My Rangers rotation speculation consists of Three Components:
I can talk all day about these Rangers pitching prospects… and I do sometimes. Despite not getting some of the attention that I think they deserve nationally, it is a young, exciting, and relatively deep group. The fact of the matter is that while some of those guys may be close to contributing in a bullpen role, the big arms that have future starter written on them are still a couple of years away from the majors. Of course, there is that whole stigma surrounding the Rangers and how they develop their pitchers, but that is an article for another day.
As the Rangers mark the dog days off of the 2018 calendar, a lot of the discussion, and rightfully so, has been about the future, especially 2019. The organization is coming off of an offseason where they added, for lack of a better way to put it, place holders in the rotation. It was the front office’s way of trying to remain competitive and build towards the future at the same time, a way to keep seasoning the youngsters while trotting out a respectable major league club. Well, that strategy has left us with a lot of questions about next year’s pitching staff.
Component One: The Placeholders
As it stands today, I think there are only two locks for the rotation. Mike Minor is signed through 2020 and is set to earn $9.5 million next year and Ariel Jurado who is, well to put it lightly, not having a very noteworthy rookie season. So, the Rangers are committed to Minor and it seems like they are going to let the 22 year old Jurado work things out in the majors. We still have a few spots to fill.
The first option, pun intended, is Martin Perez, who many Rangers fans had decent expectations of coming into 2018. (Curse that damn bull.) There is a $7.5 million club option hanging over Perez for 2019 and honestly, despite the lack of production this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if they picked it up. There won’t be a whole lot of money tied up on the roster heading into next season and that price tag on Perez would make him a, here comes that word again, decent placeholder. And who knows, maybe he can return back to his 2012-2017 form.
We’ve penciled in three, how about number four? Free agent? Maybe, but let’s keep our focus internal before we get there. No, sorry Big Sexy fans, we have to let Bartolo Colon walk. I’m thinking Yovani Gallardo can be a nice… you guessed it, place holder. He won’t require a long term commitment and will likely sign for next to nothing, probably on a minor league deal unless another club is extremely desperate out there.
There’s four, and those four were pretty easy. Drew Hutchison has one year of arbitration left and can be had for cheap. He could be a depth piece and would likely be a leading candidate to get the call when one of these pitchers goes down or just bombs. Now you look at the free agent market.
Component Two: The Productive Veteran
This won’t be the offseason to break the bank on starting pitching. What you do here is target a productive veteran who hasn’t gone too far down the wrong end of the aging curve just yet. Sign him to a two year deal, or preferably one with a club option, and let him lead the staff and work with some of the young guys. Three guys stand out to me immediately; Drew Pomeranz, Anibal Sanchez, and Gio Gonzalez. Component number two is key. The state of the Rangers pitching staff is not ideal and the placeholders are not even close to a sure thing. You can’t rely too heavily on those guys and at least adding a piece with some kind of name recognition could go a long way with the fan base.
Pomeranz, a former Rangers draft pick that never signed, is earning $8.5 million this year with the Red Sox and is having an uncharacteristically bad season. The 29 year old lefty knows what it is like to be a part of both a winner and a struggling club. He could be had for relatively cheap and could be a good influence on the young pitchers as well as productive on the mound. Gonzalez finds himself in the same camp as Pomeranz as he is not having a career year, but we know what he is capable of. It seems like the Nationals may be entering a rebuild (hot take) and wouldn’t have a ton of interest in retaining his services. Gonzalez would demand more money than Pomeranz, especially on a short term deal, but he would likely provide more on the field as well. Sanchez is having his best season since he finished fourth in Cy Young voting in 2013 and I think he would provide the best clubhouse presence out of all available free agents.
I wouldn’t be opposed to a Cole Hamels reunion depending on how everything with the contract works out…
Component Three: Use 2019 As An Audition
Don’t beat yourself up over depth, or the lack there of. Use 2019 as an opportunity to audition some of the younger guys or the fringe arms in the system. Let Yohander Mendez come up and try and work things out. The once promising lefty has had his fair share of struggles at most levels, including the majors, but 2019 may prove to be a “now or never” situation for his relationship with the Rangers. We have seen him at his best and know that the potential is there. Perhaps a shaky 2018 on, and apparently off of, the field will be what it takes for him to fulfill that potential. Next season will be the perfect time to have him showcase it.
Go ahead and challenge Joe Palumbo who is proving his stuff is better than ever since returning from surgery. Trot the trade deadline addition Taylor Hearn out there and see if he can contribute. By no means am I saying rush the top guys in the lower levels of the system up, but I do believe there are a couple of arms that could benefit from major league seasoning in 2019. This is just to name a few of the prospects, it doesn’t even get into the “Quad-A” type guys, if you will. There are plenty of fringe arms you can audition to see if they have a place with the club down the road.
Look, I know everyone loves the lineup, but the pitching staff is in a state of disarray at this point. It isn’t unfixable, it will just hinder the Rangers ability to be competitive in the immediate future. I agree, the lineup is fun to watch and the potential is there from top to bottom, but the majority of them will still be around when the new ballpark opens and some of the young arms are getting their shot. Throw in a big name free agent for 2020 and the Rangers might not be too far off from competitiveness.
Featured Image Courtesy of: Charles W. Cantrell / berrysbaseball.com