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Texas Rangers rumors: 2017-2018 free agent candidates

Jon Heyman links the Rangers with several of his top 25 offseason free agents

MLB: All Star Game-Batting Practice Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Rangers rumors: The MLB 2017-18 offseason is not far off (you can argue it has already started for the Texas Rangers, whose playoff hopes have virtually vanished), and Jon Heyman ranks the players he believes are the top 25 free agents in this class.

The Texas Rangers’ needs are pretty simple and straightforward — they need starting pitching, maybe a center fielder, and probably wouldn’t mind a relief pitcher or two if there’s some money left over. Along those lines, Heyman has the Rangers among his “Best Guess” teams for a several prime free agents to be.

Interestingly, Yu Darvish, who is #3 on Heyman’s list -- behind Eric Hosmer and Jake Arrieta -- isn’t one of them. Heyman says it is believed Darvish won’t return to Texas, but he does have the Rangers as a candidate for Arrieta. Arrieta has been durable since going to Chicago, and while he’s not been the legit #1 he was in 2014-15 the past couple of years, he’s still a very solid starting pitcher. And of course, he’s a local product, going to Plano East for high school and then pitching for TCU.

I’m honestly kind of mystified about what Arrieta will get as a free agent -- he will be 32 years old in March, and will have a limited track record — but I do think its reasonable to believe the Rangers will at least be talking to him.

Heyman also mentions Lance Lynn of the Cardinals as a potential Ranger target. Lynn turns 31 in May, and has had a season much like the Rangers’ Andrew Cashner, with a strong ERA (3.09 in 180.2 IP) which isn’t supported by his peripherals (4.76 FIP/4.72 xFIP). Lynn missed all of the 2016 season with Tommy John surgery, but he was a solid mid-rotation guy before that, and if the Rangers feel like he’s going to be closer to the low-3 ERA and FIP guy he was pre-injury, you could see them making a run at him. Still, in a pitching-starved market, its not hard to see the price for Lynn get well beyond what the Rangers are comfortable with.

The third candidate Heyman links the Rangers to is Kansas City centerfielder Lorenzo Cain. Cain, who turns 32 in April, is having one of his best years with the bat, slashing .303/.366/.446 with 24 steals. He’s historically been a superlative defensive center fielder -- he put up a +63 DRS in the outfield from 2013-15, and a +51.7 UZR over that stretch -- but after being just very good rather than exceptional in 2016, he’s coming in around average defensively this year. Given his age and the worrisome trend, I would be reluctant to splurge on a big deal for Cain, particularly if you believe the strides Delino DeShields has made this year are legitimate. Someone like Jarrod Dyson -- an elite defender in center who doesn’t hit nearly as well, and who would be cheaper and available on a shorter-term deal than Cain — would seem to be a better fit.