Texas Rangers: Pull from within or hit the market to complete the bullpen?
By Travis Koch
The Texas Rangers need to turn their focus to the bullpen. Some help may come from within, but the free agent market remains opportunistic.
The Texas Rangers bullpen completed the 2018 season with the 19th best ERA in Major League Baseball. Below average isn’t exactly what a relief crew strives for, but considering they lost Jesse Chavez, Keone Kela and Jake Diekman prior to the halfway point, that’s not too shabby. Plus, the pen improved from a 2017 season which finished with a 4.76 collective ERA, ranking 28th in MLB.
Can the improvement continue in 2019?
As of this moment, the bullpen could use some help. The Rangers are set at closer with Jose Leclerc, and Jesse Chavez and Jeffrey Springs each give the team strong options for basically any role (even as openers if Texas opts to go that route). Beyond those three, however, there’s a lot of uncertainty.
Unless Texas dives into the free agent relief market, they will likely have to assign one or two of their prospect arms to the opening day roster. Jonathan Hernandez, Joe Palumbo, Taylor Hearn, and CD Pelham are all possibilities. That’s not a problem as long as they are ready.
Other options include Zac Curtis and Adrian Sampson, each resigned by the Texas Rangers on minor league contracts. Connor Sadzeck could make the cut as well.
Any leftovers from the starting pitching competition could find themselves in the pen. They’ll have at least a handful of guys trying to earn a spot in the rotation. Mike Minor and Lance Lynn are the only two with a guaranteed spot. So the two or three that don’t make the rotation could be looked at as relievers.
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The problem is that’s not how a team should compile a bullpen. Specifically, the Rangers shouldn’t be looking at who fell short of the rotation or who can make a premature jump to the big leagues. The bullpen should be full of pitchers whom the organization is confident in. Confident that the staff can produce immediate results and be able to handle the necessary workload.
The thoughts of the coaching staff and front office have been kept quiet regarding the bullpen. A lack of offseason action to this point makes it seem as if they’re confident in what they already have. With that said, there is still time to add pitching.
Many relief arms within the free agent market remain as teams are waiting for the biggest domino to fall (Craig Kimbrel). Once Kimbrel sets the market, names should start disappearing off the list.
Will the Texas Rangers sign anyone? I don’t see why not.
There are plenty of affordable, quality relievers available. Texas could bring back Jake Diekman, Tony Barnette or Cory Gearrin. Other names like Justin Wilson, Adam Warren, Bud Norris and Hunter Strickland are intriguing as well.
The Rangers stockpiled their starting rotation with short-term contracts; they would be wise to do the same with their bullpen. I wouldn’t mind them extending a multi-year contract to at least one reliever, perhaps Diekman or Strickland.
Expect the Texas Rangers to make a couple more moves before the offseason concludes. Those moves will hopefully be made for relievers. They could wait to assess the fringe prospects in the spring, but the relief market may be dried up by then.
2019 is a rebuilding year (hopefully the last one for a while), but that’s no excuse for having a lackluster bullpen. There are ways to improve the pen from 2018. Texas just needs pick and choose very wisely.