When trading an org second baseman and the 20-something-best relief pitcher in the farm system for Ross Detwiler is the most significant move of the offseason, it's OK to admit it's been a slow offseason. Two months from two days ago will be the first day of spring training, and we're still about 100 days from Opening Night. There is still time.
Between now and then, smart money is on the Rangers acquiring one more impact piece -- likely via trade -- to complete its roster before Opening Day. This became clearer yesterday when Jon Daniels mentioned that James Shields isn't going to happen. JD's guy is out there, somewhere, and I don't think he's going to wait for a July trade deadline that might not even mean anything to go get him.
Nearly a month ago in Joe Sheehan's newsletter, he wrote of Texas:
The Rangers will almost certainly do more to improve the roster between now and March. With the A's slipping, the questions the Angels have about their rotation, and the Mariners' OBP issues, there's every chance for the Rangers -- who will now have a manager who helps, rather than hurts, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. -- to move right back to the top of the AL West.
The Mariners won the winter in the AL West as far as headlines go; maybe I'm a subtle Nelson Cruz hater because he's no longer with the Rangers, but I don't see his addition to that lineup as anything ground-breaking. In the second half last year he hit just .249/.306/.463 (113 wRC+), and in an historically pitcher-friendly park (Safeco) that suppresses fly balls, I think he is closer to that 2nd half player moving forward than the middle of the order force he was signed to be.
Anaheim still have to be considered the favorite, in my eyes. Matt Shoemaker will probably regress a tad, and the idea of Garrett Richards perhaps not pitching till September sucks, but I still believe their superior offense can compensate for a league average to slightly below pitching staff. They are a team built for the summertime where offense plays, but it might be enough since there is no dominant team in the AL West.
Houston are a team to look out for... in 2016. In '15 they'll still be too young, with a rotation too thin to maintain. But they are nonetheless a team to be worried about in the West from '16 to most likely infinity.
The A's are going to be better than the media is giving them credit for, but they've clearly taken a step back and won't compete for the division. I was surprised by the light returns they got in the Josh Donaldson and Jeff Samardzija trades, making the obscure 3-year, $30 million contract they gave Billy Butler to begin the winter feel that much stranger. Truth be told, the trade that really kills them was letting Addison Russell go (as well as their #2 prospect in the system, Billy McKinney) in the original Samardzija trade with the Cubs. They essentially traded the top-2 prospects in a weak farm system and netted Marcus Simien and change from the White Sox. Samardzija was good in Oakland, but his time there has to be considered a failure, overall, being they went for broke and all they got was a Wild Card game loss in Kansas City.
The Rangers probably aren't done making moves, which is comforting, but if they do I'm hoping it's for a good pitcher. Texas can piecemeal together a league-average offense -- which has the potential of being a lot better with some bounce back seasons out of Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder -- but it will go for null unless they can improve the starting rotation.
In a crazy-but-not-really-that-crazy projection, Yu Darvish and Derek Holland could easily generate 10 wins in 2015. If both throw 200-plus innings, the Rangers are in good shape. But who are pitching behind them? It's those three spots on the roster that will be the difference between an 82-win Rangers team and one that could possibly win 87 or 88 games and compete for the division crown.
Colby Lewis, the #4 starter, is projected to be be worth +0.8 WAR according to Steamer, holding a 4.68 ERA in 153 IP. Likewise Ross Detwiler -- who is likely going to be given every chance to be a starter -- is projected to earn +0.8 Steamer WAR, with a 4.97 ERA in 153 IP.
The 5th spot, right now at least, is up for grabs. At least while no trades have been made. If the Rangers got [insert 3.5 ERA over 185 innings here] at a reasonable price to be the #3 starter, the rotation would look pretty good with the veteran Lewis and the lottery ticket Detwiler at the back-end.
The Rangers are in the opposite spot they were in last year: as the 2014 season went along it seemed like everybody was hurt, and Texas didn't have nearly the depth to withstand it; this year, the team is starting off with a decent pitching staff, but as the season goes they will get back guys like Martin Perez and... (fingers crossed) Matt Harrison.
There is also the potential of a callup at some point for RHPs Chi-Chi Gonzalez and Jake Thompson.
Of course now that I've spent all this time talking about the rotation, Jon Daniels is going to go get Bryce Harper, isn't he?