Center cut. 19 comments

The Rangers outfield has a big hole in the middle.

Actually, if you look at how this lineup ended the season, there is a hole in the entire outfield. The left fielder, center fielder and right fielder in the playoffs are all heading to free agency.

Two of them could fill in that center field hole.

Carlos Gomez rose from the dead when the Rangers picked him up for peanuts after Houston dumped him. Almost immediately upon landing in Arlington, Gomez professed his love for the being on the Rangers. He loved his teammates, loved the organization, loved the experience, loved the fans.

But love is thicker than money only until the contract expires.

Now he’s a free agent.

Looking back, the Astros dumped Gomez because, frankly, he deserved to be dumped. He was hitting lousy, running lousy, and fielding lousy, and had a lousy disposition. In 85 mostly miserable games with Houston in 2016, Gomez, an alleged power hitter, slugged just five home runs and drove in just 29 runs, with a slash line that that most pitchers would laugh at: .210/.272/.322/.594.

In fact, by comparison, Giants’ pitcher Madison Bumgarner slash line in 2016 was .186/.268/.360/.629. He hit three home runs.

But when Gomez came to the Rangers, it was a different story: .284/.362/.543/.905.

Of course, there is a chance he will stay, but once a guy hits the open market, it’s doubtful.

Ian Desmond revitalized his career in a Texas uniform as well. He turned down a $107-million-contract and then a $17 million qualifying offer in order to, in his words, “bet on myself.” That is the kind of bet that built all those mammoth pay by phone casino in Vegas. That bet ended up landing him an $8 million contract here with Texas.

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His bet will probably pay off, though. He learned a valuable new position. And he pretty much carried the Rangers offensively the first half of the year. How much his second half disappearing act will hurt him remains to be seen. But it’s really hard to imagine him coming back as a Texas Ranger in 2017.

Same with Carlos Beltran, who was here only two months, performing admirably if not spectacularly.

So that leave the corners, manned by the numbers 4 and 5 outfielders on the Rangers post-season depth chart. Nomar Mazara in left who would be better in right. And Shin-Soo Choo in right who would be better in left.

In the Ballpark in Arlington era, the Rangers haven’t really been able to have a consistent center fielder other than Josh Hamilton between 2008 and 2012, which, maybe not co-incidentally, included the World Series years.

The one free agent out there who would seem to fit the Rangers plans perfectly, though, would be Dexter Fowler. For starters, he has the World Series glow still on him. Knowing how to win is an overlooked commodity.

He hits leadoff, a position the Rangers never quite figured out until Gomez came along. Fowler is coming off a year in which his on-base percentage was the highest of his career at .393. Elvis Andrus’s, in his career best season, was .362 same as Gomez’s with the Rangers. Beltre’s was .358. Choo’s best as a Ranger was .375 in 2015, and that came thanks to a torrid two-month period.

Fowler would seem to be a perfect fit. Yes, since he received a qualifying offer from the Cubs, he will come with a draft pick attached. But the Rangers get one for Desmond, so it’s a wash.

The Rangers outfield has some serious questions going into 2017. Does Nomar Mazara succumb to the sophomore jinx? Can Shin-Soo Choo play an entire season? Or even half a season? A month?

And, the biggest one of all, who will be standing in the middle?

Dexter Fowler would look awfully good out there

Of course, there’s always Delino DeShields.