The second week of December wasn’t kind to the Texas Rangers. They failed to sign one of the big three free agents — making things worse,their main target, Anthony Rendon, went to a division rival– anda fire broke outat their future ballpark, which is set to open this upcoming season.
But the Rangers’ misfortune turned on Sundaywhen the acquired Corey Kluber from Clevelandin exchange for centerfielder Delino DeShields Jr. and relief pitcher Emmanuel Clase. That’s a relatively small price to pay for a two-time Cy Young Award pitcher who in 2020 will make $ 17. 5 million — less than half of what the Yankees will pay Gerrit Cole per year.
More importantly, though, than the favorable financial value of Kluber is what his addition means for the Texas rotation and, consequently, the American League West. The power dynamic in the division is shifting, in no small part because of the moves the Rangers have made this offseason. No longer is it just the Astros and Everyone Else. For the first time since (************************************, when Houston looked like it would be baseball’s model franchise for years to come, there’s some uncertainty in the AL West.
Rewind to July 151,when the Astros snagged Zack Greinkefrom the Diamondbacks and looked unstoppable. Greinke joined their two aces, Justin Verlander and Cole, to form the best rotation in the league. They had baseball’s deepest lineup, with MVP runner-up Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer and Rookie of the Year Yordan Alvarez. The bullpen was better than it was when they won the World Series. There was little doubt they were the best team in the sport.
What a difference four and a half months can make. Texas, not Houston, has the best rotation in the division. Before getting Kluber, the Rangers signed righthanders Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles, two pitchers with electric stuff and inconsistent track records to join a rotation that already featured Lance Lynn and Mike Minor.
Gibson, who signed a three-year, $ million contract late last month, is coming off a down year, but there’s reason to think last season may have been a fluke . He caught E. coli while on an offseason mission trip to Haiti and the Dominican Republic that affected his Spring Training and start to the season. Then he was placed on the injured list with ulcerative colitis on Sept. 1 after trying to pitch through it. He lost 28 pounds during the season and still posted a career-best 93 – mph average fastball velocity.
Lyles was traded to the Brewers midway through each of the last two seasons and both years became an important piece of their postseason pushes. His improvement with Milwaukee can be attributed to a change in pitch selection, giving Texas reason to believe his production is sustainable. Lyles used to rely on his sinker when he was with the Pirates and Rockies. Once he moved away from his sinker and instead used an elevated four-seam fastball-curveball combo to get hitters out, he started having success.
“[Lyles] could throw that breaking ball at any count, any time, and he did, ”Rangers manager Chris Woodward said at the Winter Meetings last week. “He did it against us and he had a lot of success with it.
“Honestly I think Jordan is scratching the surface on finding out how good he can be, and that was intriguing for me to get him around the guys and talk to our pitching staff and talk to the other pitchers, and we can make him sustainably good. ”