The Rangers Desperately Need to Add a Starter at the Trade Deadline
There is oil on the ground. It's leaving a long black streak of slippery, gooey, ugly slime. And it's trailing behind the Texas Rangers.
After giving up two bombs to Albert Pujols in their 8-6 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday, the Rangers have seen their lead over the surging Houston Astros in the American League West trimmed from 10 games just over two weeks ago to a mere 4 1/2 games.
During this dire stretch, Texas' starting rotation has gone 1-9 with a 6.99 ERA. Aside from Cole Hamels, who is having an outstanding season (10-2 with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.4 fWAR in 19 starts), the Rangers rotation has been less than stellar this year.
In mid-June, they lost Colby Lewis to a lat injury. Along with Hamels, the right-hander was the glue holding together the starting stadd, going 6-1 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.3 fWAR in 15 starts. Lewis' absence from the rotation has really been evident.
Over the last 30 days, Texas starters have a combined fWAR of 0.5, which is next to last in the American League.
Over that time, their team ERA of 6.39 is dead last, and their fielding independent pitching (FIP) of 5.39 is second-worst.
Perhaps more than any team in baseball, the Rangers need some help. They hope the return of Yu Darvish will do the trick. He has made just four starts this year in his comeback from Tommy John surgery. He owns a 3.15 ERA and 2.50 FIP in those four starts and is striking out a ton of batters, fanning 12.6 hitters per nine innings (league average is 8.06).
But Darvish' health is certainly a question mark going forward.
Aside from Hamels and Darvish, the rest of the rotation has struggled. Martin Perez has a 4.05 ERA and is striking out a meager 4.21 batters per nine innings in 19 starts. Derek Holland has a 5.20 ERA in 14 starts. A.J. Griffin has made 11 starts and has a 4.26 ERA. Chi Chi Gonzalez, Cesar Ramos, Kyle Lohse and Nick Martinez have also started games for Texas, with middling-to-awful results.
Fortunately, the trade deadline is approaching and the Rangers have a deep farm system. Even after unloading a haul to Philadelphia in the Hamels deal last year, there are still a ton of prospects to be had in the Rangers' system. And while the starting pitching market is scant and, as a result, overpriced, there are some options that could help fill out the middle of the Texas rotation.
Oakland's Rich Hill is very available, and the journeyman has had a terrific season. The 36-year-old is 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA and a 2.54 FIP, striking out 10.66 batters per nine innings this year, a continuation of the terrific work he did in Boston's rotation last year. The A's may ask for a Jurickson Profar for him, a price at which Texas should say "no thank you." But there are other prospects the Rangers could make available that should get a deal done.
Atlanta's Julio Teheran might be an even more expensive option. He's just 25, made the National League All-Star team this year, and is under team control through 2020, when he'll be just 29. Teheran has a 2.79 ERA if whiffing 8.02 hitters per nine innings while walking 1.86. He would cost more than Hill.
They could make another deal with Philadelphia and pick up 29-year-old Jeremy Hellickson. He's having his best year since his Rookie of the Year season in 2011, 6-7 with a 4.03 ERA, striking out 7.90 batters per nine. He's a solid number-four starter that would provide Texas with depth and wouldn't require they give up too much.
And there are two Tampa starters who would make a lot of sense for the Rangers, Jake Odorizzi and Matt Moore. Odorizzi has made 20 starts and is 4-5 with a 4.39 ERA and a 4.31 FIP, striking out 8.54 per nine and walking 2.85. In 19 starts, Moore is 5-7 with a 4.33 ERA and a 4.59 FIP, punching out 7.58 per nine and walking 2.63.
But, the Rangers have the prospects to wow anyone. There is literally nothing they can't buy if they want it. And even as things stand now, our projections see them having a 73.6% chance of making the playoffs, the 8th-best odds in baseball. They are also still favorites -- at 63.4% -- to win the American League West.
Should they want to increase those odds, they'll need to buy one of the available starters on the trade market, even those this year's options aren't great.