Who Will be Starter Number 3?

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May 10, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Martin Perez (33) throws the ball in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The baseball off season is so exciting isn’t it? Just look at all that happened yesterday. Big free agent signings, huge blockbuster trades, and ridiculously big contract extensions all remind me of how much I need baseball back in my life. Sure football is great. The Mavericks are doing fun things in the AAC and I’ve recently come around to love hockey. Nothing beats baseball though. In this sad cold time of year devoid of happiness and baseball I will attempt to bring turkey season some cheer and hope back into your baseball-loving lives.

Quick answer and long term answer to who is no. 3 makes me sad because the answer is Martin Perez. Of the stupid amount of injuries to the 2014 Rangers his caused me the most melancholy. I hope pray and think I am 85% sure that Perez will be able to make a full recovery from this wretched injury. He is a resilient kid and a smart pitcher. Ranger’s front office has him on a timetable to be pitching in the majors again circa July or August of 2015. Though this is nice to hear, it usually takes pitchers around 18 months to return to form after Tommy John surgery, see Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria pre trade 2014. Matt Harrison at this point is a crap shoot to ever pitch in the majors again and as much as I love Colby Lewis he should anchor the back of a rotation rather than be your number 3 starter.

Where do JD and company look now? All signs point towards the trade market. Two main teams that the Ranger’s have been linked to in the press are the San Diego Padres and the Cincinnati Reds. Both teams have a surplus of young talent in their rotation and will likely not be able to hold on to all of those young guns. The Reds want to lock up their young ace Johnny Cueto to a long term deal. The rest of their rotation looks like this: Matt Latos, Homer Bailey, Tony Cingrani, Mike Leake, also Alfredo Simon and Dylan Axelrod. You can start to see how it would be incredibly difficult to lock up all of these arms long term. Matt Latos is the most likely candidate for trade since he will become a free agent after 2015. Latos also brings to the table a slew of injuries and what ifs. In the 2014 season Matt only pitched in 16 games (102.1 innings) but put up a nice 3.25 era. Latos has had surgery on his elbow and knee, two of the scarier places for pitcher injuries, and is will earn around $8.4 million in arbitration according to MLB trade rumors. Even with the baggage it would take an above average package to get Latos. So let’s say a Spencer Patton, Alec Asher, and maybe Jose Leclerc.

Trades with the San Diego Padres could be extremely easy or nearly impossible, it’s too early to say. New GM AJ Preller and super scout Don Welke have incredibly intimate knowledge of the Ranger’s farm system. This could be a good thing or a bad thing. If Don and Thad value different prospects more highly than JD and Thad Levine this front office relationship could be very mutually beneficial. However, if the two front offices both very highly value a certain player that could make deals more difficult. It is my belief that since AJ and Jon Daniels know each other so well, Preller will know which prospects Jon is more likely to part ways with in order to get a deal done. The Padres also have a few starting pitchers the Rangers could take an interest in, mainly Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy. Both starters are under 30, 28 and 29 respectively, both are right handed, and both were first round draft picks. Cashner had an impressive 2.55 era through 123.1 innings in 19 starts and last year in 26 starts Andrew put up a 3.09 era. Ian Kennedy is more of a sure bet than Cashner innings-wise. In each of the last 4 seasons Kennedy has pitched at least 180 innings. His era has fluctuated quite dramatically. Here are his season eras from 2010 to 2014: 3.80, 2.88, 4.02, 4.91, and 3.63. Unlike Latos he doesn’t quite have top end stuff but he will eat a good chunk of innings for you each year. However, I don’t think Kennedy as your no. 3 in a playoff rotation is good enough to make a deep run at the trophy.

There is a decent crop of mid level starters who wouldn’t cost too much that the Rangers could make a run for. I would have to think the Rangers have at least talked to Brandon McCarthy about a return to Texas but the money would have to be just right and the Rangers would want to be sure they could get the same Brandon that was pitching for the Yankees at the end of last season. Brandon is an incredibly intelligent baseball player. He is not the same pitcher who put up mediocre performances in Arlington back in 2007-2009. My biase for him might also come from the fact that he is the funniest MLB player on twitter. For some reason nobody is talking about Ervin Santana who had an impressive start to the 2014 season. The September numbers were horrendous: 6.51 era in 27.1 innings with a 1.554 WHIP in 5 starts. A 3.95 era isn’t horrible and he still started 31 games. Santana is a horse who has thrown over 175 innings 7 out of his 10 years in the big leagues. His torrid April shows that for a stretch he can carry a team every 5th day. During his 4 April starts he had a 1.95 era, 27.2 innings, 31 K’s and a .976 WHIP. That is a type of no. 3 starter you would feel comfortable down the stretch slotted in behind Yu Darvish and Derek Holland.

Keep your eye out on twitter and here at Nolan Writin’ because you never know what Jon Daniels and company will do next in these wacky winter meetings!

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