Do Chris Young's Rangers have the pitching firepower to compete with Astros, Mariners?

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News caught up with Chris Young today amid news of the Astros interest in multiple time Cy Young winner Blake Snell.

Despite this development, the Rangers GM seemed to indicate they will be moving forward with the expected rotation going into the 2024 season.

World Series - Arizona Diamondbacks v Texas Rangers - Game Two
World Series - Arizona Diamondbacks v Texas Rangers - Game Two / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

News broke yesterday from Ken Rosenthal that the Houston Astros were deep in discussions with the 2023 NL Cy Young winner, Blake Snell. This development was corroborated many times over and also follows the news of the Rangers being outbid for Dylan Cease by the San Diego Padres. Naturally, concern arose from many Rangers fans, as there was already unease about the first half rotation prior to Houston's potential splash. It does not seem that same concern extended to Chris Young, or so he says. It's become more clear that the order to not spend money on a pitcher is coming from ownership. So, whether he likes it or not, Chris Young is publicly following the party line.

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News spoke with Young earlier on Saturday and, when asked if the Rangers were pursuing any more pitching, Young responded, "The group we have is the group we have and it's a great group". The Rangers GM also added, "I believe in them and I think you should, too."

The last part of Young's quote could mean a few things. He's either speaking to concerned fans, or possibly sending a message after Ken Rosenthal quoted an anonymous source from the Rangers front office who didn't speak with much confidence about the first half rotation.

The three main competitors for the AL West this year will be the same as last year. The Houston Astros, who won the division last year, the defending champion Texas Rangers, and the Seattle Mariners, who narrowly missed the playoffs in the last week of the 2023 regular season, will all be heavily involved. The Rangers have the best lineup of those three teams, and that's before the possible addition of young slugger Wyatt Langford. But can the first half rotation compete with the rotations of Seattle and Houston?

Texas Rangers' Rotation: Can we compete with Seattle, Houston?

The Rangers' starting rotation to start the season will be Nathan Eovaldi, Jon Gray, Dane Dunning, Andrew Heaney, and Cody Bradford. This group combined for an average ERA of 4.18 in the 2023 season, as well as a 1.26 WHIP. When compared to starting rotation stats from last year, there were 12 starting rotations with a better ERA than this group averaged last season. If this group produces similarly to last season, they will be a middle of the road rotation.

The Astros are in a similar situation to the Rangers, injury-wise. They will start the season with Justin Verlander, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia, and Lance McCullers on the IL like the Rangers will start with Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Tyler Mahle on their Injured List. Houston's Opening Day rotation projects to have Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Hunter Brown, Ronel Blanco, and J.P. France. France, after battling shoulder inflammation, is behind in his preparation and may not be ready for the opener. This group averaged a 4.29 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. There were 14 starting rotations with a lower ERA than this group combined for last year.

Finally, we come to the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners firmly have the best rotation of these three teams. Their starting rotation will be Luis Castillo, Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, Bryce Miller, and Bryan Woo. These five combined for a 3.80 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP in 2023, both significantly lower than the Rangers or Astros. The only team with a starting rotation ERA better than 3.80 last season was the San Diego Padres.

As the rotations currently stand, the Rangers are in the middle of the three competitors. If Snell signs with the Astros, the Rangers will move to last in this group in terms of 2023 production, as Snell had a league-leading 2.25 ERA in 2023. They would, however, not be last by a significant margin. Still, it's no secret the Rangers will be relying on their potent offense again in 2024, even more so if Snell takes the mound for the in-state rivals.

Injuries are a real concern for the current Rangers starting rotation. Staying healthy will be crucial for the first half rotation, and if they are able to do so, they should be able to keep the Rangers competitive until reinforcements arrive from the IL, especially when paired with the potent offense. The bullpen should provide the starters more support this year as well. If there's even one injury to the current rotation, though, valid concern will arise for the Rangers' pitching staff, and a trade for a quality starter would become a high priority if one could be found.