What’s next for the Texas Rangers?

There is only one problem with winning. After you do it for a while people expect you to keep doing it, but when you don’t—uh oh!

After making it to the World Series for the last two seasons the Texas Rangers fully expected to make it back this season, but poor play killed the team’s chances down the stretch. On the last day of the regular the team lost its hold on the AL West, which it had led for most of the season.

Two days later they faced a red-hot Baltimore Orioles team in the wild card game, but instead of stepping up their game they slipped right on out of the playoffs with a 5-1 loss.

"We just didn't get it done," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "It came down to being able to execute against good pitching, and it wasn't the base hits or anything like that, it was just the fundamentals that we just -- we tried and we just couldn't get it done."

With the 2012 season now officially done the question now is—what’s next?

First on the agenda will be addressing the future of the unrestricted free agents. After losing C.J. Wilson last season and having a hard time keeping pitchers healthy this season will likely make the team think twice before they let anyone walk away this off-season.

Much of the talk prior to the season was on slugger Josh Hamilton’s contract; something that will likely become a topic of conversation for Rangers fans everywhere pretty soon. All season long the team did not hesitate to be critical of Hamilton when he struggled. However, even though he did struggle at times he still finished second in the American League in RBIs and home runs.

His personal issues will likely come into play as well. The incident last summer where he had a few drinks gave the team reason for pause then and will now. Will he lapse again and next time will it be during the season?

Hamilton’s struggles with addiction are well-known, as is his rise from the ashes to become one of the best hitters in baseball even though he still has trouble with addiction. His attempt to quit using chewing tobacco was credited with causing one of his slumps during the season.

Other unrestricted free agents include, Roy Oswalt, Mike Adams, Ryan Dempster, Mark Lowe, Mike Napoli, and Yorbit Torrealba.

It will be surprising to see Roy Oswalt come back rafter playing so poorly that the team sent the career starter to the bullpen, a move he was clearly unhappy with. The team is pretty unhappy with the 5.80 ERA that he posted in 17 appearances too. Ryan Dempster didn’t do much better with a 5.08 ERA.

Both pitchers are 35—not exactly young. Oswalt will be the easier decision; poor play matched with injury issues will make it easy to let him go. Dempster will not be as easy. Can he get back to the form he showed in Chicago prior to the trade. In 16 games for the Cubs he had earned a 2.25 ERA, a far cry from the 5.08 he had the rest of the way with Texas.

Pitching will definitely be what the team needs to address in the off-season. An argument could be made that the pitching would have been better had they been hit by injuries as bad as they were. Then again, a team is only as good as its reserves, and this season the Rangers pitching reserves were not that good.

There are plenty of moves to be made and not made in the coming months with a lot of uncertainty surrounding many of them. However, there is one thing that is clear—since the team is out of the playoffs it can start addressing those issues now.
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