MLB Rumors: The Texas Rangers and Jordan Lyles are in agreement on a contract, according to multiple folks on Twitter, pending a physical. Reports say the deal is 2 years, $16 million. Lyles, a righthanded pitcher who turned 29 in October, split the 2019 season between the Pirates and the Brewers.
Lyles was ranked by Fangraphs as the #45 free agent of the offseason, with Kiley McDaniel projecting he would get $7 million per year over 2 years, so he was more or less on target here. Lyles has seemingly been around forever — he was a supplemental first round pick of the Houston Astros in 2008, the same year the Rangers drafted Justin Smoak, and spent his first three years in the majors with the Astros on their terrible, tanking teams in 2011-13, and pitching terribly for Houston.
Lyles was traded to the Colorado Rockies after the 2013 season in a deal that brought Dexter Fowler to Houston, and he ended up moving to the pen eventually before going to San Diego late in 2017. Lyles pitched in relief for the Padres in 2018, was claimed on waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers in August, 2018, pitched well for them, signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates for 2019, moved back to the rotation, wasn’t good for them, was sent to Milwaukee again at the trade deadline, and was then terrific for the Brewers in 11 starts over the final two months.
This is not a move that, at first blush, has me terribly enthused. Lyles has a career ERA over 5 for every team in the majors he has pitched for other than the Brewers, and has a career ERA of 5.11 in 909.2 IP, with a career ERA+ of 83. Evan Grant says that Lyles will start, but even last year, in what was his best season as a starter, he put up a 1.6 fWAR and a 1.8 bWAR. While he had a 2.45 ERA for the Brewers in 2019, that was with a 4.42 FIP and a 4.91 xFIP.
Lyles has seen his swinging strike rate increase to double figures the past two seasons, after never having cracked that mark before, and he’s also thrown a lot more four seamers the past two seasons, apparently ditching his two seam fastball.
Lyles would seem to be a #4 or a #5 starter for the Rangers, and this would seem to make it less likely that the team is going to land a Hyun-Jin Ryu or a Dallas Keuchel. It is possible that they are still targeting a higher-end pitcher, or the Rangers could seek another Lyles type to round out the rotation for 2020, with the plan of having all the young internal options start the year in AAA if everyone is healthy.