Perhaps the biggest wild card in this dream rotation, is Max Scherzer. He is a future Hall of Famer, and a guy that historically was at the top of any rotation that he was a part of. Father time, and some untimely injuries, have the veteran Scherzer slotting in the fourth spot. I wouldn't be surprised if Bruce Bochy tells Scherzer that the best pitcher on each team is actually pitching fourth next season, just so he doesn't get twisted. Not really, but you get it. He has always been an ace, but now finds himself slotted further down the rotation.
Keeping Scherzer healthy and on the mound and off the injured list will be the key to a successful 2024 for him. He is one of the main reasons that having the likes of Dunnings, Heaney, and Bradford on the team can come in handy. Scherzer is under contract for 2024 and then will either retire or become a free agent. He will turn 40 next July 27th.
I have heard from plenty of people that Scherzer is done, and that he is no good anymore. That simply isn't the case. He isn't the dominate force that he once was, but he is still a very good MLB pitcher. This season he pitched 152 2/3 innings, had a record of 13-6, struck out 174, had a 3.77 ERA, and a 1.120 WHIP. Having Max Scherzer in the Rangers rotation makes it much better.
The first new piece to the 2024 Rangers dream rotation is Dylan Cease. You might be thinking that you missed his name on the list of free agents, but you didn't. The soon to be (Dec 28) 28-year-old righty for the Chicago White Sox still has two years of control left on his initial MLB contract. With the White Sox starting a rebuild and not appearing to be playoff contenders anytime real soon, they have made it clear that they are willing to listen to offers for the controllable Cease. The price to trade for him will be somewhat high, but after keeping most of the farm system intact at the trade deadline, the Rangers have numerous pieces that could be packaged together to make the deal come to fruition.
Even though Cease would cost the Rangers in prospect capital, he wouldn't escalate the payroll in the way many of the other pitchers out there would. His estimated arbitration number this season is $8.3M which is about $20M less than many of the top free agent pitchers. Cease had an off year in 2023 and will be looking to regain his dominance that he previously showed.
Cease was good in 2021, but then was great in 2022 as he finished second in the AL Cy Young race behind only Justin Verlander. There appeared to be some mechanical issues that were hindering Cease this season but started to get better over his last four starts of the year. Getting out of Chicago and having a change in scenery is bound to help the ultra-talented Cease. There is a chance that one of the long guys has to go back to Chicago in this deal, but if that is the case, getting two years of control of Cease in the middle of our window could work out very nicely.