Saturday afternoon when news broke that Lance Berkman had agreed to a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers the emotional spectrum was far and wide across the fan base. Many recall the damage that Berkman did to the Rangers in the 2011 World Series and some recalled his comments during the 2010 off-season. Those same reports also suggested that he would be the primary DH in the 2013 campaign, filling, in my opinion, the final need in the Rangers off-season plans from an offensive standpoint. But, when you look at the defensive situation, things aren’t quite as clear. While I’m sure there will be other things written on this website and other blog related sites outlining the highs and lows of Berkman’s career and what he can or can’t do for this team, my focus is on the other people affected most by Saturday’s news: David Murphy and Jurickson Profar.
The outfield as it stands today will be a combination of David Murphy, Craig Gentry, Leonys Martin, and Nelson Cruz. While that may not be as sexy as our outfield’s of past, it is serviceable and can function now that Berkman can provide a middle of the order bat. If the Rangers decide that they need more help here, then you have three options: sign an available free agent (Bourn), make a trade (Upton, Kubel), or move Kinsler to the outfield. By moving Kinsler out there you have solidified him as an everyday outfielder. Ian Kinsler will not split time with someone this year and have his at-bats decreased, so the most logical full-time outfield position for him appears to be left. It seems like the easiest option for him considering his arm strength, but where do you move Murphy? He can’t be a duo with Cruz in right field for the same reasons he can’t with Kinsler. Nelson Cruz will get his at bats this year, and moving Cruz’s contract will be challenging (10.5 mm in 2013). Your best defensive option is Martin/Gentry sharing time in centerfield and that makes a lot of sense from a contract and defensive standpoint. Not every position on the field has to have a plus hit tool guy and the Martin/Gentry duo will add value at their position while providing some bench depth. After this exhausting look at the outfield situation for next year, there is only one known and that is Murphy is without a position if they move Kinsler to the outfield. The Rangers could look to move Murphy as part of a trade package bringing in one of the big bats in Arizona (not likely) or they decide that Murphy deserves a shot to be the everyday left fielder (despite his horrid splits versus lefties).
The option that I think the Rangers will go with (which means they will probably do the opposite) is to keep Murphy in left, Kinsler stays at second, which sends Profar back to Round Rock to start the season. Mike Olt will get some looks as an outfielder in the spring to play some versus the lefties (despite Olt’s questionable routes as an OF). If the Rangers go get another outfielder then the situation is the same with the new acquisition in left and Kinsler staying at second. Jurickson Profar’s easiest route to Arlington this year was with Kinsler moving to play first base or the outfield on a full time basis. Obviously, if Profar has a great spring he will force the Rangers to alter their plans (Robbie Ross 2012) and go with the youngster earlier than anticipated. But, in all likelihood all signs point to Jurickson Profar heading to Round Rock in 2013. Lance Berkman gives Ron Washington a full-time DH/part time first baseman with Pierzynski getting any remaining scraps at DH. Injuries and other unforeseen situations can always alter the best of plans, but regardless of what happens here on out the lineup is game ready for 2013.
Starting Lineup: (not batting order)
_______ (utility IF or another arm in the bullpen - not for Profar)
Jeff Johnson is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Jeff.Johnson@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @Houstonhog