This week brought the news of Chris Martin signing with the Braves for two years and $14 million, taking away one starting pitcher option for the Rangers. With Mike Minor and Lance Lynn staying in the rotation, the Rangers find themselves searching for one or two more starting pitchers. The Rangers need to prove they are in serious contention for the World Series and adding to the pitching rotation is the place to start. Here are my top four starting pitcher free agent options, with their pros and cons, to help the Rangers in the 2020 season. These players would be great pitching upgrades for the team.
It’s no secret the Rangers could better themselves by acquiring this lefty. With a 2.32 ERA and with an 8 K/9 rate in 182.2 innings pitched, he found himself runner up to the NL Cy Young. His fourteen wins and five losses, with 106 strikeouts and 1.01 WHIP are also impressive.
Since he accepted a one-year and almost $18 million deal last winter, Ryu left himself open to the free market for the first time. He’s not tied down to the Dodgers. Ryu has made it clear he would enjoy playing with Shin-Soo Choo, who in turn said he’d put in a word with the Rangers’ front office. He could probably be a get for three years and $50.5 million. The Rangers seem to have a knack for rehabbing former Tommy John clients. Keeping Ryu free from injury, combined with his age at 33, may be the challenge with this acquisition.
Bumgarner is another player who has battled back from injury. Mad Bum has a postseason record that really shines. He has over 100 postseason innings with a 2.11 ERA and three World Series rings to his name. He threw for an impressive 3.4 fWAR/2.5 bWAR last season in 207.2 innings pitched. Not all of his stats are impressive, though, with a nine 9-9 record and a season ERA of 3.90. Don’t overlook him; as he can be affordable. His four-year, $72mil estimated price tag can be attractive to the Rangers, who would like to leave room for other positional needs as well. Bumgarner may not want to play for an American League team though as he enjoys his time at the plate. He may also want to stay with the Giants one more year to be able to hit free agency in 2020 without restriction of a qualifying offer.
Some speculate righty Cole would like to pitch in sunny Southern California, but with his big price tag ($250 million) he may be convinced to move for the benjamins. His sustained 97 MPH fastball was second among starting pitchers. With 212.1 innings pitched in 2019, an ERA of 2.20 that put him first in the American League and 326 strike outs, he’s a premier pitcher in whom many teams are interested. Acquiring Cole would signal the Rangers want to contend sooner rather than later. It would also go a ways to evening the balance in the AL West by removing a key player for the Astros. That big paycheck is the drawback for the Rangers. Getting Cole will eat up most of the Rangers free agent budget, leaving holes in other spots they’d like to fill like first and third base.
With a 96.7 MPH average fastball last season, righty Wheeler is a great option for a solid starting pitcher without a huge price tag. Last season he pitched a 3.65 ERA, while racking up an average of one strike out every inning. We also saw him with 195.1 innings pitched and a WHIP of 1.26. He’s a six pitch dealer, with the four seam fastball, sinker, slider, change-up, curve and split finger in his arsenal. Another Tommy John pitcher, he rejected a qualifying offer from the Mets for $17.8 million. The rumors are that he could go for five years and $100 million, also making him an affordable choice for the Rangers.
If the Rangers play their cards right, any of these four fine pitchers are attainable. Minor and Lynn are going to need help in line-up. While Cole would take the majority of their available salary leaving them unable to fill other needed positions, any combination of Ryu, Bumgarner and Wheeler could put them in serious contention in the 2020 season.