Injuries forced the Rangers to make some last-minute adjustments to their rotation and they decided to give Tanner Scheppers the Opening Day start despite the fact that he’d never started a big-league game before.
It went poorly, as have his other starts, and now Scheppers may not be long for the rotation. Manager Ron Washington declined to feed into that speculation, but Scheppers has a 9.82 ERA while allowing a league-high 20 runs in 18 innings, serving up four homers. Last season, as a full-time reliever, he had a 1.88 ERA in 77 innings and his average fastball was 2.5 miles per hour faster in the bullpen.
Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas guesses that the Rangers will give Scheppers one more start to prove himself, as which point replacing him with Double-A right-hander Nick Martinez could be an option. Left-hander Matt Harrison is also nearly ready to come off the disabled list. And then the question would become whether the brief stint in the rotation will have a lingering negative impact on Scheppers’ work as a reliever.
Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.
There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.
The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.