2017 is a fork in the road for the Rangers for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being the potential for some pretty significant turnover in the offseason. Yu Darvish, who has been expected to anchor the Rangers’ staff throughout his time here (at least, when healthy), is a free agent to be. Jonathan Lucroy is potentially hitting the free agent market as well. And of course, three players here on one year deals signed this offseason — Carlos Gomez, Andrew Cashner, and Tyson Ross — will be free agents at season’s end, with Mike Napoli (who is subject to a 2018 team option) possibly joining them.
The most worrisome part of this is the fact that three-fifths of what the Rangers anticipate being their starting rotation this season is in this group -- Darvish, Cashner and Ross. We’ve talked about the issue of the lack of depth in starting pitching in the upper minors, and the Rangers can sign or trade for replacements this offseason, but you aren’t going to replace Darvish — at least, not with anything Darvish-like.
That leaves the Rangers with a 2018 rotation right now that would appear to be Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, A.J. Griffin, and then maybe Nick Martinez or Clayton Blackburn or Yohander Mendez or Ariel Jurado or Connor Sadzeck rounding out the back couple of spots.
The one thing that we’ve clung to, especially in the face of the potential departure of Yu, is, well, at least we have Cole Hamels. Hamels is under contract for 2018, with a team option for 2019, so if nothing else (we think to ourselves), at least we have a legitimate top of the rotation guy still here.
Except...well, Cole may not be that guy anymore. Fangraphs does a dive into the numbers so far this season, and the takeaway is that he’s not missing bats like he used to.
I’d encourage you to read the Fangraphs piece, which I think supports what the eye test has told us about Cole since the second half of last season -- he just doesn’t look like the same guy. Its not that he’s a BAD pitcher...but his command appears to have deserted him, and he’s looking like a guy who profiles as more of a #3/#4 type starter than a top of the rotation pitcher.
I was going to say some more about this, but really, writing this much has kind of bummed me out. I don’t want to think about Cole being a LAIE type. I’m going to stick my head in the sand for a bit, instead, I think...