Every offseason, I get a headache trying to figure out what the Texas Rangers are doing. This offseason, that headache is approaching a migraine -- one that probably is afflicting club officials, too.
On one hand, the Rangers are trying to re-sign free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton and catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli. On the other hand, they're also engaged in active trade discussions for Arizona right fielder Justin Upton, according to major league sources.
Same idea with starting pitching.
On one hand, the Rangers are trying to sign free-agent right-hander Zack Greinke. On the other hand, they're also discussing trades for other top-of-the-rotation types, sources say, most notably Tampa Bay righty James Shields.
What is the priority? Is there a priority? As the Rangers sift through all their scenarios, probably not even club officials know. The dominoes can fall in any number of ways; every move would lead to another.
One thing, however, appears certain:
The Rangers have not given up on Upton.
A trade for Upton, who is guaranteed $38.5 million over the next three seasons, seemingly would preclude the Rangers from re-signing Hamilton. Then again, the team also could keep Hamilton, part with Napoli and trade right fielder Nelson Cruz -- or some combination thereof.
In fact, many in the industry believe that is exactly what will happen -- at least, the part about keeping Hamilton. The theory is that Hamilton will fail to land the deal he wants from another club, then end up back in Texas.
One rival executive notes that the Rangers have tried to "poison the well" for Hamilton, notably when CEO Nolan Ryan criticized the timing of the slugger's decision to quit smokeless tobacco last summer, saying it, "couldn't have been worse."
But back to Upton.
A trade for him is not likely, not when the D-backs, according to sources, continue to insist that the Rangers part with shortstop Elvis Andrus. The Rangers have been reluctant to make such a deal. They might be even more reluctant now that their top shortstop prospect, Jurickson Profar, has stopped playing winter ball in the Dominican due to inflammation in his forearm.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told reporters Sunday that Profar's injury was not serious, and that the move to shut him down was merely precautionary. Maybe, but imagine if the Rangers went from a potential double-play combination of Andrus and Profar to trading Andrus and losing Profar.
What the Rangers apparently want to do is acquire Upton without giving up one of their shortstops. The Diamondbacks also need a third baseman and would like to add a top-of-the-rotation starter. The Rangers could offer another prospect, Mike Olt, and possibly left-hander Derek Holland -- but won't move Holland unless they add Greinke or another starting pitcher first.
Your head hurting yet? If not, it will soon.
The odds of the Rangers signing Greinke appear slim -- the Los Angeles Dodgers are the perceived favorite in those negotiations, and Greinke impressed Dodgers officials during a recent meeting with his baseball intellect, sources say. The sense in the industry is that if the Dodgers want Greinke, they'll get him. Which is why the Rangers are talking about trading for a starter such as Shields, too.
The Rays, like the D-backs, would figure to want one of the Rangers' shortstops for Shields -- preferably Profar, who is less expensive and under club control for the next six seasons, as opposed to Andrus, who is two years away from free agency. But, given the Rays' vast needs, the Rangers could construct a variety of offers. Of course, other teams also are talking to the Rays about Shields, complicating the equation.
Meanwhile -- almost forgot this -- the Rangers remain thin at catcher, even after reaching agreement Sunday with free agent Geovany Soto, according to reports. A Soto-Napoli combination could be sufficient, and Napoli also would contribute at first base and DH. Problem is, Napoli wants a four-year deal and continues to draw interest from Boston and Seattle, sources say.
Oh, but the moving parts don't end there ...
Second baseman Ian Kinsler signed a five-year, $75 million contract extension last April, but the Rangers could shift him to left field, first base or even a super-utility role if they go with Andrus and Profar as their middle infielders. None of those options would thrill Kinsler, friends say.
Infielder Michael Young, guaranteed $16 million in the final year of his contract, could lose playing time in a number of scenarios, creating another trade option. Heck, trade discussions involving Young practically are a rite of winter for the Rangers. But Young holds a full no-trade clause and is adamant about staying in Texas, sources say.
All right, I'll stop now.
For the Rangers, it's a lot to consider. They could go in any number of directions. They also could strike out in their principal pursuits, forcing them down other paths.
Pass the aspirin.
My head is hurting again.