Joey is dead right now - at least that's what he tells me - so here is content from not Joey for you to chew on.
What about center field?
Obviously, a Josh Hamilton replacement does not exist and it would be silly to expect the Rangers to succeed in -- or even attempt -- replacing Hamilton with a close approximation of him. Things are going to be much different and in my mind, how the Rangers decide to fill the void in center field will dictate, more than anything else, how the roster shapes up and what other moves must be made to give the lineup an adequate balance of defensive prowess and offensive punch.
They could stay in house and go with a budget-friendly platoon of Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin (who hit .394 with a 1.141 OPS against RHP for Round Rock in 2012). Among the downsides to going in this direction is that the duo would almost certainly spend the season hitting at the bottom of the order and leave Ron Washington free to continue to pencil Ian Kinsler into the leadoff spot all year, which he indicated he has every intention of doing in 2013 during this week's disturbing post-mortem. I'll come back to this issue later.
Michael Bourn (30 years old), B.J. Upton (28), Torii Hunter (37), Shane Victorino (32) and Angel Pagan (31) are available on the free agent market while there is word that Jacoby Ellsbury (29) and Dexter Fowler (26) could be available in trade as Boston looks to overhaul their roster and Colorado is willing to part with their emerging star for starting pitching.
Going with Hunter, Victorino or Pagan would be a band aid and if you see the Rangers go with any of those three, you can be sure that they are convinced that Leonys Martin is a failed bit.
Fowler is an extremely toolsy guy who enjoyed a breakout season at age 26, but his defensive metrics are horrifying and Colorado has let it be known that he might could be had for reliable young pitching. Homer-prone Derek Holland is not likely to appeal to the Rockies and the ask will almost certainly be Matt Harrison and more (Leonys Martin and god knows what else). In spite of Fowler's enticing offensive possibilities, the cost of acquiring him and the liabilities he would present defensively would probably not make for a net gain.
If you set aside the fact that B.J. Upton's name is B.J. Upton, there really isn't much to like about him on paper. At age 28, Upton has regressed defensively every season of his six-year big league career and he appears to suffer from many of the same hacktastic tendencies at the plate that plagued the Rangers in 2012. While he has maintained impressive power numbers, he has done so, as Jeff Sullivan explains, while hacking away early and often. You'd like to think that you'd be buying low on him after his .246 / .298 / .454 season, but it just feels like there are plenty of people who continue to place an imaginary added value on Upton because he is B.J. Upton, which will cause him to cost a great deal more than he can be reasonably projected to be worth.
Michael Bourn was arguably the best defensive player in baseball in 2012 and acquiring him would bring the added value of forcing Ron Washington to remove Ian Kinsler from the leadoff spot but Bourn is now 30 years old and virtually 100% of his value is predicated on speed. There is zero reason to believe that Bourn will be able to reinvent himself as a hitter going forward by adding more power to offset what is likely to be a decline in his ability to run and as he enters his early 30's, you might see a career arc that looks like this.
Jacoby Ellsbury followed up a 2011 season at age 27 where he probably deserved to be the AL MVP with a train wreck of a 2012 season that began with a shoulder injury that caused him to miss three months and then basically went downhill from there. This is not the first time that Ellsbury has missed significant time because of injury and he will be a free agent after the 2013 season and his agent is you know who, so he'd be a one-and-done guy. Boston is known to have interest in Derek Holland and a discussion between Ben Cherington and Jon Daniels about Ellsbury and Holland could (almost certainly would) grow into something much different.
Breaking #Leadership Analysis:
If your value is predicated on the theory that your leadership is the only thing holding the clubhouse together and your absence would cause the room to turn into something that looks like this, and then the room falls apart anyway after you held the lineup hostage for four months, forcing them to drag you around like an anchor and slowly but surely sapping the life force out of the lineup, then you don't have any value.
