Texas Rangers up rotation with Jacob deGrom signing

Jacob de Grom

Jacob, Texas RangerImage: Getty Images

Congratulations Texas Rangers fans! You’ve just secured one of the greatest pitchers of our generation for the next five years.

Regardless of the right-hander’s injury history, this is a huge win that’s sure to pay off as long as Jacob deGrom stays relatively healthy. In order to compete with the reigning World Series champions — especially after the Houston Astros signed 2020 AL MVP Jose Abreu — it was clear that Rangers had to make bold moves, and that… is pretty damn bold.

This signing is a statement from Rangers’ GM Chris Young. There is a statement that he plans to compete in a World Series for a few years before his contract expires. But is deGrom enough to turn this franchise inside out? Texas ranked 22nd in quality start percentage (31 percent), 25th in starter ERA, 21st in strikeout rate, and 29th in walk rate last year. The addition of deGrom doesn’t suddenly turn this Rangers staff into an elite weapon. Thankfully, Rangers added Jake Odorizzi via trade in November, and top prospects Jack Leiter, Kumar Rocker and Owen White should all be on their way to the big leagues pretty soon.

To be honest I don’t know how much improvement this staff will be. Sure, I expect Dane Dunning to step up, but not that massively. He could be a decent arm at the end of the rotation and given Odorizzi’s injury history and struggles since 2019, he’s likely to fill the same role. Even if we assume Dunning and Odorizzi lose their mid-season rotation spots to former Vandy teammates Leiter – son of Al – and Rocker, would they suffice? Let’s say the Rangers’ top 3 guns — deGrom, Martín Pérez, and Jon Gray — have a combined ERA of about 3.50 (which is a pretty high expectation) over 450 total innings next season (again, pretty high ). Assuming the Leiter and Rocker each pitch 100 innings in 2023, they would need a combined ERA of 4.82 to be just an above-average rotation based on last year’s ERA numbers. If they want to be a top 10 rotation (better than a 3.73 team ERA), the last two arms in the Rangers rotation need a combined 4.23 ERA.

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As of 2010, 346 rookie starting pitchers have pitched at least 50 innings during their rookie season. Of these, 242 had an ERA of 4.82 or better. And 177 had an ERA of 4.23 or better. Basically, if deGrom, Gray and Pérez can be an elite trio at the top of the rotation, and the last two guys (assuming rookies pass Dunning and Odorizzi) can be average to slightly below average, they should be a very good rotation, but that is much of if’s and this is discounting the contributions of Dunning and Odorizzi.

Basically, a lot has to be right. Starters can’t get hurt and the Bullpen – who finished 12th in the ERA last year and earned the lowest grade (3.72) in that category since 2013 – would need to repeat that success for Rangers to compete on the mound. Putting Bruce Bochy in the dugout certainly makes that easier, but demanding that everything find its place is still a huge challenge. Then there’s offense, but to be honest I don’t think Rangers’ offense will be a problem at all.

With the addition of deGrom, the Rangers have definitely made a bid for the second-best team in the AL West, although the Seattle Mariners still have an edge in that division after proving they can already make the postseason. In a crowded American League, and with the M’s being a phenomenally young team, second or third place in a division might not be enough to make waves in the postseason (unless you’re the 2022 Phillies). Rangers are still an impact player or two away from being a title contender. Maybe these players are already in the Rangers farm system and ready to show up when the need arises, or maybe they’re in the free-agent market this year. All I’m saying is that I’d like to see one more big name after Texas before I’m ready to crown them a pennant candidate. However, deGrom is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.