Is there a free-agent starting pitcher who would be a good fit for the Rangers and can fill in until Derek Holland is healthy?
-- Herb B., Houston
Most of the guys left on the market are 30-something veterans who have had roller-coaster careers. One guy who seems intriguing is right-hander Tommy Hanson, who had a bad year for the Angels last season while dealing with some physical problems and was non-tendered in December. But he is just 27 and was very good for the Braves in 2009-11. Depending on what the latest scouting reports say, that seems to be the kind of pitcher who might be worth signing to an incentive-laden contract.
Everybody is talking about what the Rangers are going to do with Holland on the disabled list. Why does nobody mention Colby Lewis? He seems to be the forgotten man.
-- Adam B., Kansas City
The Rangers will never forget what Lewis did for them during the World Series years, which is why he is coming to camp on a Minor League contract. But he is 34, he is coming off two major surgeries on his right hip and flexor tendon and hasn't pitched in the big leagues since July 18, 2012. The Rangers are getting good reports on Lewis' rehab work, but it's hard to count on a pitcher his age who has been through so much. If the Rangers were sure Lewis was completely over his physical problems, they wouldn't be looking for starting pitching depth. That's a tough assumption to make.
What's the latest on the Rangers' plan for backup corner infielder? It needs to be a right-handed bat. Jeff Baker, Michael Young and Justin Turner are the only plausible free agents left.
-- Trog B., Waco, Texas
The Rangers certainly could use one more right-handed bat, and it does seem curious they have not re-signed Baker, who is still looking for a job. Here is a theory: the Rangers are putting off signing that coveted right-handed bat until Nelson Cruz signs somewhere. They may be holding out for the possibility of Cruz returning to Texas on a one-year contract.
Why does nobody every pay attention to right-handed reliever Lisalverto Bonilla when they talk about prospects? He has very solid numbers in the Minors, and looks like he is better than a lot of prospects getting recognition.
-- Mark T., Bryan, Texas
The Rangers were certainly paying attention when Bonilla had a 0.30 ERA, a 0.824 WHIP and 14.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 21 games at Double-A Frisco last year. They promoted him to Triple-A Round Rock, where he had a 7.95 ERA and a 1.76 WHIP in 26 games. Bonilla still has some impressive career Minor League numbers, including 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings. He and Wilmer Font could end up being the pitchers that bounce back and forth from Triple-A all year, depending on the need at the Major League level.
Do the Rangers have any long-term plans for Rougned Odor, who is supposed to be a great prospect but appears blocked by the infielders at the Major League level? Is he a player who will be used in a July trade?
-- Harry L., Atlantic City, N.J.
Odor could end up being the Rangers' future starting second baseman. The Rangers are going to give Jurickson Profar every chance to win the job this season, and the team has high expectations for him. But Odor is right behind him if Profar isn't as good as the Rangers expect.
It seems as though all plans assume catcher Jorge Alfaro will be with the big league team in three years or less and be an instant starter/contributor. That could be a dangerous assumption; what makes Alfaro different?
-- Greg H., Amarillo, Texas
It is always dangerous to assume any player is a "can't-miss" prospect. About three to four years ago, the Rangers went on a binge as far as investing in young catchers, drafting Kellin Deglan in the first round and signing Alfaro, Tomas Telis and Jose Felix as highly regarded amateur free agents out of Latin America. Alfaro has emerged as the most talented and most successful of that group, so the Rangers have reasonably high hopes for him. But they have drafted a catcher in the top five rounds in each of the last two Drafts, plus they converted first baseman Brett Nicholas back to being a catcher. So they are not assuming anything, which is why they have stockpiled so many middle infielders as well.
Who is the non-roster player invited to Spring Training with the best chance to make some kind of an impact?
-- Sonny S., Mesquite, Texas
Left-handed pitcher Aaron Poreda probably won't have an immediate impact because he is coming off Tommy John surgery. He also hasn't pitched in the Major Leagues since 2009. But Poreda is a former No. 1 pick of the White Sox in 2007 and was once a highly regarded prospect who was a centerpiece in a trade for Jake Peavy. So the Rangers will attempt to recreate the same magic that brought Neal Cotts' career back to life.