The Rangers get a pitcher for Christmas

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, December 21st, 2019

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BY DIC HUMPHREY                                                                                                                                                      DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL

     ARLINGTON, Texas – After the disappointment of getting shut out on third baseman Anthony Rendon, Rangers’ General Manager Jon Daniels pulled a rabbit out of a hat this week when he traded two players to the Cleveland Indians for Cory Kluber.  Delino DeShields and Emmanuel Clase are the two Rangers sent to Ohio.

     Kluber has been considered one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball.  He has won the Cy Young Award twice (2014 and 2017), and won 20 games in 2018.  His career won loss record is 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA, all with Cleveland.  Kluber will turn 34 shortly after the 2020 season opens, which will be his 10th in the Major Leagues.  He played baseball locally at Coppel High School and pitched in college at Stetson University.

     His current contract had a team option at a $17.5 million salary for the 2020 season, which the Indians exercised in October.  There was another team option at $18 million for the 2021 season which became a vesting option because of the trade.  The option vests if he pitches 160 innings in 2020 and is not on the disabled list when the season ends.  There was also a $1,000,000 assignment bonus which is being paid in equal $500,000 payments from both Cleveland and Texas.

     At first blush, most national commentators are giving credit to Daniels and the Rangers for making a good deal.  Almost every team in baseball is looking for starting pitching, and the general consensus is that Kluber, even with his 2019 injury would bring a greater return.

     Kluber made just seven starts last season, five of which were not good.  His fast ball velocity was down, but a hard hit line drive broke his arm.  During rehab, he suffered an oblique injury which kept him out for the entire balance of the year.

    The injury wasn’t to his elbow or shoulder which are injuries that reduce effectiveness.  There’s every reason to believe that he’ll return to (or at least close to) his former performance.  The injury may in fact be a blessing in disguise as it gives him considerable time away from the game to rest his body.

     Emmanuel Clase was ranked as the Rangers’ number 30 minor league prospect.  With Cleveland, he is ranked 23rd.

    Clase reached the Majors with Texas last season, going 2-3 with a 2.31 ERA and converted the only save opportunity he was given.  Wowing fans with a slider that often registered 100 on the radar gun, he has the talent to become a top notch reliever and has even been compared to Mariano Rivera because of his slider.  Surprisingly though, Clase does not have big strikeout numbers even with the velocity associated with his two best pitches.

     The Rangers acquired DeShields from Houston in the Rule 5 draft prior to the 2015 season.  He has developed into a very good, if not outstanding defensive center fielder.  His best talent is speed and is one of the two or three fastest players in the game.  He has stolen 106 bases, but the problem is his bat averaging of .246 with a career on-base percentage of .326.  His career OPS is .668, which is significantly less than the league average of around .740-.745.

     DeShields’ departure as well as Nomar Mazara’s leaves the Rangers with an outfield alignment of Shin-Soo Choo and Willie Calhoun in left, Danny Santana in center and Joey Gallo in right.  Scott Heineman likely makes the team as a backup, assuming the Rangers do not acquire a more high profile hitter through a trade or free agent signing.

   The addition of Kluber gives the Rangers a veteran starting rotation of Kyle Gibson, Kluber, Jordan Lyles, Lance Lynn, and Mike Minor. That pushes prospects Brock Burke, Joe Palumbo, Kolby Allard and Taylor Hearn back to Nashville for more seasoning.  However with injury or ineffectiveness, they will collectively pitch a significant number of innings next summer.

     It’s a rotation that reminds of the 1996 Rangers, the first Ranger team that ever reached the playoffs.  Ken Hill and Roger Pavlik were the top two starters on that team, akin to Minor and Lynn.  Darren Oliver and Bobby Witt were the solid three and four starters.  The Rangers hope that Gibson and Lyles can be their equivalent.  Kevin Gross was in the ’96 rotation early, but then GM Bob Melvin bolstered the rotation by acquiring John Burkett in August.  It was a veteran rotation that wasn’t spectacular, but generally gave the team a solid performance every game, good enough to win often. The addition of Kluber solidifies this year’s Ranger rotation.

    There are clearly uncertainties, but at this point, the Rangers’ starting rotation on paper may be the best in the American League West top to bottom.  Houston was thought to have a superior rotation last year, but they no longer have Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley.   Texas won 78 games last year with very little in the way of starting pitcher after Minor and Lynn.  The 2020 starting rotation should improve that record to more than 80 wins.

    The problem is the offense.  They are still missing a big middle of the order bat that preferably bats right handed.

    The hot stove league warmed up this week with rumors that Colorado is seriously exploring the trade market for All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado.  Arenado has a contract that pays him $234 million over the final seven years.  Arenado also has a full no-trade clause and an opt-out clause after the 2021 season.  There is no indication yet whether Arenado would agree to a trade with Texas.  He most surely wants to go to a contender if he leaves the Rockies, and the Rangers may not fit that bill even with Arenado in the lineup.

    If the Rangers can pull off a trade for Arenado though, it will make this the most successful off season in Ranger history.    

NOTABLE:

    The fire last weekend at the new Globe Life Field is not expected to delay the opening of the new ballpark.  The first event scheduled at the park is actually a concert – Willie Nelson, Chris Stapleton, Jamey Johnson and Yola on March 14.

    Texas has re-signed pitchers Edinson Volquez, and Ian Gibaut and catcher Tim Federowicz to minor league contracts with an invitation to spring training.  All three appeared in games last season for Texas.

    The Rangers lost their bullpen coach, Oscar Marin.  He was named to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ coaching staff as pitching coach.      

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