Rangers plan on looking in-house to replace Darvish
With Yu Darvish getting a second opinion today on the sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, the Rangers will make an announcement on Wednesday regarding the future of their ace. It seems likely that Darvish will be the latest addition to the long list of pitchers that have recently had to go under the knife and the Rangers next move would be to find an arm to take the right-hander’s place in the starting rotation. The Rangers obviously won’t be able to replace the production of Darvish but the early word is that they plan to fill the void in the rotation internally.
Darvish’s injury makes it likely that Ross Detwiler ends slotting in the rotation behind Yovani Gallardo, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis. As for the final spot in the rotation, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes that the club’s first priority is to fill it with an internal option and that the competition for that spot is “wide open.” Grant lists Nick Tepesch, Nick Martinez, Anthony Ranaudo, Lisalverto Bonilla and Chi Chi Gonzalez as options that the team is willing to consider.
Of those arms, Gonzalez is the one that sticks out as the potential intriguing candidate but it would take a particularly impressive spring from the 23-year-old for the Rangers to speed up the arrival of their prized pitching prospect. Gonzalez made a hard charge up the Rangers system last season, thriving at both High-A and Double-A with the expectation that he would make his debut with the big league club at some point in 2015.
The right-hander wields a plus-plus fastball that he can sink, fade and cut along with a mid-80s slider that serves as his go-to swing-and-miss offering. Nick J. Faleris wrote back in January that the development of Gonzalez’s “potentially impactful changeup, as well as the chance for a useful fourth look in the form of a curve” would be the final keys for the youngster to emerge as a front-end starter and get the call to Arlington. But even if Gonzalez showed evidence of those strides during camp, the Rangers still have incentive to keep him in the minors to start the season in order to delay his service clock.
In his spring debut on Monday, Gonzalez tossed three scoreless innings with three strikeouts and three walks but was overthrowing all of his pitches early according to one scout familiar with Gonzalez. While his fastball showed good life, Gonzalez struggled to command during the outing according to that same scout, but manager Jeff Bannister praised the youngster for battling through an early rough stretch and needing just six pitches to get through his final inning of work.
It’s not as if the rest of the Rangers in-house alternatives to Gonzalez are particularly inspiring. Ranaudo has disappointed since being selected by the Red Sox in the supplemental first round back in 2010 and given his inconsistent command and lack of a quality third offering to compliment his fastball-curve combination, most consider his ultimate role to be in the bullpen. Neither of the Nicks—Tepesch or Martinez—showed that they were capable of missing major-league bats last year while Martinez made matters worse by generating ground balls just a third of the time. Bonilla has worked primarily out of the bullpen throughout his time in the Rangers system and doesn’t seem to be a long-term fit for the rotation.
Grant writes that while general manager Jon Daniels plans on filling the rotation internally, he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of looking outside the organization for a replacement. The Rangers and Phillies had discussions about Cole Hamels earlier this offseason but those talks were halted due to disagreement on how much money the Phillies would pick up in a possible trade. With the Rangers even farther down the win curve without Darvish, parting with Jorge Alfaro or another top prospect seems like more of a long shot than ever. Mets right-hander Dillon Gee could be another potential trade option if the Rangers aren’t impressed by their in-house options during Spring Training. The Rangers reportedly haven’t shown interest in Gee since the news of Darvish’s injury but there was talk that they had checked in on the him during the Winter Meetings.
Even with an underwhelming list of alternatives, it probably remains unlikely that Gonzalez ends up cracking the Opening Day rotation. The Rangers were already considered the fourth-best team in the AL West and their playoff odds only slide further if Darvish is actually done for the year. Accelerating the start of the service clock of a top prospect with 73 innings in the upper minors isn’t usually the next step for a team who needs practically everything to break right to have a shot at a wild card berth. But the Rangers are at least open to giving Gonzalez a legitimate shot to convince them otherwise.
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