Kyle McClellan on the disabled list due to a ribcage injury. Martin Perez on the disabled list due to a fractured left forearm. Robbie Ross moved to the bullpen recently. Justin Grimm and Randy Wells sent to Triple-A.
The Rangers have had a lot of moving parts as they attempted to find a suitable candidate for the #5 spot in the rotation. Now, the single red rose can go to one of two finalists: prospect Nick Tepesch and veteran Derek Lowe, according to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan:
But Washington is still holding off naming Tepesch as the fifth starter. Lowe allows him to do that. Lowe has made three starts for the Rangers and is up to 60 pitches. He could make two more starts — including one in extended spring training after Opening Day — and be up to 90 pitches when the Rangers need a fifth starter on April 9 against the Rays.
The Rangers would rather have Lowe in the bullpen. They are ready to commit to Tepesch as their fifth starter. They just aren’t ready to make the official announcement.
Lowe posted a 5.52 ERA as a starter with the Cleveland Indians, but moved to the bullpen when he was signed as a free agent by the New York Yankees in mid-August. He had significantly more success as a reliever, posting a 3.04 ERA in 23.2 innings. As for Tepesch, he got his first taste of Double-A competition with Frisco last year, posting a 4.28 ERA in 90.1 innings.
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The Texas Rangers.
The Big Question: Can the Rangers overcome the loss of Josh Hamilton to free agency?
Hamilton was, by most accounts, the Rangers’ best hitter last season as the lefty finished the 2012 campaign with 43 home runs and 128 RBI, threatening to derail Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown campaign to the very end. The Rangers weren’t willing to commit to Hamilton long-term, which allowed him to sign with the L.A. Angels.
Hamilton spent most of his time in center field last season and will be replaced by Craig Gentry, a 29-year-old with 476 career plate appearances in the big leagues. He is matched by few defensively, but leaves a lot to be desired with the bat as he has no power and is heavily reliant on posting a high batting average (it was .304 last year in 269 PA).
The other big change the Rangers made was handing the everyday job at first base to Mitch Moreland after trading Michael Young to the Phillies. Young had started 40 games at first base while also taking on DH responsibilities. Moreland, 27 years old, hit 15 home runs in 327 plate appearances last year. Their hope is that Moreland is able to consistently hit for power (around 30 home runs in a full season) while continuing to improve his pitch selection, which would help his on-base percentage.
Otherwise, the Rangers are opening up 2013 with more or less the same crew that won 93 games last year.
What else is going on?
- Third baseman Adrian Beltre will attempt to defy the aging process once again in 2013. 34 years old in April, has posted an aggregate .912 OPS over the last three seasons. Only Miguel Cabrera (1.025) beats that mark, but only if you count him despite playing exclusively at first base in 2010-11. Beltre finished third in AL MVP voting last year.
- The Rangers have been linked to starter Kyle Lohse (yep, still a free agent) for a while, but nothing has happened yet. Colby Lewis (elbow) and prospect Martin Perez (forearm) are both on the disabled list, opening up the door for Robbie Ross, Justin Grimm, Randy Wells, or Nick Tepesch to win the #5 spot in the rotation.
- A.J. Pierzynski, coming off of the best offensive season of his career at the age of 35, is moving from one hitter-friendly park in the south side of Chicago to another one in Arlington. Pierzynski hit 27 home runs last year, joining Carlton Fisk (1983, ’85) as the only two catchers in baseball history to hit at least 25 home runs as a catcher at the age of 35 or older.
- Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar are two of the more highly-anticipated prospects in baseball, but both are road-blocked at the moment. Olt is waiting patiently behind Beltre at third base, while Profar is behind shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Ian Kinsler. This has led to their inclusion in many trade rumors, but the Rangers have steadfastly chosen to hold onto their prized prospects.
Prediction: Second place, American League West.
In a move which should come as no surprise, the Cubs announced this morning that they have designated Randy Wells for assignment.
Wells failed to make it out of the fourth inning last night against the Mets. The 29-year-old right-hander gave up three runs and issued four walks, including one to opposing pitcher Dillon Gee, who was trying to give him an out with a sacrifice bunt.
Wells posted a 3.02 ERA as a rookie back in 2009, but he hasn’t come anywhere close to the same success since. After being limited to 23 starts last season due to a forearm injury, he has an ugly 5.34 ERA and 14/24 K/BB ratio over 28 2/3 innings this year.
Wells is making $2.705 million this season as a first-time arbitration-eligible player, so he should pass through waivers easily. As Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com notes, today’s move clears a spot on the 40-man roster for Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, who should officially sign with the Cubs within the next few days.