Posted on December 5, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The free agent market has been slow to get going this offseason, but the Texas Rangers aren’t waiting around. After signing Doug Fister last month, the Rangers have reportedly agreed to a deal with free agent pitcher Mike Minor. Pending a physical, the Rangers plan to ink Minor to a multi-year deal. Texas has also announced that they have re-signed reliever Tony Barnette.
The signing of Minor is arguably the first significant free agent signing any team has made this winter. The lefty reportedly had several suitors following an impressive campaign with the Royals last year. However, many teams were looking at him as a reliever. In 65 relief appearances with the Royals in 2017, Minor was 6-6 with six saves and a 2.55 ERA. But prior to last season, Minor worked exclusively as a starter. The Rangers are reportedly planning on making Minor a part of their starting rotation.
Minor has had success as a starter in the past. In 2013, he went 13-9 with a 3.21 ERA as a member of the Braves. However, that was before Minor missed the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons with shoulder problems that eventually required labrum surgery. After the surgery, the Royals moved Minor to the bullpen, where he experienced great success. Moving him back to the rotation would seem to be a risky move. But the opportunity to start again is likely what attracted Minor to the Rangers.
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Texas currently has multiple holes in their rotation they need to fill. After signing Fister, the Rangers declined to tender contracts to Nick Martinez and A.J. Griffin. As it stands, the Texas rotation consists of Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Fister, and now Minor. The Rangers are also short on minor league depth in their rotation, so they are far from finished addressing that part of their roster.
The addition of Minor to the rotation can be seen as a high risk-high reward move. If his shoulder is healthy and Minor can return to the form he had prior to his surgery, he could become a quality mid-rotation starter behind Hamels. But if he’s unable to make the transition back to being a starter, the Rangers could be in trouble. Right now, the Texas rotation is without any reliable depth. The Rangers are banking on Minor being able to make 30 starts in 2018, which is far from a sure thing.
The good news is that even if Minor struggles as a starter, he can easily be moved to the bullpen. The Texas bullpen isn’t exactly in good shape after having the second highest ERA in the American League last season. Minor would no doubt be an asset coming out of the Texas bullpen. But at the moment, they need him more in the rotation.
The Rangers are hoping Barnette can help give their bullpen a boost in 2018. Texas declined his option for next season but was quick to bring him back at a cheaper rate. Barnette struggled to the tune of a 5.49 ERA last season. However, he posted a 2.09 ERA in 2017, so he may be capable of bouncing back and become a useful part of the Texas bullpen.
On the surface, the additions of Minor and Barnette are necessary signings for the Rangers. Both additions offer a reasonable amount of upside. But with Minor to be used as a starter, there is no guarantee he’ll be able to excel in that role. Even with Minor on board, the Rangers are far from finished adding to their pitching staff this offseason.