Good news came down yesterday about Matt Harrison feeling a little better after experiencing some soreness in his neck earlier in the week. He is still awaiting further evaluation on Monday by the surgeon that performed his two (!) back surgeries; but it’s starting to sound like he is going to be okay. Maybe.
But what if he’s not?
As we all know, Harrison’s health has been tentative at best over the last couple of seasons; with him not only undergoing the back surgeries, but also having surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome late last season as well. And maybe that means the Texas Rangers are just being extra-cautious by sending him for the MRI and shutting down his baseball activities. Or, maybe it means they know how this story goes and aren’t quite as optimistic as we want them to be.
Optimism is a great quality. For a therapist. Not so much for building a winning a baseball team; and almost definitely not when it comes to the health of your players. Unfortunately, hoping and expecting good health doesn’t fill out your 25-man roster. So what are the Rangers options if Matt Harrison does miss time this season?
The Free Agent Market
Well…considering it’s February 22nd, we are down to slim pickins’. While there were several good options at the start of the off-season, e.g. James Shields, Jon Lester, Hiroki Kuroda, those guys are long gone. And the Rangers showed no interest in any of them. And why would they? At the time those guys were signed, our rotation looked like this: Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Martin Perez, and Alexi Ogando. Fast forward three months and we could be looking at: Darvish, _______, ________, Perez, and Ogando. And that is a scary thought. So who is left out there?
Santana, the 31-year old righty, pitched well for the Royals last season; finishing with an ERA of 3.24 in 32 starts. He’s had a few off years (which is to say NOT good), but generally Santana has been a pretty solid pitcher. He most likely won’t win any awards; but he serves his purpose on the mound. Which begs the question: why is he still out there?
Well according to about a billion sources, Santana wanted a 5-year, $112 million deal. That is quite a bit of money for a “serviceable”, or slightly better, pitcher. Luckily for the Rangers, and the Orioles who are apparently showing interest, that price has dropped, although to what level I’m not sure.
Santana would certainly fill in any of the Rangers spots quite well. But are the Rangers willing to spend a pretty penny to fill in a role that might not even be necessary to fill?
The Other Guys
First: note the brevity of this paragraph.
Other than Santana, there aren’t many options left on the free agent market; not even the semi-attractive kind. 31-year old righty, Jeff Karstens is still available. But he’s coming off of rotator cuff surgery. Plus I never quite trust a National League guy in the AL; although he did pitch for the Yankees several years ago.
I’m sure you’ve read that the Rangers are have several guys in camp that are either vying for a spot or are being stretched out in that “just in case” kind of way. The list includes Colby Lewis, whom I think we’re all rooting for, Nick Tepesch, whom was probably rushed up a little too soon out of necessity last year, and Tommy Hanson, whom the Rangers signed just before Spring Training opened.
The “getting stretched out” list includes Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers, and Michael Kirkman, who surprisingly enough is your longest tenured Texas Ranger. Who knew?
I think the 5-year veteran Hanson probably has a good shot at securing one of those spots, as he’s had some big league success in the past. And I feel that if fan favorite Colby Lewis is healthy; we know that we can expect a workhorse pitcher and some solid results.
But(!) if Colby is not healthy, I don’t know that Nick Tepesch is quite ready yet (still), nor do I want Ross, Scheppers, or Kirkman out of the bullpen. And that’s not only because they are good relievers (which they most certainly are), but also because it’s only on rare occasion that “stretched-out” relievers make good starters; in fact, that usually turns out to be a disaster. See: Joba Chamberlain.
So what’s our best bet? The worst thing here is that you can’t just wait and see how Harrison will come out. By the time you figure that out, he might be hurt and Santana might be gone. Then we’ve basically painted ourselves into a corner.
I say we go out and get Santana if the price is right. Of course, we don’t want to break the bank if the guy is still expecting anywhere near what he was at the beginning of the off-season. But if the rumors are true and he’s being more reasonable now, then why not add him? We don’t need him to be our ace (Remember Yu? OF COURSE you do.). We just need him to be solid enough to be an okay #2 or #3 until we can get Holland back. And what if Matty is okay? Then we send Alexi Ogando to the pen after the All-Star break. Would that be the worst thing in the world? I think not.
As we all know though, there is a lot of spring left my friends. A LOT of spring left. So let’s all get comfy on the couch and see how this one plays out.