Rangers manager Jeff Banister plans to use Leonys Martin as leadoff hitter

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The top of the Rangers’ lineup will have a new look this season, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that rookie manager Jeff Banister plans to use center fielder Leonys Martin as his regular leadoff man.

Martin will provide speed at the top of the lineup, but he doesn’t exactly profile as an ideal leadoff man. The 27-year-old owns a .316 on-base percentage over his first 334 games in the majors with a walk rate of 6.2 percent. His on-base percentage against left-handed pitching sits at just .279.

Shin-Soo Choo saw the majority of his starts out of the leadoff spot when healthy last season and while he batted just .242 with 13 home runs and .714 OPS across 123 games, he still managed a .340 on-base percentage. The 32-year-old boasts a .383 on-base percentage for his career, which is ninth-highest among active players.

While Martin is now slotted in as the leadoff man, it’s unclear what this means for the No. 2 spot. Banister could put Choo there and slide Elvis Andrus down in the order, but that would leave them vulnerable against left-handers. The alternative would be to keep Andrus in the No. 2 spot and move Choo to the middle of the order.

Report: Twins interested in Wade Miley

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Free agent left-hander Wade Miley is among several offseason targets for the Twins, according to a report from Darren Wolfson of KSTP. Miley’s $12 million option was declined by the Orioles back in November, and while he’s expected to attract another major league deal in 2018, he hasn’t exactly been highly sought after this offseason.

The 31-year-old lefty finished his second campaign with the Orioles in 2017, producing an 8-15 record in 32 starts and ranking second-to-last among all AL starters with a 5.61 ERA, 5.3 BB/9 and 8.1 SO/9 in 157 1/3 innings. Even taking Miley’s undeniable durability into account — he remained healthy for the bulk of the season and completed his sixth straight year with 30+ starts — his declining value and career-worst numbers may lower his price tag as the 2018 season approaches.

Wolfson notes that the Twins have engaged in “regular dialogue” with Miley’s agent this winter, but he’s far from the only starting pitcher they have their eye on. Right-handers Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb and Chris Tillman are still on their radar, among several others, and club owner Jim Pohlad said Saturday that he was “totally on board” with the idea of signing a big-name free agent like Darvish or another available starter. “There are some interesting names and some interesting opportunities there,” Pohlad told a crowd at TwinsFest. “I’m as intrigued by it as anybody and attracted to it as anybody.”