As the general manager meetings heat up and the Hot Stove season starts burning, we're going to periodically look at a variety of free agents and trade possibilities for the Texas Rangers and tell you our recommendations.
Let's start on the mound. The Rangers need one more top-tier starter. There's a good one on the market: Zack Greinke. Texas needs to be in that sweepstakes (I know, shocker!).
The Rangers announced last week that Alexi Ogando is moving to the starting rotation. It's a move that makes sense. Ogando can do it and is a viable internal option that gives the club four starters in 2013. They need one more to go along with Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Ogando. And they'd rather that option be top-heavy.
One thing the club discovered in the home stretch of 2012 is Darvish is capable of being a No. 1 pitcher. They've got him locked up for another five seasons, so that eliminates the need to make a huge splash at the top. Harrison was solid too this season, making the All-Star team. But Holland goes into 2013 with some questions he has to answer after taking a bit of a step back in 2012. Ogando didn't start last year and will be making the transition again, and that can take some time. Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz likely won't be able to help the club until midseason.
That's why going out and getting another top-flight starter is needed. They'll look at the trade market, but there's also a big free agent out there that can help a contending team. Greinke is the best pitcher on the market and will certainly receive plenty of interest. I expect the Rangers to be one of those teams.
Greinke's 2012 was really two parts. He was 9-3 with a 3.44 ERA in 123 innings (21 starts) for the Milwaukee Brewers and 6-2 with a 3.53 ERA in 13 starts for the Los Angeles Angels after a trade deadline deal. Look closer and you'll see that Greinke finished the season on a roll. He was 5-0 with a 2.04 ERA in his final eight starts. The only start in that seqeunce that wasn't a quality outing was his last one, when he gave up four runs to the Rangers but got a no-decision in an Angels come-from-behind win Sept. 30.
Greinke was pitching to try to keep the Angels in the playoff hunt and pitched well when it counted most. That will certainly help him entering the free agent market. The Rangers have had an eye on Greinke before and they like him. He's 29 years old and could help a contending team near the top of the rotation for a handful of years.
Pitching at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington hasn't bothered him. He's 3-5 but has a 2.84 ERA in 79 1/3 innings (14 games, 12 starts). In 49 games (40 starts) against the AL West, Greinke has a 2.91 ERA, his best mark against any division. He won the 2009 AL Cy Young but hasn't been as good a pitcher since then. He's had off-field issues with depression and social anxiety, but that's been a while now (2006). I'm not concerned about that and I think playing for a contending team like the Rangers is something that would interest Greinke.
But as valuable as Greinke would be to the Rangers, he's that and more to the Angels. They've traded Ervin Santana and allowed Dan Haren to become a free agent, so they are desperate for another frontline starter. Los Angeles will be aggressive on Greinke. So what might he command? Would it take a six-year, $144 million deal like Cole Hamels got to get him? Maybe. That's probably a little out of the Rangers' comfort zone. But it might be out of everyone's comfort zone, in which case a five-year deal might make sense.
I think Greinke can fortify this rotation. He could come in and give the club another critical starter with a proven track record to slide in to the team's current crop of starters. If the Rangers don't end up spending the big bucks on Hamilton, Greinke would be worth the money. But I expect GM Jon Daniels to stay disciplined with how high they are willing to go, too. He's got trade chips if he needs to go in another direction and hte price gets too high.
But I'm interested in Greinke and I bet he'd be interested in pitching in Texas. Are you interested? What's Greinke worth? How much are you willing to pay and for how many years?