After an underwhelming 2020 season marred heavily by injury, what does the Texas Rangers pitching staff look like for the 2021 season?
When the 2020 season began for the Texas Rangers they had a starting rotation that was widely touted throughout both the local and national media. Returning from 2019 were stars Mike Minor and Lance Lynn. They were joined in the offseason by Corey Kluber (via a trade with Cleveland), Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles both free agents). If the offense clicked then there was a recipe for success.
But we all know what happened. Lynn excelled and is a Cy Young award candidate. Minor regressed and was eventually traded at the deadline. Kluber only pitched one inning in his Rangers’ debut before being placed on the I.L. for the remainder of the season with a shoulder tear. Then there was Gibson and Lyles who underperformed though, in their defense, they were still just a year removed from arm surgeries. Not trying to make excuses but when you miss a lot of time it does take awhile to fully comeback whether you’re a pitcher or position player.
So what does the 2021 season hold in store? As I examine the starting rotation please note that win/loss records are not a way to measure a pitcher as that stat is predicated on how well the offense performs. For example a pitcher could lose a game 2-0 but was the loss really his fault? Plus, while listed, you shouldn’t focus too much on ERA. Instead you should look closer to a pitcher’s FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) because that metric is basically an adjusted ERA whose formula is based on everything within his control. It takes away from defensive algorithms. And then there is also WHIP (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched). A WHIP of 1.20 is league average. Anything below a 1.00 is spectacular. Now I can toss out Minor so let’s focus on the rest.
Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 0.96 WHIP)
Next year will be Lynn’s final year on his contract with Texas. Most thought he would be traded but it ended up being Minor instead. His six wins are the most of any starter on a team that boasts just ten wins total from the rotation. If he repeats this success next season then I could see the Rangers offering him an extension as they will need that veteran presence.
Corey Kluber (only pitched one inning)
Kluber could return in 2021 despite the fact that the Texas Rangers are likely to decline his team option of $18 million. The club has already talked to Kluber about returning on a deal with a smaller price tag and if he is back in Arlington, he could still form a nice one-two punch with Lance Lynn.
Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87 ERA, 5.68 FIP, 1.57 WHIP)
Gibson is in the first year of a three-year deal that he signed with the Texas Rangers in the offseason. With the money that he is being paid you can expect back here next season unless a trade transpires in the offseason. To his credit he has looked better of late but he still has underwhelmed compared to hopes when he signed.
Jordan Lyles (1-5, 7.07 ERA, 5.96 FIP, 1.49 WHIP)
Lyles has just one more year on his contract like Lynn but, barring a spectacular turnaround, I don’t see him being extended. He may not even make the rotation unless he has a great spring training.
So who does that leave for the starting rotation? Although he struggled, yet is still young, you can expect Kolby Allard to compete for a spot along with Kyle Cody, Brock Burke (coming back from surgery), Wes Benjamin and John King. Joe Palumbo could also factor in to the mix however his health is a bit of an unknown at this point.
Assuming it’s an eight man bullpen I expect it to consist of Demarcus Evans, Taylor Hearn, Nick Goody, Jonathan Hernandez, Rafael Montero, John King (as the long man if he doesn’t make the staring rotation), Joely Rodriguez and Jose Leclerc (as closer).
Texas could also look for bullpen help via free agency or trade in the offseason but I believe that, with the salary restrictions next season, a battle for the rotation will come from within the organization and its’ young arms.