I have argued with friends that there are only three players in the Rangers organization eligible to be traded (and not currently injured, such as Colby or Nefti) who will not, under any circumstances, be traded this winter: Jurickson Profar, Yu Darvish and Michael Young.
The first two are obvious and third is simply because Michael Young drags around the most untradable contract in baseball. Even if the Rangers eat $10 million or so of the $16 million owed to Young next season, I can't identify the GM who has both the job security and complete lack of sense to trade for a guy who is now a bench bat against LOOGYs yet thinks he is entitled to 600 plate appearances a year.
Moreover, Young has complete veto power over any trade as a 10 & 5 guy, and even he has to know that this is the only place where he can bully himself into the lineup five times a week. It would be helpful if the Rangers let Young know that his pursuit of 3000 hits (I know...but you know that HE thinks he can get there) will take a serious hit by staying here in 2013, but 2012 told him just the opposite. No matter how bad he is or for how long he is bad, he is going to get his chances here becasue the manager is afraid to pull the plug on him.
The Elvis-Ian-Jurickson conundrum:
Even before the 2012 season, I was firmly on board with the notion that the time to trade Elvis Andrus would be prior to the 2013 season but now I have serious reservations. After a year in which there were so many regressions and very few performances that demonstrated a marked improvement, trading away the most improved everyday guy on the roster can't be a good thing psychologically for the organization.
Yes, I believe that Profar is ready to step in. No I don't agree with my friend Evan Grant's theory that the Rangers should break him in as a super utility guy. And no, I do not see moving Ian Kinsler to the outfield as a viable solution. A guy whose biggest problem seems to be a lack of concentration isn't likely to concentrate better standing around in left field waiting for something to happen at a position he has never played before.
For me, it comes down to this, more than anything else: can the Rangers sign Andrus to a long-term deal or spin him (plus more) into an ace?
Kershaw, King Felix, Weaver, Verlander and David Price are your aces in the game right now. Gio is close, Strasburg is close and Darvish is going to be one soon. Verlander, Weaver, Gio and Strasburg are obviously not available under any circumstances. I fully expect the Dodgers to dump whatever money they have left this winter to make sure Clayton Kershaw never wears another color than Dodger Blue.
That leaves King Felix and Price. There is no more precious commodity in baseball than an ace and to go into a season with the opportunity to have two of them in one rotation would certainly offset any damage done by the loss of Andrus, especially in light of what sits behind him.
Because it is all but certain that Andrus will hit the free agent market after the 2014 season, the market for him is probably limited to clubs for which Andrus would represent a sizable improvement at short, who aren't already married to someone at the position even if Andrus would represent a sizable improvement, and who realistically think that they are title contenders over the next two seasons. As far as I can tell, the two teams that fit the bill are St. Louis - who probably won't get a declining Rafael Furcal back next year as he rehabs after Tommy John surgery - and Tampa, which is rolling out shortstop Ben Zobrist, who they can plug in at any position on the field.
The best case scenario is probably landing David Price for Andrus, Martin Perez and another, lesser piece. Seattle claims that they have no intention of dealing Hernandez and St. Louis might lose Kyle Lohse in free agency, thus they will be very reluctant to deal a Lance Lynn or even young Shelby Miller, either of whom would be viable candidates in an Andrus deal and both of whom would certainly hold substaintial interest for the Rangers.
With respect to Kinsler, I can't help but think that trading him now would be selling low and given his profound home / road splits (.293 / .361 / .525 / .885 home vs. .220 / .290 / .321 / .611 road), it is highly unlikely that there is a GM out there that will be willing to take the risk that the home splits that keep Kinsler from being a sub-replacement level player will translate to any other home park. Carrying with him a contract through 2017 with an AAV of $15 million, the Rangers would likely be asked to send a reasonably substantial amount of cash along with him before anybody would give up a useful player for Kinsler and I don't see Texas paying Kinsler to dress for someone else or trading him away in what amounts to a salary dump.