The Texas Rangers have been one of the most successful MLB franchises in recent years and had put together four consecutive 90-win seasons until injuries knocked the 2010 and 2011 American League champion out of playoff contention this season after just a few months. General manager Jon Daniels must find another staff ace to join Yu Darvish at the top of the rotation to transform Texas back into a World Series contender.
The landscape in the American League West has changed significantly since the St. Louis Cardinals dealt the Rangers their second straight World Series setback less than three years ago. The Oakland Athletics (63-38) and the Los Angeles Angels (60-41) currently boast the two best records in all of baseball, and the Seattle Mariners (53-49) are gunning for their first playoff berth since 2000.
Offensively, Rangers skipper Ron Washington‘s batting order has the potential to develop into a potent bunch. Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo form an impressive All-Star nucleus, while the continued development of Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland, Leonys Martin and Michael Choice with the lumber will be crucial for a fast turnaround.
But it is pitching, specifically quality starting pitchers, that Texas desperately needs to become an elite team again.
Darvish (9-6) has been the heart and soul of the Rangers’ staff since signing in 2012 and is already a three-time All-Star with 657 strikeouts over 527 1/3 big league innings. By pairing another front-of-a-rotation starting ace with the Japanese fireballer, Texas will see its biggest liability instantly become one of its key strengths.
The Athletics added Jeff Samardzija to fortify the top of the team’s rotation, which already features a pair of 11-game winners, Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir. The emergence of Garrett Richards (11-3) gives the Angels a nice 1-2 punch with staff ace Jered Weaver (11-6), and the Mariners follow Felix Hernandez with a trio of eight-game winners including Hisashi Iwakuma (8-5), Chris Young (8-6) and Roenis Elías (8-8).
Even before the loss of Derek Holland and Martin Perez to injuries this year, the Rangers were lacking the type of secondary ace that is a must for a legit World Series contender. Colby Lewis (6-8) is a warrior, but it speaks volumes about the quality of MLB-ready starting pitchers in the farm system when a 35-year-old who missed all of last season is currently second on the team with six wins.
Daniels started the process of assembling a championship-caliber pitching staff by shipping closer Joakim Soria to the Detroit Tigers for top pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel. The talented right-handed duo, both hailing from The Lone Star State, provides the Rangers’ pitching depth with some much-needed Grade-A prospects. But will Daniels, who gambled and lost this past winter by not signing a premium arm to upgrade an unimpressive rotation, make the same mistake twice?
Texas has enjoyed success throwing big dollar contracts at hitters instead of pitchers, and have also refrained from raiding the farm system to bring another big-time arm to Arlington. However, the time has come for Daniels to bring in a dominant No. 2 starter that will signal the Rangers are serious title contenders, again.