Monday, October 15, 2012
Texas Ten: How does the rotation look?
By Richard Durrett
Editor's Note: We'll spend the next two weeks taking a look at 10 questions that face the Texas Rangers this offseason as they prepare for the 2013 campaign. We call it our "Texas Ten."
Today's question: How does the starting rotation look?
First, let's start with what we know. Yu Darvish, under contract for five more years, is the unquestioned No. 1 starter in this rotation. And the Rangers certainly hope he stays healthy and productive and fronts this rotation for a long time. Darvish was consistent and impressive in his final eight starts, including a great performance under playoff pressure.
Matt Harrison had the most consistent season of any starter, making the All-Star team and taking a huge step forward mentally. He attacked hitters and didn't allow bad innings or bad games impact him negatively. He learned from his mistakes and gained some confidence.
Derek Holland did not have the season the Rangers -- or Holland -- expected. I've listed him as the club's No. 3 pitcher, but where he falls in the rotation may depend on what kind of offseason work the club does on the rotation. Holland dealt with a stomach virus in June and then went on the DL with left shoulder fatigue. He ended up going 12-7 with a 4.67 ERA in 29 games (27 starts) with 145 strikeouts and 52 walks. He did finish the season a bit better, going 5-0 with a 3.88 ERA in his final 10 starts. But Holland is the first to admit that he took a step in the wrong direction this year and needs to bounce back. He's under contract for the long-term, so I expect the club to be patient with him.
But after Holland, how do things shape up? Ryan Dempster finished the year in the rotation, but is now a free agent. He'd like to return to Texas and I could see that, but only under the right kind of deal. Dempster has quality stuff, but his splits in 2012 with Texas were telling. He pitched well against non-contending teams (Minnesota, Cleveland (twice), Kansas City, Boston and Seattle), going 6-0 with a 1.88 ERA in six starts. But against teams in the hunt for the postseason (Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, Baltimore, Oakland), he was 1-3 with a 9.09 ERA in six starts. He's a funny guy who keeps the clubhouse light and he could provide some nice depth. But his value had to be hurt by those splits.
After a standout rookie campaign, Yu Darvish enters 2013 as the unquestioned No. 1 starter.
The fifth starter was a problem for this club. It seemed liked they just couldn't find anyone to handle that role. Scott Feldman was up and down, sliding at the wrong time. He has a club option for 2013, but that won't be exercised (not at $9.25 million; he does have a $600,000 buy out). That doesn't mean the club won't consider Feldman for depth. Roy Oswalt, signed to be a veteran that could eat innings, wasn't as productive as expected and ended up in the bullpen.
There are internal candidates. Alexi Ogando could be one and that's a question we'll get into later. Martin Perez came up and made some starts down the stretch. He hasn't lived up to the potential, but is still young and could get a shot in spring training. Justin Grimm had a memorable debut, but also struggled at times coming straight up from Double-A. Robbie Ross could still be a starter long-term, but that may not happen in 2013. We'll see. Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz could prove to be nice additions at the midpoint of the season, but they can't be factored into the rotation as spring training begins.
So this is an area that must be addressed this offseason. The Rangers could look at potential free agents. They could, perhaps, try to go after another big name (Zack Greinke, anyone?). But with Darvish showing his stuff in the final two months of the season, they don't have to do that. The key is depth. They have to find some more arms so that they've got the ability to compete for some of those final rotation spots.