Texas Rangers Eyeing Outfield Help With Josh Hamilton Hobbling As Training Camp Opens

The Texas Rangers had a relatively quiet offseason after going 88-74 last year and winning the AL West for the first time in four seasons. The Rangers did acquire a pair of outfielders in Justin Ruggiano and James Jones during the offseason, which is a big help since Josh Hamilton is struggling with inflammation in his left knee according to MLB’s T.R. Sullivan.

Sullivan reported that Hamilton, who arrived early for Rangers’ training camp in Surprise, Arizona, this week, is still having issues with his surgically repaired knee and there has been discomfort lingering in the knee for long stretches of the offseason.

Hamilton had two surgeries last season, the first surgery occurred on Sept. 11 to clean out the meniscus in the knee and he missed a week but re-aggravated the injury when he ran into the wall making a catch in the final week of the season. He underwent surgery after the Rangers lost to Toronto in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Hamilton struggled all season long last year, hitting .253 with eight home runs and 25 runs batted in while striking out 52 times in 50 games. The 34-year-old has been on the decline since 2012 when he hit 43 home runs in 148 games with the Rangers.

Sullivan said that the Rangers plan on being careful with Hamilton, who also seems to believe that is the best route to go.

“I want to be careful too,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t have a spring last year. I want to use this spring to the best of my ability to get ready when it counts. Hate to say it, but I have had 15 surgeries in my career.”

With Hamilton taking it easy this spring, the Rangers will need to find a left fielder. They do have a plethora of options including Ruggiano, Jones, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo, and recently signed Ike Davis.

Ruggiano hit .257 with six homers and 15 runs batted in 57 games with Seattle and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 33-year old can play all three outfield positions and gives the Rangers a right-handed bat that hits lefties well.

[photo by Dennis Poroy/Getty Images]
Jones was acquired in a trade along with right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen from Seattle. The 27-year-old possesses good speed and hits left-handed, though he has yet to hit at the major league level.

Rua, 25, struggled last season in 83 plate appearances, hitting .193 with four homers and 32 strikeouts. Gallo is the Rangers’ top prospect but is expected to see a lot of time at third base this year. The 22-year-old saw action in 36 games and hit .204 with six homers. Davis, 29, is a left-handed power-hitter who feasts on right-handed pitching, however, he has only played a few games in the outfield in his career.

Top Prospects Lewis Brinson, Nomar Mazara, Patrick Kivlehan, and Ryan Cordell also will be in camp and could impress enough to earn a spot on the 25-man roster. Delino Deshield is expected to man center field and Shin-Soo Choo will likely start in right.

Still, Fox Sports is reporting that the Rangers are keeping an eye out on the market for the possibility of adding depth through a trade or free agency, as Texas used 12 starting left fielders last year, per STATS LLC. While no deals are close, there are a few options that could be available that jump out like Alejandro De Aza. De Aza just signed with the Mets this offseason, for one-year contract, worth $5.75 million, but that was before the Mets re-signed Yoenix Cespedes. A couple of other options include free agents David Murphy, Matt Joyce, and Will Venable. Murphy and Venble have played for the Rangers previously, with Venable being part of the team just last season.

[photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images]
Texas officially opens spring training on February 24 though pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report tomorrow.

[photo by LM Otero/Associated Press]