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Uncertain offseason awaits after Ryan's departure

Uncertain offseason awaits after Ryan's departure

Uncertain offseason awaits after Ryan's departure

So, what now?

Nolan Ryan is leaving the Rangers at the end of the month -- either by resigning or retiring, depending on the viewpoint and semantics. Either way, his departure leaves Ray Davis as the principal owner in contact with Major League Baseball, Jon Daniels in complete control of baseball operations and Rob Matwick overseeing the business side of the franchise. John Blake, the vice president of communications, also wields a significant voice in the day-to-day operations of the franchise.

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Debate over Ryan's departure is unlikely to subside anytime soon, but tickets and sponsorships will continue to be sold, press releases will still be cranked out and the bills will still be paid as the Rangers move inevitably toward a March 31 date with the Phillies.

Yes, there will be baseball in Arlington in 2014 without Ryan, and eventually chatter must give way to the real business of putting together a championship team on the field.

Ryan announced he was leaving on Thursday, but that was also the day MLB.com reported that Cuban first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu is expected to sign with the White Sox. While the Rangers were dealing with the public departure of their CEO, they were also scratching off one name from their offseason wish list.

Abreu was a player the Rangers strongly considered as they attempt to rebuild an offense that put up some of the worst numbers seen in one season since the Ballpark in Arlington opened in 1994.

So, the Rangers are back to rounding up the usual suspects. They are prepared to make a $14.1 million qualifying offer to free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, but they also know that he is likely to be one of the most coveted power bats of the winter.

The Rangers will consider all available bats in the outfield, at designated hitter and possibly at first base, although the organization still believes Mitch Moreland can be an impact bat. If Cruz doesn't come back, the Rangers will look hard at an outfielder, with Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Curtis Granderson among the names they will consider. David Murphy is likely to move on, but Craig Gentry is still in the mix as at least the fourth outfielder.

The Rangers are also high on free-agent catcher Brian McCann, but they also know he will be coveted by multiple teams. McCann could be the one free agent that tests the Rangers' concerns about getting involved in a "big-ticket" free agent.

Offense appears to be a greater priority for the Rangers than pitching. But Texas will have to address one crucial spot because they are expecting closer Joe Nathan to exercise his right to void a $9 million option for 2014 and instead become a free agent.

The Rangers have sent Neftali Feliz to winter ball to work as a reliever, and there is a possibility he could work his way back into the closer role he filled during two trips to the World Series in 2010-11. Joakim Soria and Tanner Scheppers are also candidates.

Alexi Ogando has been mentioned as a candidate for that spot, but the Rangers are planning on him coming to Spring Training as a starter. He would join a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Martin Perez and Matt Harrison, who is expected to be at full strength in Spring Training after missing almost all of 2013.

The appearance of a set rotation does not preclude the possibility of the Rangers trying to upgrade. They will almost certainly be in touch with the Rays if Tampa Bay decides to trade pitcher David Price, who can be a free agent after 2015. But the Rangers also know that infielder Jurickson Profar would only be a conversation starter, and it would take much more than that to land Price if the Rays do trade the ace left-hander.

The Rangers' offseason won't really take off until after the World Series, when players officially become free agents. The General Manager Meetings, where major trade discussions often get started, are scheduled for Nov. 11-13 in Orlando.

The Rangers still have some housekeeping to do, including setting manager Ron Washington's coaching staff. There are two openings on the staff right now, and there could be a third, as bullpen coach Andy Hawkins is going to interview for the Orioles' pitching coach job.

The Rangers are looking for a bench coach and a first-base coach. They have interviewed Double-A manager Steve Buechele as well as Tim Bogar and Jamie Quirk. Both have experience as a Major League bench coach.

These are all decisions that had to be made whether Ryan stayed with the franchise or moved back to his ranch. Certainly there are financial considerations that will involve ownership, and Ryan was always instrumental in those discussions.

If McCann is looking for a $100 million contract to catch for someone, or if Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is posted to come to the United States, somebody within the ownership group will have a significant voice in baseball matters. Remember it was co-owner Bob Simpson who established the final bid that eventually won the posting rights to Darvish.

But what's next for the Rangers is what has always been next, and that's the business of putting together a team that can compete for a division title and more in 2014.

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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