Should the Rangers Sign a Free Agent Pitcher This Winter, or Not?

(View this post at the soon-to-be new home for the Rangers or Robbers blog.)

Similar to early-season views on Torri Hunter, I and many others expected the Rangers sign a Free Agent starting pitcher this next Winter to add to the rotation for 2008. But with the upsides of failing fast now in full effect at the Ballpark, I’m not sure they should.

The earliest the Rangers window for being a true contender will open is 2009. So why not let all the young arms in the Rangers organization get every chance they can with as many innings as possible in the “Bigs” to become winning pitchers for ’09 and beyond?

Millwood and Padilla are the only pitchers (and 2 of only 5 Rangers total) under contract past this season. And, with one of the league’s 5 lowest team salaries after dumping Teixeira, Gagne, Lofton and Mahay’s salaries ($22.2 million annualized), the Rangers certainly have all the flexibility and tons of money available to rebuild their rotation and fill holes in their lineup and bench.

But the Rangers also have a large collection of highly touted prospect young arms. While I’m not at all confident in the Rangers’ ability to turn prospects into winning major league starters, the law of averages has to kick in sometime. Doesn’t it? I mean, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every so often.

So would it be better for the Rangers to let the remaining 3 spots in their rotation be filled by those prospects, instead of filling one with a free agent signing?  (Of course, Millwood and Padilla’s seasons make them less than surefire long-term locks for any rotation and they could be traded away, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

I include McCarthy and Gabbard on the Rangers’ prospects list, as they still haven’t completed a successful transition to the majors and are not bona fide winning starters. Then there’s Tejeda, Loe and Wood who’ve had plenty of chances to get some traction already (not to mention Rheinecker and Koronka – who’re about out of chances). Are they worth more time in the rotation to see what could happen? Or are they meant for the bullpen? And then there’s Volquez, Hurley, Rupe, Harrison, Galarraga and Mendoza coming up from the minors.

That’s at least 13 pitchers who are touted to have various levels of major league potential. At least two or three of them should become major league winners, right? Again, the law of averages has to work in the Rangers’ favor at some point, doesn’t it.

Plus, the list of pitchers who’ll be free agents this winter doesn’t look too exciting and looks pretty old (ages for next season in parentheses: source MLB Trade Rumors):

Carlos Zambrano (27)
Curt Schilling (41)
Jason Jennings (29)
Koji Uehara (33)
Freddy Garcia (32)
Kenny Rogers (43)
Jon Lieber (38)
Bartolo Colon (35)
Joe Kennedy (29)
Tomo Ohka (32)
John Thomson (34)
Kip Wells (31)
Wade Miller (31)
Livan Hernandez (33)*
Randy Wolf (31) – $9MM club option for ’08
Paul Byrd (37) – $8MM club option for ’08
Jeff Weaver (31)
Tom Glavine (42) – $9MM player option for ’08
Kris Benson (33) – $7.5MM club option for ’08
Jaret Wright (32)
David Wells (45)
Eric Milton (32)
Kyle Lohse (29)
Matt Clement (33)
Rodrigo Lopez (32)
Josh Fogg (31)
Byung-Hyun Kim (29)
Odalis Perez (31) – $9MM club option for ’08
Brett Tomko (35) – $4.5MM mutual option for ’08

If the Rangers can sign Carlos Zambrano, they should. He’s a true ace who could at 27 could anchor the Rangers’ rotation for years. But like so many aces before him, why would he come to the Ballpark and the Rangers? It would take crazy money for him to pass on the numerous great offers he’ll get from teams who will be contending for years to come.

So, short of a miracle signing of Zambrano, I think the Rangers best move may be to stick with the arms they have and see how these prospects play out. Then they’ll have the trade deadlines next season and the winter of ’08-’09 – when they’ll have a more clear picture of what they have in the guys they have – to shore up any holes in the rotation.

The problem there is that they’ll likely still have several large holes. But we’ve got time to wait and see.

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8 responses to “Should the Rangers Sign a Free Agent Pitcher This Winter, or Not?

  1. The answer to your question: Yes, The Rangers should sign a pitcher. Here is my take, the Rangers should dig deep into their wallets and sign Carlos Zambrano, because from 03′-07 this guy has been a 13+ game winner. My point is that he has proven himself to be a super-arm in the league. If the Rangers could lock up him for whatever the cost he can pitch at the #1 spot, which he is already in Chicago, then the Rangers can continue to build their prospects behind Zambrano (giving that Zambrano continues his yearly trend). Millwood and Padilla can continue their mediocracy behind their sure-fire ace. Continue to let Loe and Gabbard become reliable starters, and let the random decent guys can continue to battle for starts.

    The Rangers should dish out the necessary cash to sign Zambrano to a two-year deal, high price deal. NOT a humungus ten year, $250 million dollar contract.
    haha who would want to stay on the same team for 10 years?

    Finally, Kip Wells shouldn’t even be included on that list, because we ALREADY had him.

  2. If you can get Zambrano on a 4-5 year deal for money that isn’t going to hamper the future financial expenditures of this franchise, then yes. I wouldn’t however, over-extend ourselves with a contract offer that puts us in a financial bind, and I wouldn’t go more then 4 or 5 years, max. I’m not a fan of giving pitchers major dollars for any longer than that.

