The Yu Darvish injury is a devastating blow for the 2015 Texas Rangers, who are now likely looking at their ace being out for the season. The plan to have Yu, Derek Holland, Yovani Gallardo and Colby Lewis head up the rotation is now out the window, and instead of a battle for the #5 starter spot, the Rangers are looking at two rotation slots being up in the air.
In this post from Evan Grant, which talks about the injury and possible replacements, we have this quote from Jeff Banister:
"Through every obstacle, there is opportunity," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "It can either destroy us or galvanize us and make us stronger. We are going to challenge and prepare this team. Our guys will be prepared. We’ve still got a group of players that are capable of playing at a high level."
And that's the reality -- Yu Darvish was one of the most important members of the 2015 Rangers, and his absence is going to hurt badly. But Yu is a 5-6 win pitcher, not a 20 win pitcher...this doesn't turn an 85 win team into a 65 win team. There's still a season to be played, the organization is still going to start the year looking to contend, and someone who would start the season in the minors or in the bullpen will instead be asked to take the ball every fifth day.
Ross Detwiler has been thought to have the inside track on the #5 starter job, with Nick Tepesch being his primary competitor, so this could result in Detwiler and Tepesch ending up rounding out the rotation. On the other hand, there's the possibility that a rotation without Darvish has the Rangers more inclined to look at internal options, which could mean Nick Martinez or Lisalverto Bonilla or Anthony Ranaudo could bump Detwiler from the rotation, and either move him to the bullpen, see him get traded, or possibly even result in his release (which would save the Rangers about $2 million).
Come June, there are a couple of other potential options that you'd figure the Rangers would be looking at to fortify the rotation. One is Chi Chi Gonzalez, the Rangers' first round pick from 2013 who has generated a lot of buzz, and who is seen as someone who could help this team in a hurry. Chi Chi ended 2014 in AA Frisco, and although he's been viewed as a potential contender to win a rotation spot this spring, the more likely scenario is that he goes to AAA Round Rock to start the season. However, if Gonzalez pitches well in the early going, you have to think the Rangers won't hesitate to bring him up and give him a shot in the major league rotation if someone is hurt or struggling.
The other internal option who is a potential option around that time is Martin Perez. Perez had Tommy John surgery in late May, 2014, and while the timeline is for him to return around the All Star Break, he has looked good in early sessions this spring, and its certainly possible he could force his way back into the major league rotation mix before then. Of course, its also possible setbacks will result in Perez being a non-factor this year, and so he's not someone you're going to definitively count on...but his return could give the team a shot in the arm this summer.
Then there are external options. We've talked about Cole Hamels, who the Rangers scouted in his spring debut, and Cliff Lee, both with the Phillies. Philadelphia is known to be interested in moving both pitchers, and the Rangers have interest in each, but a deal this spring seems unlikely. While either could step in and be a viable replacement at the top of the rotation for Yu Darvish, it seems more likely the Rangers would hold off on making a move like that until, at a minimum, they get a better handle on how guys like Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo look in returning from injury. If it is June, and the Rangers look like viable contenders in the A.L. West race, then a Lee or Hamels trade could be a possibility. Right now, though, my guess is the Rangers wait and see.
Finally, there's the ultimate wild card...Matt Harrison. Harrison has missed most of the past two seasons, and is expected to start the year on the 60 day d.l. with a back issue that is possibly career-ending. The Rangers are taking it slow with Harrison, who may never pitch in the majors again. The team is surely not counting on Harrison in 2015. But he's here, he's working his way back, and he's going to be given a chance to see if he can return and pitch in the majors again.