Rangers resourceful in busy Meetings

Rangers resourceful in busy Meetings

INDIANAPOLIS -- As the Rangers made their exit Thursday morning from the Winter Meetings, one club official had a smile on his face.

"We didn't do too badly for having no money," he beamed.

They certainly were busy, far more than anybody expected for a team that is up for sale and working with a strict, limited budget. The Rangers were expecting to be dormant during their five days in Indianapolis.

Turns out they were one of the busiest teams here, walking away with pitchers Rich Harden, Chris Ray and Benjamin Snyder, and putting themselves on the verge of acquiring infielder Mike Lowell in a trade with the Red Sox.

The Rangers are still looking for a utility infielder and they still want to address their catching situation. But they couldn't help feel good about their work in Indianapolis, given their severe financial constraints.

"We spent a lot of time evaluating our options against the backdrop of what we had to spend and the goals of the club," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Thursday morning. "We're a better ballclub today than we were when we got here."

The Rangers did give up No. 1 starter Kevin Millwood in a deal with the Orioles that brought back Ray, a hard-throwing right-handed reliever, and Snyder, a left-handed setup candidate who was taken by Baltimore in the Rule 5 Draft out of the pitching-rich Giants organization.

Millwood was supposed to be the Rangers' Opening Day pitcher, but Harden will take his spot in the rotation. Harden is a hard-throwing right-hander who could be one of the premier talents in the game if he can stay healthy.

Harden joins 17-game winner Scott Feldman at the head of the rotation. Unless the Rangers do something else this winter, the other three spots will be filled from a group that includes left-handers Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, and right-handers Tommy Hunter, Brandon McCarthy, Dustin Nippert, Guillermo Moscoso and Doug Mathis.

The Rangers will also consider the possibility of moving right-hander Neftali Feliz and left-hander C.J. Wilson to the rotation, although one of their main goals is to have the best possible bullpen.

Frank Francisco remains the closer. Ray had Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery on Aug. 16, 2007, but if he can come to Spring Training at full strength, then he can join Francisco, Wilson and Feliz in giving Texas four power arms at the back end of the bullpen.

They also have side-arming right-hander Darren O'Day, whose 1.94 ERA was the fourth lowest among American League pitchers with at least 50 innings.

That would leave two spots open in the bullpen with candidates coming from those who don't make the starting rotation. The Rangers would like at least one more left-hander and one possibility is Snyder, who held left-handed hitters to a .146 average at Double-A Frisco in 2009.

The Rangers still need help at catcher and outfield, and they are still looking for a utility infielder. But they are satisfying their need for a right-handed bat by acquiring Lowell from the Red Sox. The 2007 World Series Most Valuable Player, Lowell will serve as a backup at third and first, and could end up as their primary designated hitter.

Lowell would replace Marlon Byrd in the lineup. The Rangers had hopes of re-signing Byrd, but they appear to have faded from view in Indianapolis. Instead Texas plans on an outfield of Josh Hamilton in left, Julio Borbon in center and Nelson Cruz in right. David Murphy will be around to spell all three as well as share time with Lowell at DH.

The Rangers still want a utility infielder but they also know they have a set infield of Michael Young at third, Elvis Andrus at short, Ian Kinsler at second and Chris Davis at first.

For a team that was supposed to be quiet, the Rangers have quickly figured out what their team is going to look like in 2010.

Deals done: The Rangers traded Millwood to the Orioles for Ray and a player to be named later. They signed free agent pitcher Harden. They also acquired left-handed reliever Clay Rapada from the Tigers. A deal for Lowell remains on the table.

Rule 5 activity: Texas picked up left-hander Snyder from the San Francisco organization. The Orioles actually made the pick and sent him to the Rangers as the player to be named later in the Millwood trade. Texas lost one player in the Triple-A phase when Oakland drafted pitcher Beau Vaughn off the Double-A roster.

Goals accomplished: The Rangers reinforced their pitching staff with the addition of three pitchers and may have achieved their goal of finding a right-handed hitter if they can acquire Lowell.

Unfinished business: Texas needs catching help because of the uncertainty surrounding Jarrod Saltalamacchia's surgically-repaired shoulder. It investigated the free-agent market and found most front-line catchers are getting two-year deals. The Rangers aren't interested in going there.

GM's bottom line: "We had our marching orders from Day 1, we had a budget, we had a plan and we executed it." -- Daniels

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