Daniels wants more, won't sacrifice depth

Rangers don't want to sacrifice depth

SEATTLE -- The Rangers finished in second place in the American League West and put together their first winning record in five seasons because of their depth.

With the exception of Scott Feldman, the Rangers didn't have any players who enjoyed a career year or a particularly magical season. They also had more than their share of injuries and setbacks.

Their depth is what got them through it all and general manager Jon Daniels believes maintaining and building on that depth is most important as he prepares the offseason and starts trying to figure out how to make the Rangers better.

"In general we had a very good year," Daniels said before the Rangers' final game with the Mariners on Sunday afternoon. We didn't finish it the way we had hoped, but now the challenge is how to build on those positives. We probably need another 7-10 wins to get into postseason and recent history shows you're not entitled to them. The last hurdle is the toughest one.

"We need to improve across the board and we expect a lot of the improvement to come from within, including from me and my staff."

Daniels will meet with club president Nolan Ryan and owner Tom Hicks this week. The Rangers have not set a payroll budget yet, but it's not likely go up from the 2009 level of approximately $68 million. The Rangers will shed $20 million of that when Vicente Padilla, Frank Catalanotto and Hank Blalock come off the books. Some of that will be eaten up in raises for current players, including as many as eight who are eligible for arbitration.

The Rangers have interest in re-signing Marlon Byrd and Ivan Rodriguez but otherwise are unlikely to be heavy players in the free-agent market. Daniels said to this point the potential sale of the club has not impeded his decision-making, but it's still unlikely that the Rangers will have a lot of money to spend until that process is completed.

"I'm going to sit down with Tom this week and get a better sense of that," Daniels said. "Regardless of what that process is, we will have a budget and a plan and we will execute it."

The pursuit of pitching usually dominates the Rangers offseason. This time they may have to give equal time to the offense.

"The offense I expect to be better," Daniels said. "The key question with Marlon is whether we'll be able to re-sign him. That goes hand-in-hand with any other potential additions."

The Rangers will consider upgrading the rotation. But there's no doubt that the biggest addition to the rotation next season could be Neftali Feliz. The Rangers are fully committed to giving their 21-year-old prized rookie a chance to win a spot in the rotation.

He'll be competing against a crowded field. Manager Ron Washington has already named Kevin Millwood as his Opening Day starter and Scott Feldman will be his No. 2 guy. From there, the Rangers will choose from a group that includes Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Dustin Nippert, Brandon McCarthy, Matt Harrison, Guillermo Moscoso and Feliz.

The Rangers are also talking about the possibility of C.J. Wilson moving to the rotation. Daniels, Washington and Mike Maddux discussed that with Wilson in a pregame meeting Sunday, although it's more likely that the left-hander would be needed more in the bullpen.

"We've got a lot of depth in our rotation," Daniels said. "The question becomes: Are there ways to upgrade, but I think there is a contentment with the number of quality internal candidates.

"You can always improve the bullpen. You always have to re-invent your bullpen every year to some degree. Very rarely do successful bullpens stay intact and produce at the same level. But we have some key anchors coming back."

The Rangers have extra pitching and some depth in the outfield. They could put together a package in an attempt to acquire an impact player through a trade. They did that last month on the Minor League level when they traded catcher Manny Pina and outfielder Tim Smith to the Royals for pitcher Danny Gutierrez, who has a chance to be a No. 3 starter.

That's the kind of trade the Rangers could consider at the Major League level, possibly one of their starting candidates and an outfielder for a starting pitcher or middle-of-lineup power bat. But Daniels is very cautious about tampering too much with their depth.

"One of our biggest strengths this year was our depth," Daniels said. "We have a lot to evaluate, but I always want to maintain the highest level of depth. It protects you against injury, it creates competition and it gives the manager flexibility. I would not want to go into a season without that depth. But that's not to say we won't have decisions to make in the offseason."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.