Texas Rangers rumors: Cole Hamels is still on the block, and according to Jon Heyman, the Texas Rangers have "no choice" but to go get the Philly lefthander now that Yu Darvish is done for the year with Tommy John surgery.
Heyman says the Phillies and Rangers have stayed in touch on Hamels, and with Darvish now on the shelf for the year, the Rangers have the greatest need, the available prospects, and the cash to acquire Hamels. Hamels is owed $96M for four years, which isn't cheap, but the Rangers have supposedly long been fond of the 31 year old, and $24M per year for the age 31-34 seasons of a legit #1 starter isn't unreasonable.
I'm not as convinced as Heyman is that Hamels is a must-add at this point for Texas, though. Heyman says the Rangers are basically holding open tryouts for the final two spots in the rotation, but the Rangers at least have quite a few viable options to sift through while looking to fill those final spots. In addition, Martin Perez is coming along nicely from Tommy John surgery and is expected to be ready after the All Star Break, and Chi Chi Gonzalez could join the rotation in the early part of the season (if he doesn't break camp as the #5 starter).
There's no question that the Rangers have a hole at the top of the rotation now, though, and there's no question Hamels would be a great fit. The bigger issue is whether this team is good enough, as it stands right now, to give up the prospects and money necessary to land Hamels. This looks like a team that needs to spend the first couple of months figuring out if Prince Fielder is back, if Colby Lewis's second half last year was for real, if Shin-Soo Choo's poor 2014 was due to injury rather than decline, if the various assembled parts in the bullpen can cohere into a cohesive whole. The Rangers, with or without Hamels, could end up sellers come July.
Conversely, if the Rangers are in the race at the halfway mark, there's the potential for several quality pitchers to be available and on the market. Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Kyle Lohse and Ian Kennedy are all free agents after the season, and all pitch for teams that have a good chance of being out of the race. If Cliff Lee's elbow can make it to July, he'll be a potential candidate to be dealt. And there are a number of pitchers like Rick Porcello, Mark Buehrle, and Jeff Samardzija, guys who are on teams that expect to be contenders, but who could fall out of the race and find themselves sellers rather than buyers.
Heyman's absolutism notwithstanding, it seems the Rangers' best plan would be to stand pat and see where the team stands come Memorial Day, when there should be a better sense of how Martin Perez and Matt Harrison are coming along, how soon Chi Chi Gonzalez will be ready, and whether the 2015 Rangers are enough of a contender to go deal for a top of the rotation starter. And at that point, there should also be a better sense for what the trade market for starting pitchers look like, and whether it makes sense to deal for someone like Hamels, who isn't just a rental, but who also carries a sizeable obligation beyond 2015 (with the potential risk and reward that involves), or if looking for a short-term solution is more sensible.