The Rangers have reason to be concerned about Ben Sheets, not necessarily his injury history but specifically the flexor tendon injury that sidelined him last September, but they're also aware that opportunities to snare a legitimate staff ace at a bargain price are rare.
"When he's right, he's as good as there is in the game," Nolan Ryan told me Friday. "But you have to be certain that he's healthy."
The Rangers might not be so leery of Sheets if they hadn't just gone through this flexor tendon thing with Jason Jennings last season. Sheets is trying to bounce back with rehabilitation, rather than surgery, but, like Jennings, he could wind up under the knife anyway.
That's why the Rangers want to structure a deal that would be laden with incentives, to protect themselves in case Sheets breaks down again. Sheets would like to pitch here, believe it or not, because he lives in Highland Park and would be reunited with pitching coach Mike Maddux, but if another team blows him away with a lot more guaranteed money, they'll pass.
If that happens, the Rangers will take a look at some of the other free agent pitchers who might be ready to take a one-year deal. Assistant general manager Thad Levine says they're "kicking the tires" on a couple of other possibilities, one of whom might be right-hander Jon Garland. Garland, however, is one of the few starters out there who still seems to think there's a big multi-year deal just around the corner.
-- JIM REEVES