit for most teams at first base because of his lack of power, but he is a good line-drive hitter who drives in a lot of runs and would be a rather inexpensive, great fit in the Texas lineup. Any chance?
-- Kreg A., Bella Vista, Calif.
He can be a free agent after next season. Why give up prospects for an expensive player who may not be any better than Mitch Moreland.
Nathan just signed with the Rangers for two years plus an option. The Twins did not offer him a contract but paid him a $2 million buyout. Does he get to keep both the $2 million buyout money and the $7.5 million from the Rangers for 2012?
-- Bill D. Euless, Texas
Yes. Good work if you can get it, but that was the cost for the Twins to have the invaluable club option.
At Busch Stadium in the World Series, when the Rangers needed a deep bench the most, it failed them. With year-long Interleague Play looming in the near future, will the Rangers be looking to upgrade their bench, and what would be their logical targets?
-- James A., Plano, Texas
The Rangers are still only going to play nine games in National League parks in Interleague Play at the most, so that is not going to be a big consideration. Since they are committed to a seven-man bullpen, that leaves four spots on the bench. They will need a backup catcher -- Yorvit Torrealba -- and a utility infielder who can play shortstop. David Murphy will also fill one spot, and the other will likely go to another outfielder who can play center field.
What is outfielder Joey Butler's future with the Rangers? He hit .322 at Triple-A last season and he is only 25 years old.
-- Rick L., Plano, Texas
Butler was a 15th-round pick in 2008 out of the University of New Orleans who certainly had a nice season at Round Rock and is now playing in Venezuela. A big year at Round Rock could certainly gain people's attention, but here is the biggest red flag: he struck out 138 times, with 43 walks in just 426 at-bats. He needs to address that.
What are the chances the Rangers sign Mark DeRosa this offseason as a utility infielder/Andres Blanco replacement?
-- Ben P., Claremont, Calif.
He doesn't play shortstop. It's not any more complicated than that. He hasn't started a game at shortstop since 2006. The Rangers' prime requisite for a utility infielder is being able to play shortstop.
You made a joke of it last year when I wrote in complaining about the Astros and Rangers in the same league. Now it's the same division! If it's such a great idea, put the Yankees and Mets in the same division. The White Sox and Cubs. The Dodgers and Angels. The Giants and A's. This stinks. Still, these teams are in different leagues, so they can face off in the World Series potentially. This is a bad idea, and as a fan of both teams, I don't like it at all.
-- Michael B., Plano, Texas
A rematch of that 1906 World Series between the Cubs and the White Sox has great potential.