By Josh Halilej
After winning the American League West and making the World Series in back to back years (2010-11), the Texas Rangers have been in a period of regression these past two seasons due to an increase in competition with the emergence of Billy Beane’s not-so-underdog Oakland A’s, and the massive spending from the Angels. In 2012, the Rangers managed to stay afloat with a wild card worthy 93-69 record, but they lost their grip of the top of the division to Oakland, who bested them by one game. While this one game may not seem like a big deal, the Rangers were forced to play the first ever one game wild card playoff against the Baltimore Orioles, where they lost 5 to 1. Ron Washington and company vowed to come back next year with a vengeance, and after some offseason moves like trading away Michael Young, they seemed fine, until star player Josh Hamilton abandoned ship to go take his talents to the city of Angels. This season, the Rangers tried to cope with the loss of Hamilton who was their offensive rock, but ultimately could not make the playoffs with a record of 91-72. Someone could look at the loss of Hamilton and assume that the Rangers’ problem was largely offensive-related, but with stellar performances from Adrian Beltre and pre-suspension Nelson Cruz, in addition to receiving Alex Rios from the White Sox, I would have to disagree. Their problems lie within the pitching staff.
Pitching wins ballgames. It’s that simple. A solid rotation that can go out on to the baseball diamond with a different threat every game will wear out opponents in a series and make it that much easier to achieve baseball immortality. Having only two pitchers register more than 20 starts (Derek Holland and Yu Darvish) is not going to strike fear into opponents’ eyes. Aside from Darvish (who put up ridiculous strike out numbers this season with 277Ks in 209 innings pitched) and Holland, three of the next four pitchers who had the most starts on the team were eligible rookies. No disrespect to them, but consistency is key in a pitching rotation because you want to have the same guys out there that you had all year to rely on in situations where the team needs it most. That being said, the Rangers definitely need to address pitching this offseason.
I suggest that the Rangers don’t have to go after some of the ‘bigger’ names in the pitching market this year, but maybe make some trades with the wealth of young talent they have and add consistent veterans to the rotation. I think Scott Feldman, a Ranger from 2005-2012, could potentially be a good fix on the cheaper side because he gave a solid 30 starts to the Orioles/Cubs this year with an ERA at a respectable 3.86. On the pricier side, there is Ricky Nolasco, whose 199.2 innings last year and 33 starts for both the Marlins and Dodgers make him the #7 ranked free agent this season according to ESPN. Possible trades that the Rangers could approach almost always include trading either highly touted prospect, Jurickson Profar or starting Shortstop Elvis Andrus. However, they have been in talks with the St. Louis Cardinals about a possible trade involving Cardinals rookie sensation Shelby Miller, Oscar Taveres or Matt Adams for either Profar of Andrus.
I think that the moves that would give the Texas Rangers the best possible chance to succeed would be performing the trade with St. Louis, making a play for free agent centerfielder Chris Young to fill in the vacancy of Nelson Cruz, and signing Ricky Nolasco to a 4 year, 42 million dollar deal. Maybe with that, the Rangers will make a playoff push and possibly make a title run like they did in 2010 and 2011.
Josh Halilej is a die hard fan of both the Jets and the Mets, and is an avid fantasy sports player. He participates in leagues for baseball, basketball and football. You can follow him on twitter at @Mrmet2323