The Rangers were in for a shock yesterday when they learned that starter Derek Holland injured his knee in a fall at home, forcing him to undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair the torn cartilage. He is expected to be out until around mid-season. As a result, the Rangers are scrambling to find a substitute starter in the month-plus between now and the start of spring training.
Reports have indicated that the Rangers prefer not to make a big splash, such as signing Masahiro Tanaka or Matt Garza. Rather, they prefer to stay in-house. Names such as Robbie Ross have emerged, as well as last year’s set-up man Tanner Scheppers. Anthony Andro of FOX Sports reports that the Rangers have told Scheppers to arrive to spring training ready to start and compete for a spot in the rotation.
I’m just going to go in the best shape of my life, ready to throw, whatever they need,” Scheppers said. “I’ve been asked to possibly be ready for both (starter or closer) so I’m going to go in ready for whatever. I feel like my body is feeling good, healthy.”
Scheppers was one of the best relievers in baseball last season, finishing with a 1.88 ERA in 76 2/3 innings setting up for former closer Joe Nathan. Scheppers last started in 2011, when he made one start with Triple-A Round Rock. He started seven games in 2010 with Triple-A Oklahoma City. Despite the loss of Nathan, the Rangers have a lot of bullpen depth, so they can afford to move Scheppers to the rotation in a pinch.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.
The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.
Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.
With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.
Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.
Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.
The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.