This is not a real popular topic in Dallas right now, but are you comfortable with Josh Hamilton being the Rangers’ every day centerfielder? Which would in turn put David Murphy in left field?
Murphy is a solid outfielder and a decent enough hitter. He wont have the gaudy numbers that people seem so enamored with. He will, however, have a .280 average, hit with some power, and he will play every game as hard as he possibly can. He will also be the stable outfielder that this team seems to lack.
The Rangers shuffle outfielders more than any good team should. Either by necessity or lack of consistent play, they had five different players start in centerfield last season.
With the three centerfielders’ potentials being unable to secure down the spot, look for Hamilton to likely be the Opening Day centerfielder. Leonys Martin showed flashes of brilliance, but was inconsistent and was sent to the minor league camp earlier this week for further work. That left the job for either Craig Gentry or Julio Borbon, neither of whom have shown they deserve the spot.
Gentry has had some ailments this spring, including a bout of dehydration on Sunday which forced him to leave the game in the third inning. He is the best defensive option they have, but his inability to hit consistently and injury problems may have secured his spot as the “fifth” outfielder if they can trade for a right-handed hitting outfield option. At best, I see him as a defensive replacement late in the game and as a pinch runner.
Borbon has been bad, and I think he is wearing his welcome thin with the Rangers. They have given him every opportunity to seize the centerfield spot for the better part of three seasons. It has been his spot to lose and he has lost it every year. He cannot do the little things that he would be required to do in his situation. He does not have to be a .280 hitter, but what they do expect from him is stealing bases and being able to lay down a suicide squeeze, which he was unable to do twice last night.
Manager Ron Washington has had some praises for Martin after sending him down, but added that he is not yet ready. Look for him to be the first call-up when Hamilton/Cruz get hurt this year. I see him coming up for good around the end of July/early August.
The play of Martin also will force the organization’s hand one way or the other in dealing with Josh Hamilton’s contract.
Hamilton has said that he will give the Rangers the first option and allow them to match any contract offer that he is given. He even went so far as saying that he would give a hometown discount.
How much would that discount be? I do not see the Rangers offering him a huge contract either in money or years. Someone will make him an offer that will blow away anything I see the Rangers willing to offer him, depending on how Martin or Engel Beltre progress this season.
Both of them, along with Martin Perez, Mike Olt, and Jurickson Profar, will have implications in contract signings over the next two season.
I leave you with this: the best offense the Rangers can throw out there has Murphy, Hamilton and Cruz starting in the outfield.
-Brian Boynton (@RangerfanBrian)