Commentary

Rangers must add top-end starter

Club can forget about World Series if it doesn't add ace to replace Colby Lewis

Updated: July 24, 2012, 10:42 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Colby Lewis, the soul of the Texas Rangers' pitching rotation, is gone for the rest season, felled by something called a torn flexor tendon.

PODCAST
Rangers president Nolan Ryan weighs in on the team's ravaged rotation, potential trade prospects, Josh Hamilton's slump and more.

Listen Listen

It should now be clear to everyone who matters in the Rangers' front office -- from Nolan Ryan to Jon Daniels to Thad Levine -- that the Rangers need a front-of-the-rotation starter.

It's not optional.

The Rangers must add a No.1 starter or they won't win their third consecutive AL West title. And you can forget about a third consecutive trip to the World Series without fortifying the rotation.

Yes, Lewis was that important to the 2012 rotation.

So whether it's Philadelphia's Cole Hamels or Milwaukee's Zack Greinke or some stud the Rangers have targeted whom we haven't heard about -- always a possibility with the Rangers' front office -- this team needs an anchor for its staff.

Lewis wasn't sexy, but he was a dude who took the ball every fifth day and competed as hard as an athlete with slightly above-average stuff can compete. He recorded outs with guile, excellent command and a slider with wicked movement on the days he had his best stuff.

[+] EnlargeColby Lewis
AP Photo/LM OteroWhether it's Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke or some other top starter, the Rangers have to find an anchor for their rotation after losing the underrated Colby Lewis.

But his most important trait is his mental and physical toughness.

Lewis always took the ball. In the past two seasons, he had made 64 consecutive regular-season starts. He didn't miss a start with Texas until going on the disabled list last month.

And Lewis pitched his best when the games mattered most the past two seasons. Lewis was 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA in the postseason. Only once in eight starts did he yield more than two runs.

Without Lewis, the Rangers' rotation no longer has a lead dog.

Matt Harrison, easily the staff's best pitcher his season, lacks the alpha-dog mentality. Yu Darvish has the mentality to eventually be the alpha dog, but he's still adjusting to the big leagues and isn't quite ready to lead a staff.

Derek Holland, learning to handle celebrity, has been too inconsistent this season. Roy Oswalt and his balky balk isn't good enough to be "the man" like he was in Houston when he ranked among the game's best pitchers.

Do you really trust Neftali Feliz, Scott Feldman (who was excellent in the Rangers' 9-1 win over Boston on Monday night) or rookie Martin Perez?

Of course not.

Would you feel comfortable with any of the current starters, based on what we've seen this season, starting a win-and-advance wild-card game? Or Game 5 of the ALDS? Or Game 7 of the World Series?

No. No. No. And you know it.

The farm system is stocked and the billionaire owners -- Bob Simpson and Ray Davis -- have made it clear they will add to the budget for the right deal.

It doesn't get any bigger than right now as the Rangers attempt to be the first team not named the Yankees to play in three consecutive World Series since the Oakland Athletics did it in 1988-90.

Josh Hamilton is probably leaving after the season and no dominant team exists in the big leagues this season.

The Rangers have everything they need to win a title right now except a pitcher at the top of the rotation to show everyone else how to get it done.

It's so hard to win a championship in pro sports -- as we've seen the past two seasons -- that the Rangers owe it to themselves to do whatever it takes, short of offering Jurickson Profar in a deal to make it happen.

Adding Hamels or someone of his ilk doesn't guarantee a title, but it makes it a heck of a lot easier to envision it happening.

The cost will be expensive, especially since the odds of Hamels or Greinke signing a long-term deal here is slim. The hard part is trying to determine how many of the Rangers' prized prospects they can relinquish without mortgaging the club's future.

Daniels insists Lewis' injury won't force the Rangers to make a deal.

Whatever.

Daniels is among the best GMs in baseball. He knows what must be done.

He has seven days to make it happen.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ALSO SEE

MORE MLB HEADLINES