Rangers Reclamations: They’re Not Problems
Much of the talk of the 2016 Hot Stove season has centered around three goals. In no particular order, Texas needs or needed to find a Center Fielder, a First Baseman and Starting Pitcher depth.
Cross one off the list – the Rangers re-signed Carlos Gomez to be their center fielder. There are rumors that Jon Daniels is seriously in play for first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, but that’s not a guarantee. Even if Encarnacion doesn’t sign in Texas, the Rangers can make do with Joey Gallo, Jurickson Profar, and Ryan Rua. You can start to cross “depth” off of the list. Texas also signed Andrew Cashner to a one-year deal to be a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher.
But Andrew Cashner can’t be the one, big name pitcher that Texas acquires, can he? Well, what if he is?
The Texas Rangers have had decent luck with reclamation, rehab and “change of scenery” pitching projects during this competitive streak. Obviously, there have been some definitive failures; think Ross Detwiler, Joe Saunders, Tom Wilhelmsen and a few others. On the other side of the coin, bargain shopping for pitching brought Texas Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, and on the starter end, Wandy Rodriguez, A.J. Griffin to name a few.
After losing out (and not really being in) on former White Sox ace Chris Sale and not really being considered by Rich Hill, Texas is thought to be involved in the trade market. Perhaps they are. They could trade for Jose Quintana, although it seems as if Pittsburgh is more aggressive on that front. They could deal for Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer, although, as is usually the case, the Rays don’t NEED to make those deals. Maybe they go for one of Arizona’s pitchers – Patrick Corbin, Archie Bradley, or Shelby Miller.
What’s the rush?
In the first half of 2015, Wandy Rodriguez pitched in 15 games, went 6-4 with a 4.07 ERA. We can call that “serviceable.” After the All-Star Break, he had no decisions and gave up 9 runs in 2.1 innings. In 2016’s first half, A.J. Griffin went 3-1 with a 3.81 ERA in 10 games before getting injured. In the second half, he went 4-3 with a 6.04 ERA.
The point is that reclamation and rehab projects only need to be useful for the first half of the season. For the Rangers, that’s often been the case anyways. Very rare is the case when the 25 men who start the season are the 25 men who finish it. Prices (or prospects required) could very well go up for a pitcher like Quintana, who is pitching on a team that is already rebuilding. Asking prices could also come down. A team like Arizona, fringe hopefuls at the start of the season, could find themselves completely out of it by the trade deadline.
On top of that, yes, it is Yu Darvish‘s walk year. But the competitive window for Texas doesn’t have to close. There is money to be spent in the Free Agent class of 2017. Matt Moore, Masahiro Tanaka, Jake Arrieta, and Johnny Cueto are among the possible free agents for next year. Texas could also dedicate its money to re-signing Darvish. Signing or acquiring one of the other big name pitchers now might well close the window on bringing back Darvish. The lure of a large free agent class may also entice non-contenders to boot trade targets at a lower cost. Wiping salary off of the books and gearing up for free agency isn’t an uncommon strategy.
Don’t be dismayed if Jurickson Profar or Joey Gallo are still around as the days countdown to Surprise. Even if Texas brings Edwin Encarnacion into the fold, that doesn’t mean the Rangers aren’t really done looking for pitching. It’s not big, bold or flashy, but Texas does its best work when holding on to its best trade chips.
Embrace the acquisitions of Allen Webster and David Rollins. Look forward to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training for pitchers like Kris Medlen, Jarrod Parker, Brett Anderson or Doug Fister. Besides competing for a Major League job, these pitchers also drive the internal candidates to be better. Finding the fire in the depth of your own, homegrown ranks is so much more satisfying anyways.
Don’t be afraid of the reclamation projects. Embrace them. One way or another, they usually lead to something far greater than originally intended.