Posted on December 7, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
As they prepare to move into a new stadium in 2020, the Texas Rangers are hoping to put a team on the field that can compete for a playoff spot. In a matter of days, the Rangers have taken steps to improve their starting rotation, adding Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles. Gibson has signed a three-year deal worth $29 million while Lyles has agreed to a two-year contract for $16 million.
The 32-year-old Gibson has spent his entire career with the Twins, making at least 25 starts for Minnesota in each of the last six seasons. He’s had his ups and downs during that time. Twice he’s posted an ERA over 5,00 while twice he’s pitched to an ERA under 4.00. However, he’s always been a reliable innings eater, averaging more than 172 innings per season over the past six years. This past season, Gibson went 13-7 with a 4.84 ERA in 29 starts and five relief appearances. He did that while battling ulcerative colitis, a condition that ultimately led to a stint on the IL in September.
“He has always been a really good starter,” Rangers GM Jon Daniels said of Gibson. “A lot of things to like as a pitcher. Outstanding slider, one of the better sliders in the game, really good changeup. He has a lot of ways to get hitters out.”
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The deal with Gibson was confirmed by the Rangers on Friday. Within a few hours, multiple sources confirmed that Texas had also reached a deal with Lyles. The 29-year-old righty will be happy to have a multi-year deal after spending each of the last three seasons with two different teams. Lyles spent the early part of his career with the Astros and Rockies. He was released by the Rockies in 2017 and picked up by the Padres for the rest of the season. The Padres let him go in the middle of the 2018 season and he was picked up by the Brewers. Lyles signed with Pittsburgh last offseason and was traded back to Milwaukee in July.
Lyles endured a lot of struggles over the past few seasons but appeared to find his stride late in 2019 after being traded to the Brewers. In 11 starts for Milwaukee down the stretch, he was 7-1 with a 2.45 ERA. It was based on that performance that he earned the two-year contract from the Rangers and will now look to settle in with one club.
Of course, the Gibson and Lyles will only be complementary parts of the Texas rotation. The Rangers expect Mike Minor and Lance Lynn to be their frontline starters in 2020. Minor is coming off a 14-10 campaign in which he posted a 3.59 ERA. Lynn, who was briefly teammates with Gibson with the Twins in 2018, was 16-11 with a 3.87 ERA in 2019 after signing with the Rangers offseason.
Obviously, the Rangers hope that Minor and Lynn can continue to perform at the level they did last year, and their track records indicate that’s a fair assumption. If Gibson and Lyles can be steady mid-rotation starters who eat up innings, the Texas rotation should be in good shape. The Rangers also have a slew of young starters to compete for the fifth spot in their rotation, including Joe Palumbo, Kolby Allard, Jonathan Hernandez, and Brock Burke. However, all could use more seasoning in the minors and signing a pair of veterans should afford those young pitchers that opportunity.
At first glance, neither Gibson or Lyles is a major addition or creates the kind of big splash the Rangers want before heading into their new stadium. But adding both will give their rotation significant depth and will prevent the Rangers from throwing their young pitchers into the fire. A rotation of Minor, Lynn, Gibson, and Lyles may not dominate, but it should be enough to give the Rangers a fighting chance of being competitive in 2020.