Last season, the Texas Rangers went all in. Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, two of the best pitchers of their generation, were brought aboard; the former on a five-year contract and the latter via trade deadline deal.
These were the primary moves that firmly put the Rangers at the “big boy table,” adding legitimacy to their march toward a deep postseason run.
Surprisingly, neither hurler contributed much to a season in which Texas was able to win its first-ever World Series ring. While deGrom made just six starts before he needed Tommy John surgery, Scherzer was largely red hot or ice cold in his starts post-trade.
Now, morale is at an all-time high for Arlington, Texas after winning it all. The reigning champions have largely the same squad that won the World Series last year, and they have already gone out and signed free agent starter Tyler Mahle to a two-year contract.
The problem, though, is that Mahle himself is on the shelf recovering from Tommy John. The right-hander is not expected to return until sometime around the 2024 All-Star Break.
Max Scherzer’s Injury Update Is Yet Another Blow
On Friday, it was announced that Scherzer underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back. The living legend will now be sidelined until June or even July. The blows just keep coming for Texas.
This is the latest bit of bad news for the Rangers’ rotation. Now, the club is set to begin the upcoming season without three of its five veteran hurlers: deGrom, Mahle, and Scherzer.
When the Rangers traded for Scherzer, the deal was contingent on him agreeing to pick up his 2024 player option. Clearly, the Rangers had been anticipating him leading their rotation for the year, but he is now set to miss half the games.
Notably, this is not the first time the right-hander has dealt with back problems. In fact, he had to leave Game 3 of this year’s World Series with spasms. He was subsequently removed from the club’s roster before the next game and had to watch as they won it all.
Having a quartet of Nathan Eovaldi, Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney and Dane Dunning leading the starting rotation is nothing to sneeze at. Once you get to the five-hole, however, things start to get suspect.
Some of the very best arms on the staff are all on the injured list at the same time, and Texas is left without much depth.
The Waiting Period
The Rangers are left in something of a strange “waiting period” for the first half of the 2024 season. Mahle and Scherzer project to return around the same time, while deGrom could return later on in the year.
During those first few months, it’s going to be crucial for the club to keep its head above water and not fall out of contention before the reinforcements can arrive.
Should ownership be willing to swing it, a(nother) dip into the free agent pool may be in order. There is still a rather large group of starting pitchers available, including old friend Jordan Montgomery, Texas native Clayton Kershaw, or someone like Marcus Stroman.
The trade market also is sure to be active in the coming weeks. Tyler Glasnow is off the market, but each of Dylan Cease, Corbin Burnes and Shane Bieber have had their names tossed around the rumor mill this winter.
For what it’s worth, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal names the Rangers as fits for both Cease and Kershaw in his latest piece.
Meanwhile, internal options to fill out the starting five include Cody Bradford, Owen White, Cole Winn and Zak Kent. Each of those arms is currently on the 40-man roster. Still, it’s easy to see how a lack of depth could hurt the Rangers if no help is brought in.
At this point, it’s either go big or go home. This is a team that is coming off a World Series win, so the talent is there. However, with several big names out of action, it’s time for Texas to make a splash to ensure that things don’t go sideways.