By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The key acquisitions are pitcher Rich Harden and slugger Vladimir Guerrero. Both signed as free agents, and can—if healthy—carry this team to unprecedented heights.
Guerrero is no longer a 28-year-old Most Valuable Player, but still one of the sport's most dangerous and productive hitters. Though limited by injuries last season with the Angels, he managed 27 homers and 91 RBI. To save his weary knees, the Rangers will use him exclusively as designated hitter designed to add credibility and punch to a potentially alarming offense.
Don't be surprised if on Opening Day, April 4, the lineup features Julio Borbon in center field, Young at third, Josh Hamilton in left field, Guerrero the DH, Ian Kinsler at second base, Nelson Cruz in right field, Chris Davis at first base, Jarrod Saltalamacchia catching and Elvis Andrus at shortstop. It's a lineup with power, accented by speed and the ability to manufacture runs. It's also an offense led no longer by feast-or-famine hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, but newcomer Clint Hurdle.
"We're gonna hit, gonna score runs," Washington says. "I'm certain of that."
The good news: Texas' pitching may be even better.
Harden, signed as a free agent from the Cubs, will jostle with Scott Feldman for the No. 1 starter's role. Familiar face Colby Lewis returns from Japan to solidify a staff of young arms including Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Tommy Hunter.
And to think, the Rangers in spring training—pitchers and catchers report to Surprise, Arizona, February 18—will also give serious consideration to moving bullpen aces C.J. Wilson and Neftali Feliz to the rotation.
Says general manager Jon Daniels, "I think it's the best staff since I've been here."
Bottom line: These Rangers not only could get to the playoffs. They should.