ARLINGTON -- Shortly after announcing that the Rangers had signed pitcher Yu Darvish, general manager Jon Daniels was cornered off-stage and asked about the possibility of pursuing free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder. "After going through this process, I'm intimately familiar with our budget," Daniels said. "It's very unlikely." Said Rangers president Nolan Ryan, "We'll just have to see where things go the rest of the winter and see what our opportunities are. I'm not sure we can predict anything at this time."
The Rangers took what they felt was a major step in improving their ballclub when they signed Darvish on Wednesday. It's a move that will leave them with an Opening Day payroll of over $110 million, the highest in club history. Darvish's $60 million contract calls for a $5.5 million salary in 2012. But Fielder, who hit 38 home runs with 120 RBIs for the Brewers last year, remains unsigned. He and his agent, Scott Boras, met with the Rangers last week, and the possibility of adding Fielder to the Texas lineup remains intriguing, if not particularly affordable at this point. "I don't expect we'll do anything really big the rest of the winter," Daniels said. "But we'll get the next few days under our belt, welcome Yu to Texas and then take a step back and look at things." For now, the Rangers remain committed to first baseman Mitch Moreland, who is coming off wrist surgery after hitting .259 with 16 home runs and 51 RBIs in 134 games last year. Instead, the Rangers have been focused on pitching this winter, and they still want to reinforce their bullpen. They may have done that by signing Darvish. The Rangers now have six candidates for a five-man rotation. They have four returning starters in Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando, and they still plan on moving closer Neftali Feliz to the rotation. If everybody stays healthy, somebody will have to move to the bullpen. That will likely be Ogando, who pitched effectively as a setup reliever in 2010 before moving to the rotation last year. The Rangers just aren't ready to make a final decision on that. They may have a heart-to-heart chat with Ogando when Daniels and other club officials visit the Dominican Republic next week. But right now they aren't in any hurry to decide their 2012 starting rotation. "It's a great situation to be in," Daniels said. "By the end of Spring Training, we'll have a five-man rotation. We don't need to rush into anything. Some guys profile in the bullpen better than others, but let's get into Spring Training and get into our routine." Daniels acknowledged the Rangers might start receiving phone calls from clubs looking for starting pitching. The Rangers also have Scott Feldman, who was a 17-game winner for them in 2009 before being derailed by knee surgery. He pitched in relief at the end of last season. But Daniels said the Rangers won't be making any calls trying to shop one of their starters. "Our full intention is to go into Spring Training with depth in our rotation," Daniels said. "You're going to need more than five guys."
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.