No one likes to think about these things in the middle of a pennant race, but the Rangers might be in need of a starter next season.
C.J. Wilson is a free agent when the year concludes and he figures to be at the top of the list for any team interested in adding a frontline starter to their rotation next season. The Rangers will likely make a play to keep him, but if they can't their replacement might come from a long way away.
Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com wrote an interesting column predicting that Yu Darvish, the best pitcher in Japan, will become a member of the Rangers. He's not sure if it will happen in time for the 2012 season, but Morosi believes Darvish will be put up in the posting system available to Japanese teams which allows MLB clubs to bid on the chance to negotiate a contract with one of their players.
Morosi's reasoning includes the possibility of a Wilson departure but goes deeper. The Rangers bid on Daisuke Matsuzaka and other Japanese imports, Jon Daniels has scouted him and their front office has several ties to players from the Pacific Rim.
There's more along those lines. The Rangers currently have two Japanese pitchers in their bullpen (from the same high school to boot) and Yoshi Tateyama has nothing but positive things to say to Morosi about his experience with the team. There's also Colby Lewis, whose presence and success show that the team knows what to look for when scouting pitchers in Japan.
There's one final interesting point about the team's struggles to attract and keep free agent pitchers because of the hitter-friendly environment in Arlington. Darvish wouldn't have a chance to play for anyone else in the U.S. but the Rangers if they won his rights, something that gives the Rangers a way to work around it.
It's all intriguing stuff, but there's something to be gained from this even if Darvish never throws an inning for the Rangers or if he turns out to be a Matsuzaka-size disappointment. Morosi wouldn't even think about the Rangers unless he thought there was a chance they'd pay what promises to be a healthy fee for Darvish's rights. Given what we've seen from the team in the Latin American market, including center fielder-in-waiting Leonys Martin, there's every reason to believe they'll be players.
The change in ownership last year has brought with it an entirely new approach to team building. Whether through the amateur draft, free agency, trades or the international market, the Rangers are spending money to get the players that they want and building a foundation for lasting success.
You can't buy yourself a pennant, but you can buy yourself an annual chance to be in contention for one. It looks like the Rangers have moved up into the tier of teams willing and able to do that. After so many years on the wrong side of baseball's money line, that's cause for a lot of confidence about the team in the years to come.