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Pitcher Carlos Rodon represents best fit for Rangers this winter

The Texas Rangers are in the process of building their starting rotation and free agent left-hander Carlos Rodon could become the final piece of the puzzle.
Credit: AP
San Francisco Giants pitcher Carlos Rodon throws against the Detroit Tigers in the second inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

DALLAS — The 2023 Texas Rangers rotation is starting to round into shape. After signing Jon Gray last year, trading for Jake Odorizzi earlier this month, and with Martin Perez accepting the qualifying offer to return, Bruce Bochy has at least three arms to play around with when shaping his starting five. 

Add in Dane Dunning, who will be entering his second full season after having his innings limited during his time with Texas to battle with Glenn Otto, who got stronger as the year wore on last summer and was able to consistently produce quality outings towards the end of the season, and the Rangers look like they can afford to be more selective when rounding out the rotation.

But Texas is still missing one more key rotation piece.

While Martin Perez was able to earn the “ace” title in 2022, very low expectations were levied on him going into the year. That may be why he thrived with a 2.89 ERA and nearly 200 innings pitched to garner his first All-Star appearance. If he is chosen to take the top spot in the rotation in 2023, can he answer the bell? Or might he crumble under the much greater expectations?

The Rangers need someone to front their rotation. Enter Carlos Rodon.

Rodon had his own magical 2022 for the San Francisco Giants. Posting a 2.88 ERA over a career-high 31 games and striking out 237 in a career-high 178 innings pitched, Rodon earned his own trip to the 2022 All-Star Game. 

The lefty, who will be entering his age-30 season, has had his own problems with injuries. In every season since 2016, Rodon spent significant time on the injured list with varying ailments – a wrist sprain, shoulder injury, Tommy John surgery, shoulder fatigue – but was able to maintain a healthy 2022. For that reason, Rodon decided to opt out of the second year of his two-year deal with the Giants and bet on himself in the free agent market.

Why should Texas target him? At age 30, Rodon can be the foundation of a strong Texas future. While he may not have the track record of Jacob deGrom, he does seem to be approaching the best years of his career. 

Backing up his highly successful 2022 was his final year with the Chicago White Sox; yes, injuries limited him to just 132.2 innings, but he also ended up with a 2.37 ERA, a career low 0.957 WHIP and a career-high in K/9 at 12.6. In short, he appeared to be figuring it out at the perfect time to sign a prove it deal with San Francisco and build his market. 

Additionally, Rodon helps provide pitching firepower – where Perez dominated by living on the edge to initiate soft contact, Rodon can provide the strikeout strength from the left side, with Jon Gray providing the same power from the right side.

Why would Texas be hesitant? With the owners seemingly willing to spend big again this offseason, money shouldn’t be an issue, even for Rodon, who earned $21.5 with the Giants last year. On the open market, it stands to reason that the lefty could fetch a $25-30 million per year deal. Even with the qualifying offer rejection, sacrificing a draft pick for a front-line starting pitcher on a 5-6-year deal would appear to be acceptable collateral. 

But the fact is that the injury history is longer than the All-Star pitching history. Texas already took a risk on that with Jon Gray, signing him to a 4-year, $56 million deal last year, and he had four stints on the I.L. 

Is Texas willing to risk that for a longer term, higher dollar deal? Rodon did go injury free with the Giants in 2022, missing only one start at the end of the season, as manager Gabe Kapler managed his workload.

For a Texas Rangers franchise looking to return to the top of the division for several years to come, Carlos Rodon seems to make the most sense as the top arm on the market who is still in his prime.

Do you think the Rangers should pay top dollar to sign Carlos Rodon? Share your thoughts with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.

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