Offseason question: Rotation Depth

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
8:00
AM CT
Editor's Note: This is the last in a 10-part series that focused on questions the Texas Rangers must answer this offseason. These questions are in no particular order.

Today’s question: Do the Texas Rangers have enough rotation depth?

[+] EnlargeDavid Price
Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY SportsMight the Rangers be able to pull off an offseason trade for David Price?
Here's what we know about the Rangers' 2014 rotation -- Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Martin Perez and Matt Harrison will be in it.

That's provided general manager Jon Daniels doesn't pull a stunner and trade either Holland and Perez -- that seems highly unlikely -- and that Harrison is 100 percent recovered from two back surgeries that limited him to only only two starts in 2013.

That leaves the Rangers needing a fifth starter. Is that guy Alexi Ogando? We've already discussed Ogando's situation in this series. The mere fact that Ogando was on the disabled list three times last season should make the Rangers pause and put the lanky right-hander back in the bullpen where he belongs.

Which means the Rangers are back to needing a fifth starter. Does that pitcher come from within the system, via trade or in free agency?

Let's start with the system. The Rangers are likely to bring back their own free agent, Colby Lewis, who spent all of last season trying to recover from elbow surgery and other ailments. Lewis is 34, the Rangers' best postseason pitcher of all time and deserves another chance with the team. But he can't be counted on in any way. If he makes it, that's a bonus.


There's right-hander Nick Tepesch, who showed some flashes in his rookie season when he went 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA in April and helped hold the Rangers' rotation together after Harrison's injury. The Rangers like Tepesch's makeup and expect continued improvement.

Josh Lindblom, acquired in the Michael Young trade, should be in the mix, though he didn't show an ability to miss bats. The best pitching prospect in Double-A or higher is 22-year-old Luke Jackson. But he's only made four Double-A starts. He's still a year away.

Because injuries are sure to come along, clubs have to develop depth. The Rangers used 11 starting pitchers this season. Guys like Tepesch and Lindblom likely will start a game for the Rangers at some point in 2014. But, from what we know, they don't give the Rangers the best chance to win 90 games or more for the fifth straight season.

The Rangers could go out and get a big-time pitcher -- a No. 1 or 2 -- via a trade. Tampa Bay's David Price is the one to target. He's two years away from free agency, which means this is the time when the Rays look to trade starters (see Matt Garza and James Shields). The Rangers have the players in the system to get a deal done. If they can make one trade this offseason, this is the one.

They can look at free agents, but it's just not that exciting of a market. They can bring back Garza, whom they traded four players for in July, but frankly Garza didn't pitch well here and just doesn't seem like a Rangers kind of guy. They could target 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda, who struggled down the stretch for the Yankees and will likely cost $14 million for a season.

Then there's 24-year-old Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, who is expected to be up for bidding later this year. Tanaka isn't as good as Darvish -- though some are saying so -- but he's still a better option than Kuroda or Ubaldo Jimenez, another free agent. The Rangers did a lot of research on Tanaka, and a lot of their top level people have seen him in pitch in person.

Adding Price or Tanaka is the Rangers' best-case scenario this offseason.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Adrian Beltre
BA HR RBI R
.324 19 77 79
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
WC. Lewis 10
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182