So yesterday, the news broke that the Rangers were going to sign Joe Saunders to a major league deal. The same Joe Saunders who posted a negative bWAR last season while putting up a 5.26 ERA in 183 innings for the Seattle Mariners.
That became official today, with the Rangers announcing Saunders has been signed, and Alex Castellanos designated for assignment to make room for him on the 40 man roster.
Saunders joins Tommy Hanson (also on a non-guaranteed major league contract), Colby Lewis (minor league deal), Nick Tepesch, Alexi Ogando, Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers, and Jose Contreras -- and who knows, I could be forgetting somebody -- in the battle to round out the Ranger rotation to start the season.
This is a far cry from where we were earlier in the offseason, when it seemed like the only question was whether Colby Lewis would be healthy enough to force Alexi Ogando back to the bullpen, with Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Martin Perez locked into the first four spots.
This is a rotation in flux, behind Darvish and Perez. Matt Harrison should be ready at some point in April, but probably not on Opening Day, and I'm guessing at this point Colby Lewis gets his contract purchased and put on the d.l., so he can spend some more time working on his new release point and getting sharp for the season.
And of course, Derek Holland is expected back by mid-season, so you'd think the Rangers could just limp along the first few weeks until they can roll with a Darvish/Perez/Harrison/Ogando/Lewis rotation, then let Holland step in for the weak link in July.
Except, of course, we expected last season that we'd have Matt Harrison for more than two starts, and Colby Lewis for more than zero starts. And the Rangers ended up needing 17 starts from Tepesch, 17 starts from Justin Grimm, 5 from Josh Lindblom, 3 from Ross Wolf, and 3 from Travis Blackley. Oh, and they gave up 4 prospects to get Matt Garza, because the rotation was so leaky.
This, after having to trade for Ryan Dempster the year before, and shoveling a bunch of money at the failed Roy Oswalt Experience.
So yeah...I think the Rangers are in a situation where they are erring on the side of caution, and hoping that if they sift through enough guys, they'll find one or two who can keep the team afloat in the early part of the year. If that means stashing Lewis on the d.l. and Tepesch in AAA so that they can keep someone like Hanson or Saunders around for a few weeks early in the year, then they'd rather do that, instead of finding themselves shorthanded again.
And with Saunders and Hanson on non-guaranteed deals, it allows the Rangers to pull the plug on one or both of them, with minimal financial consequences, if Harrison and/or Lewis are in a position, late in March, where it appears they'll be ready to contribute in the near future.
In any case, the Rangers have decided the lesson from the past two seasons is, you'd rather have too many arms to sift through to find someone to make a few starts for you than not enough. And the Rangers are making sure they have plenty of choices, even if the choices aren't anything special.