Nate Silver previews the coming offseasons for the A.L. West teams, and the news (short-term) for the Rangers isn't really good.
Silver suggests that the Rangers shouldn't really buy or sell...they don't have a good enough team right now to buy, and all the veteran pieces that would be worth selling have already been sold.
The Rangers are currently in a little different situation than in past years. For much of the 21st century, they've had a few very good or great players surrounded by quite a few gaping holes. That's made the short-term view more positive, because you generally figure that if you can fill gaping holes with just mediocre/sub-par players, which should be relatively easy to find, then you can compete.
Now, though, the Rangers don't have that group of high-level players any more. Looking to 2008, I see one Ranger positional player who I think is a good bet to be an above-average player...Ian Kinsler.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia might be an above-average catcher, if he gets his bat going. Michael Young might be an above-average shortstop, if he hits more like he did in 2005 and 2006 and less like he did in 2007. Hank Blalock could be an above-average third baseman, if his offensive improvement this year is real.
The rotation is hard to say...Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Edinson Volquez, and Brandon McCarthy all have the ability to be above average major league starters, but I'd be hard-pressed to say that any of them is much better than a 50/50 bet to be an above-average starting pitcher next year.
Whereas in past years, you could say that the team just needs to get decent production from a few spots that were awful, what this team needs to be competitive is impact players, a couple of true All Star level studs, particularly in the outfield.
Now, the Rangers do have a great bullpen, and that can sometimes carry you a ways...just look at the D-Backs. They made it to the NLCS with the worst average and OBP in the N.L. (despite playing in a hitters park) because they had a great bullpen, one dominant starter, and one solid starter. In fact, the D-Backs' problem with their lineup is similar to the Rangers' problem...what positional player on their team is a solid above-average major league regular?
The lack of a stud is why Silver thinks that the Rangers will end up as strong buyers, paying a premium for a premium free agent. I'd feel better about that, though, if I felt that there was a premium free agent on the market this offseason (other than ARod)...