    If it’s not Zambrano, it’s nobody. Just let Gabbard, McCarthy, Loe, Volquez (assuming he makes the club out of spring training) continue getting innings and develop rather than trying to fit an over-aged, more expensive piece into the rotation. I wouldn’t mind seeing Hurley at some point next year, but I think he needs another year in AAA to really fine-tune things and hopefully dominate that league before he gets a call-up.

    Am I the only one who thinks CJ Wilson needs to get a look as a starter in Spring Training next year? The kid has good stuff, all he ever needed to do was pitch with confidence on the mound. Everytime he goes out now it looks like he knows he’s going 1-2-3 in an inning and nobody can stop him. It may be something worth a look in ST…

  3. Out of the pitchers on the list, only Zambrano is worth overpaying for.

    Freddy Garcia could be worth taking a look at. A one-year deal with a club option.

  4. rangersorrobbers

    I’m with Jmay!

    Big Z or nobody! But it will take crazy money to get him here. But the Rangers have crazy money to spend. They were under-spending before the mid-season trades, and now have an annualized salary that’s 5th lowest in the majors. And that’s in the nation’s 4th largest market where ticket sales have been up despite the poor product on the field.

    To get a guy like Big Z to come to Texas vs. a pitcher-friendly park and organization and a team that’s ready to compete immediately. I expect the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Tigers (if Rogers retires, but I think he’ll stay another season), Giants and Astros to be in the chase. The prohibitive favorites to sign him have to be the Yanks, as money’s never an issue for them and the team needs an ace (especially with Clemens likely to pull another 3/4-season move).

    Almost any other year, and I agree with the Freddy Garcia comment, but not for ’08, which needs to be about innings for youngin’s unless a true ace can be signed or acquired in a trade.

    So most likely, it will be Millwood and Padilla mediocrity followed by McCarthy, Gabbard, and my bet is Volquez.

    I think Loe will FINALLY go to the bullpen, where I think he’s long belonged.

  5. “The prohibitive favorites to sign him have to be the Yanks, as money’s never an issue for them”

    What’s the difference between George Steinbrenner and Tom Hicks? Apparently, they’re both billionaires

  6. Good point by “anonymous”. Hicks could easily turn our payroll into one that would rival the Yankees if he was so inclined.

    I agree, we need to sign a pitcher to replace our failing “staff ace” Kevin Millwood. I also agree Big Z is our best option, but good luck getting Hicks to open his wallet to sign him. Quite a list of free agents there, but let me just give my takes on a couple I’ve heard rumored lately:

    Kenny Rogers: his name has been floating around in sentimental Rangers circles for awhile. He’s left and come back before, but I think this time, the divorce is final. If he can still bring it, I think the Rangers young staff could use his leadership – look what he did for the Tigers young pitchers – but with his physical problems this year, I would stay away from him. Now, if we could get him as a coach, that would be great, but I somehow doubt he wants to come back to Arlington anyway.

    Bartolo Colon: he’s pitched exceeding well against the Rangers in the past, and because of that, a lot of people think he would be a good fit for The Ballpark. But he’s one of many guys on that list who would have a hospital room reserved for him in Arlington at the signing of his contract.

    Personally, the only ones on that list that interest me are:

    Zambrano (duh)
    Freddy Garcia
    Livan Hernandez
    (maybe) Jason Jennings
    (maybe) Randy Wolf

    P.S. rangersorrobbers: looking forward to the move to Blogspot. I just hope most people around here will follow, and you won’t lose all the traffic you’ve gained with this blog.

  7. Bartolo Colon.. that is a name that I like. He would be just as good as signing Zambrano. Colon had twenty-two wins in 2005 and has had 10+ wins from 98′-05′. check that statman.

  8. rangersorrobbers

    I’m afraid Colon is too old to fit into the Rangers’ best interests. He’s been on a downward slide since his peak in ’05 and has the health problems to show for it. If the Rangers sign anyone, it needs to be a guy who can be counted on through at least 2010. Colon doesn’t fit that bill.

    Jon – you and me both re: hoping people follow the move to Blogspot. WordPress has just been flat out aggravating to me. With little time, I’ve already been able to do a lot more with the Blogspot site – such as the Quickpoll, Sitepal, and the Hicks-like part of me that wouldn’t mind a few dollars for my efforts also likes the Google Adsense, Amazon product links, etc.

    Plus, that merchandise I’ve been planning for the Rangers Fans Against Hicks, will be much easier to show, promote and sell on the new site.

    Hope you’ll all follow me over to that new site. I’ve really enjoyed all the great comments from the several of you who have been regulars and the occassional random commenter.

    Speaking of which – “annonymous” makes a great point above. While I think – given the market and TV revenue differences – it’s a bit unfair to Hicks to expect him to spend at the Yankees’ level, he certainly could if he cared about winning first and foremost. And, he certainly SHOULD be spending much more than the league’s 5th lowest payroll in this market.

    Prediction – look for a spending increase in the summer of 2009. Why? To get more traffic to the Ballpark and the (then to be nearly completed) surrounding Glory Park months ahead of the Cowboys’ opening season in their new stadium with its Championship Park(?) around it. Hicks will spend on the team that season as he’ll view it as an investment likely to pay returns not just in ticket and merchandise sales, but also in the establishment of his long-term Glory Park investment.

    I just hope he finally sells the Rangers by 2010-2011 once Glory Park is built out and leased up.

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