We continue our series where we issue grades and review the 2017 seasons for each Texas Rangers player, having started with the positional players and going in alphabetical order, and now moving on to the pitchers...
Miguel Gonzalez -- D
With the Rangers clinging to slim playoff hopes at the end of August and the rotation faltering, Texas opted to acquire 33 year old righthander Miguel Gonzalez from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for A-ball third baseman Ti’Quan Forbes. It looked like a nice pickup — Gonzalez had a 4.31 ERA on the season, had pitched well in his last several starts pre-trade, and Forbes was another one of the Rangers’ toolsy high school draft picks who hadn’t figured out how to hit.
Alas, like so many moves made with an eye towards making the playoffs in 2017, this one didn’t pan out. In his first start for the Rangers, Gonzalez gave up 4 runs at Atlanta in just 3 innings of work. In his second start for the Rangers, he gave up 7 runs at home to Seattle in 2.1 innings pitched. By the time Gonzalez’s third start came around, the Rangers were 5 games back of Minnesota for the second Wild Card spot, were three games under .500, and were, for all intents and purposes, out of the race.
Ultimately, the Rangers got 22.1 IP over 5 starts from Gonzalez, a 6.45 ERA, and a 6.65 FIP. The cost to acquire him was minimal, but the benefits he provided were largely non-existent.
A.J. Griffin — C-
A.J. Griffin was in the Rangers’ rotation to start the season, and had a season much like 2016 — he started off well, had some really good starts and some really bad starts, spent the middle of the season on the d.l., and ended up having a not good season overall.
Did you remember that A.J. Griffin threw a complete game shutout this season? He did — 9 IP, 4 hits, 4 Ks, 1 walk, 0 runs. Granted, it was against the Padres, and they aren’t good, but still...Griffin held an opponent scoreless for an entire game. That outing, on May 9, dropped his ERA on the year to 2.45. He made three more starts after that, wasn’t effective, landed on the d.l., came back, wasn’t effective, and ended the year working out of the bullpen. In 13 appearances after that early May shutout, Griffin put up an 8.06 ERA.
For the season as a whole, Griffin had a 5.94 ERA and a 6.26 FIP, and while his K and walk numbers were respectable — 61 Ks against 28 walks in 77.1 IP — his bugaboo was the gopher ball, as he allowed 20 home runs in that limited span.
Griffin turns 30 in January, and has been a nice story the past couple of years, coming back from two lost seasons to be a contributing major leaguer again. That said, he’s arbitration eligible, and I’m not sure the Rangers want to pay him $2-3 million for 2018 to be a home-prone swingman.
Jason Grilli — D
One of the more mystifying moves of the season was the July 2 trade of Eduard Pinto to the Toronto Blue Jays for Jason Grilli and cash. Grilli had pitched for the Rangers in 2009, and seemed to be on his last legs then. He revitalized his career in Pittsburgh in 2011, however, putting up a 2.74 ERA from 2011-13, getting dealt to Anaheim in mid-2014, and having a solid season in Atlanta in 2015.
Toronto had designated Grilli for assignment, however, due to a 6.97 ERA and a 7.90 FIP in 20.2 innings of work in 2017 when the Rangers acquired him. As with Gonzalez, the cost was minimal, as Pinto is a 22 year old left fielder in A-ball who has hit some, but not enough to get him on the radar as a legit prospect. Still, one has to wonder why a major league team would want a 40 year old bad relief pitcher.
The explanation appears to be “veteran leadership,” specifically in a bullpen that was missing Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson. The ties to Pittsburgh, where Jeff Banister was the bench coach during Grilli’s time with the team, no doubt played a factor, but it seemed the desire was to have Grilli be an experienced voice out there to help stabilize and guide the younger relievers.
I’m not sure how he was in that role, but on the mound, he wasn’t good, putting up a 5.59 ERA in 19.1 IP. His 4.14 FIP was okay, but nevertheless, in terms of contributions on the mound, it wasn’t a successful pickup.