Posted on January 10, 2014 at 11:55 PM
Saturday, Jan 11 at 11:51 AM
There's a short list of “I'll always remember where I was when I heard (X)' stories that I have, and most of them aren't what I'd like to start Rangers columns off with. Today, I added one item to that list, because I'll always remember where I was when I heard Derek Holland had injured his knee and would miss somewhere around half of the 2014 season. It's mostly because I was having some pretty replacement level sushi inside the town boundaries of Garland, Texas. That's a triumvirate of circumstances you don't come to forget easily.
For the uninitiated, Derek Holland underwent surgery on his left knee
to repair the cartilage damaged from a fall in his house Friday, and is estimated to be out until All-Star Break-ish. That leaves the Rangers scrambling to fill in the 18 or so starts Holland was otherwise scheduled to have prior to Kneegate.
So who will those starts fall to? Most likely, the winner of a Spring Training scrap between Colby Lewis, Nick Tepesch, Robbie Ross, Doug Mathis, and Ryan Fieraband. By scrap, I mean pitching competition, not an actual fight. In a fight, I would probably take Robbie Ross, because he seems like he'd probably fight a little dirty. In a pitching competition, I'd guess Tepesch has the best combination of recent major league starting action and a position on the 40 man roster. I would love for Ross to find a way to transition to starting, but the fact that Fangraphs counted a total
of 21 pitches last year as not being a fastball or slider gives me worry about him facing a lineup a third time through. My heart's with Colby, but my heart makes some really bad decisions sometimes (for instance, going to that sushi restaurant in Garland).
Those are only the current in-house candidates, though; the team could well go outside the organization for an additional arm. The current crush of about half of MLB is Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka, the 25-year old who's going to become one of MLB's highest paid pitchers sometime over the next two weeks. That's likely a bit of overkill, both in terms of finances and in fit. Tanaka looks to be good, but it's hard to imagine him being significantly better than Matt Harrison or Martin Perez next year (or Derek Holland once he comes back, for that matter). Taking a one-hundred-million-dollar-plus commitment to upgrade the #3-5 spot in the rotation sounds like something the Dodgers would do, not the Rangers. Long story short, if the Rangers planned to sign Tanaka, Holland's injury doesn't likely move the needle much in the direction of making that happen.
Less pricey (but still, like, totally, way way expensive) options exist in Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, or Ubaldo Jimenez. None of the above is a star (although Santana still has a high ceiling) but they're proven starters who look to be league average at worst. Each would probably require at least a three year commitment around $15 million per year. In truth, signing any of those players likely just bumps Alexi Ogando back to a permanent bullpen role, which has some merit. That doesn't appear to be something the Rangers are inclined to do.
Pitchers who might take a one-year deal still available on the market include 37 year old longtime National Leaguer Bronson Arroyo, Shaun Marcum, or Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona). If that list gives you slightly less confidence than the internal candidates list, then you're smart and we should share a fermented malt beverage together sometime.
Another factor to consider is to what level you should apply skepticism to the Rangers' and Holland's story of how the injury happened. Holland wouldn't be the first baseball player to fabricate a story about how an offseason injury occurred; there's an almost spoken but still unspoken history of players covering up risky behaviors that resulted in injury with shoddy stories. “I fell washing my truck” means “I wrecked my motorcycle”. “I fell off a curb” means “I got into a bar fight”. Holland's a really good guy (albeit in a goofy way) so I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it's something to file away with a dash of curiosity.
This could either turn into an annoying blip (if Holland comes back effective, and early, and his replacement is capable) or the first crack in the dam (think of Tyrone Crawford's injury this season for the Cowboys). Put simply, more load went onto the shoulders of Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, and Martin Perez than were on them before I had questionable sushi this evening.
Joseph Ursery's taste in food is usually better than questionable sushi. You'll have to trust this editor on that.