Acquisitions: 3B Adrian Beltre, RHP Brandon Webb, C Yorvit Torrealba, C Mike Napoli, LHP Arthur Rhodes, RHP Dave Bush, C Kevin Cash, RHP Brett Tomko, RHP Seth McClung, IF Omar Quintanilla, C Robinzon Diaz, RHP Yhency Brazoban, IF Brian Barden, LHP Zach Jackson, 1B Brad Nelson, RHP Ty Taubenheim, IF Matt Kata

Losses: LHP Cliff Lee, OF Vlad Guerrero, IF Jorge Cantu, OF Jeff Francoeur, RHP Frank Francisco, C Bengie Molina (FA), IF Cristian Guzman (FA), C Max Ramirez, RHP Dustin Nippert, RHP Guillermo Moscoso

Projected Roster:
SS Elvis Andrus
2B Ian Kinsler
LF Josh Hamilton
3B Adrian Beltre
RF Nelson Cruz
DH Michael Young
1B Mitch Moreland
C Yorvit Torrealba
CF Julio Borbon

LHP CJ Wilson
RHP Colby Lewis
RHP Brandon Webb
RHP Tommy Hunter
LHP Derek Holland

CL RHP Neftali Feliz

The defending AL Champs took a big hit when Cliff Lee Lebron James-ed himself over to Philadelphia, but aside from that and the beaming smile of Jeff Francoeur, the Rangers remain pretty much intact.

Knowing full well that they wouldn’t be able to replace the production of Lee in the rotation with this year’s crop of available players, the Rangers looked to improve offensively and defensively. They signed Adrian Beltre who should hit well enough to replace the jettisoned Vlad Guerrero and also allows the team to field a superior defensive alignment, moving Michael Young to DH. Both newly acquired catchers, Yorvit Torrealba and Mike Napoli, are improvements over Bengie Molina. If Mitch Moreland, Elvis Andrus and Julio Borbon grow into solid big leaguers, the Rangers offense should be among the best in the American League once more.

Although the Rangers will certainly miss Lee on the mound, he wasn’t entirely indispensable during his time in Arlington. Despite the small sample size of 108 innings pitched in Texas, fact remains that Lee’s value to the Rangers during this span was less than expected (3.98 ERA).  Given the lack of many options, the team could have done worse than to sign Brandon Webb to an incentive-laden one-year deal. The 31 year-old sinkerballer hasn’t made a ML appearance in almost two years thanks to a shoulder injury, but the upside certainly exists. I honestly have no idea how a shoulder injury as severe as Webb’s will affect his bread and butter, but since the Rangers medical staff know far more about that than I ever will, I’ll have to assume that Webb still has a decent chance at being effective once more.

But Webb is not the only question mark in their rotation. Tommy Hunter in particular got away with a lot of tightrope walking in 2010. A .255 BABiP and 80.7% LOB masked his 4.78 K/9 (that’s Livan Hernandez territory). Hunter only induced a swing and a miss on 5.8% of pitches thrown last season, putting him near the bottom of the list in that category.  Unless Tommy can figure out how to miss more bats, he’s going to have a more difficult time finding success in 2011.

Overall, I have to give GM Jon Daniels credit. Even when Lee was gone, he didn’t do anything rash. When he realized that Michael Young’s best days were behind him, Daniels made an unpopular but, in my mind, correct decision. Even with their question marks in the rotation, the Rangers may now have the best defense in baseball with the addition of Beltre at third. And with an offense led by Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler, Texas is primed to win the division once more in 2011.

GRADE: B

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