There’s no question the Texas Rangers have swung big in free agency this season. A year after adding Corey Seager and Marcus Semien on a record-breaking day last winter, Rangers owner Ray Davis went at it again this winter, adding the top pitcher on the market, Jacob deGrom, and wild card starting pitcher, Andrew Heaney.
This, coming just months after swinging big on the biggest surprise pick of the draft, Kumar Rocker. It’s clear, the current leadership group of the Texas Rangers is anything but risk-adverse.
The Texas Rangers made big moves which many are dubbing “gambles” but there’s reason to believe the alternative would have been more dangerous.
When healthy, Jacob deGrom is arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball. The fact that the “when healthy” caveat is perpetually added to his analysis tells you all you need to know – he’s not always healthy. Over the last three seasons, deGrom has just 12 starts.
Heaney, who is expected to be the final piece in the Rangers rotation, has similar concerns to his game. While his contract ($25-37M over 1-2 seasons) pales in comparison to deGrom’s ($185M), he’s coming off a season in which he only pitched 72 innings.
Looking at the entire rotation, durability seems to be an issue. Amongst deGrom, Heaney, Jon Gray, Martin Perez, and Jake Odorizzi, only Perez pitched more than 130 innings last season. So on paper this is a fantastically talented rotation the Texas Rangers have built, but it’s also fantastically injury-prone and expensive.
This blunt reality is leading many to call this situation a gamble by the Texas Rangers.
But is it really?
There is always risk involved when signing free agent pitchers to massive contracts. History shows it rarely pays off how the employer anticipated and long-term deals only add to that risk. But what was the alternative?
The common theme in free agency this winter is age-be-damned. Teams are signing elite old players to elite long contracts even if it means paying them into their late 30s and early 40s. This is not a bargain-hunter friendly environment.
After years of purging contracts and unloading talent, Texas Rangers fans are worn out. They want to win, or at the very least, try to win. They don’t care about bargains or good deals. They want effort, which they hope will produce results, but the effort alone is welcomed and a truly commendable sight these days.
The Rangers needed so much help this off-season, they couldn’t rely on low-level trades or bargains. They also couldn’t rely on big signings. They had to do it all. They added Odorizzi on a team-friendly deal. Perez was retained on a one-year deal. Jon Gray is affordable. And Heaney is on a one-year deal with a second year option. These aren’t crippling commitments.
Jacob deGrom is the lone true gamble. But in order to get an ace, they had to go big on his deal.
Again, let’s look at the alternative; If the Rangers sat back as savvy opportunists they would have realized pretty quickly this is not an opportunist’s market. They would have been forced to lean on young guys like Glenn Otto, Dane Dunning, and Cole Ragans again.
While many of us have high hopes for that trio, not having to rely on them right out of the gate in 2023 is a relief. When weighing the risk, the chances of one of them being a quality starter in April is far less likely than someone like deGrom or Heaney.
If anything, the Texas Rangers have insulated themselves from the risk by adding veteran arms to their stable. And they still have their young and unproven pitchers to fill in the gaps when the inevitable injury does occur.
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That’s why NOT adding veteran, albeit injury-prone, pitchers to the roster would have been more risky. Ray Davis is writing the checks and there’s plenty more ink in his pen. Let’s not get hung up on the amounts. Instead, look at how much better the ceiling and floor just got for the 2023 season.