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Texas Rangers rumors: Ruminations on the rotation

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Derek Holland and Yu Darvish are on the disabled list. Colby Lewis is joining them. What now for the Ranger rotation?

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Texas Rangers rumors:  Yu Darvish is on the disabled list, Derek Holland joined him there yesterday, and Colby Lewis is d.l. bound as well.  With A.J. Griffin also currently on the disabled list, that leaves just two pitchers from the fantasized six-man rotation -- Cole Hamels and Martin Perez -- on the 25 man roster.

Griffin will be activated on Saturday to start against Boston, so that gets things back up to three "real" rotation members, but it still leaves a couple of holes in the rotation for the time being.  Nick Martinez is filling in one of those holes, going up against Boston on Friday, and Perez and Hamels will start Sunday and Monday, but that still leaves Tuesday's starter as the oh-so-popular "to be determined."  It could be Cesar Ramos, it could be Chi Chi Gonzalez, the Rangers could purchase the contract of Kyle Lohse, or it could be someone else.  There's just no telling right now...

Part of what complicates figuring out what the Rangers are going to do with the rotation is the uncertainty about how long they need placeholders.  Colby Lewis is likely done until late August or early September, but Derek Holland described his d.l. trip as "precautionary," while Yu Darvish's potential return is shrouded in mystery.

Darvish's shoulder soreness is similar to the shoulder issue that sidelined Jose Fernandez for four weeks when he first returned from Tommy John surgery, and a similar timeline for Yu would have him slated to return around the All Star Break.  Yu is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Saturday, and if that goes well, he could do a simulated game a week or so after that, but we're probably looking at two weeks before he'd be a consideration to re-join the rotation.  The final game before the break is July 10, so Texas may feel its best to be conservative and plan on Darvish re-joining the rotation after the Break.

Holland's shoulder inflammation, meanwhile, could result in any number of things...it could truly be a 15 day thing where he re-joins the rotation in the final cycle before the Break, or it could be something that sidelines him the rest of the season.  Griffin, if you recall, landed on the d.l. with a shoulder issue that was thought to be minor, and he's only coming back now.

On the one hand, Holland's uncertainty complicates things because, if Holland is going to miss just fifteen days, the Rangers would be more likely to limp along with Ramos or whoever.  If Holland is going to miss significant time, then purchasing the contract of Kyle Lohse, and guaranteeing him money, would seem to be more palatable...though Lohse has a 5.09 ERA in 40.2 IP at AAA, and it doesn't sound like he's getting Rangers folks too fired up about his performance down there.

On the other hand, Holland hasn't been, well, good this year.  Unlike Colby, who has been terrific, and Yu, who is a legit #1 starter, Holland is probably a #4 at this point who has been pitching more like a weak #5 starter.  One can reasonably wonder whether Holland's absence is going to really impact the rotation that much, particularly if Yu returns soon, meaning that you just have to fill one spot in the rotation with a placeholder, rather than two.

The injuries immediately led to talk, of course, about going out and trading for someone, a Julio Teheran or a Sonny Gray or a Jose Fernandez.  The problem is that the Braves are going to want a whole, whole lot for Teheran (who the Rangers supposedly aren't that keen on anyway), Gray hasn't been good this year, and Miami is in a playoff race (and thus isn't going to want to trade its best starting pitcher).

But even if you decide you want to pay the price for a Teheran or a Gray, you have to be realistic about the cost...assuming you don't want to part with Nomar Mazara or Rougned Odor (who would immediately be asked for in a deal for someone like that), you're going to be talking about giving up Joey Gallo plus Luis Ortiz at the top of the package.  With Michael Matuella done for the season, Dillon Tate scuffling in low-A and Lewis Brinson on the disabled list (and not exactly lighting up the Texas League this year), your blue chip trade pieces after Gallo and Ortiz are pretty scant...and let's not forget that the Rangers are probably penciling in Gallo to be the team's first baseman for 2017, with Mitch Moreland likely departing.  If you trade Gallo, you are going to have to go find another first baseman somewhere.

Jurickson Profar is, of course, a potential prize trade chip, but you've got the argument that he's performing so well in the majors and is such a big contributor right now that you don't want to part with him, plus he only has three years of team control after this season, so a rebuilding team like the Braves probably doesn't see him as attractive an option.  If you don't want to deal Gallo, perhaps you re-think whether Odor is available, with the plan being to plug Profar into Odor's spot in the lineup...though I think the team would be really reluctant to deal Odor.

All this also ignores the fact that Boston, who has more young talent than the Rangers and a team president with a history of being willing to deal prospects, probably needs a frontline starter even more than Texas does.  If Gray suddenly is being shopped, Boston would seem to be the team to beat in terms of an offer...and do the Rangers really want to shove more trade chips on the table than Dave Dombrowski will?

Which ultimately leads to the conclusion that the Rangers probably want to just wait and see...they have a 10 game lead in the A.L. West, which gives them a greater margin for error and reduces some of the urgency.  If Yu Darvish comes back soon and the rest of the rotation stays healthy, then even without Holland or Colby for a couple of months, Texas can probably opt to roll with a Nick Martinez or a Kyle Lohse or a Chi Chi Gonzalez or even, if we're getting wild and wacky here, a Connor Sadzeck in the final rotation spot.  But if the Astros or M's go crazy and win 26 of 30 or something, or if Yu is out longer or another starting pitcher goes down, then it may be time to start sniffing around the "random live arm" pile, and see what sort of second- and third-tier starters are out there to help keep things afloat for a while.

So, after all that, the ruminations boil down to, "let's wait and see."  Isn't that always the way of things, though?