Rangers Nab Darvish, Stay Forever Young

The Rangers have wasted little time waxing nostalgic on the C.J. Wilson era, as they have topped the bidding for Yu Darvish with a reported record $51.7 million bid that could keep their rotation forever young.

We have killed a lot of fake internet trees on Mr. Darvish already this offseason. The half-Iranian, half-Japanese righty should be better than Daisuke Matsuzaka, and a good comp for him is Jordan Zimmermann. To be certain, there is room for a pitcher like this on the Rangers. If they so desire, Darvish could even start on Opening Day, though the depth in the rotation gives them the luxury of starting him anywhere from one through five. The question is, how do they make him fit?

The Rangers now boast an embarrassment of riches on their pitching staff. They already had five starters, plus Scott Feldman, as well as two prospects (Martin Perez and Neil Ramirez) who could be ready for primetime with good first halves. With Darvish, they now have a minimum of six Major League starters, which could lead to a few different scenarios:

A starter is traded. This seems the most likely option on the board. Of the group, Colby Lewis would be the pitcher that would be most likely to be on the block. None of the other members in the Rangers’ quintet — Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando — are even arbitration eligible yet. Lewis is in the last year of his deal, and is priced at the modest sum of $3.25 million. That price tag, along with his durability — he is just one of 33 pitchers to accumulate at least 400 innings over the past two seasons — as well as the dearth of good starting pitching options left on the market would make him a desirable commodity. If they deal him, the oldest member of the Rangers rotation next year will be Ogando at 28, though since he has not pitched his whole life, his arm is just as fresh as the younger guns.

Alexi Ogando moves back to the bullpen. Ogando was doing a great job in a relief role last postseason until the World Series started, and then he promptly erased all his positive work by posting negative WPA’s in four of his six Fall Classic appearances. Still, while Ogando succeeded as a starter this season, you could make the case for him moving back to a relief role, particularly because of his mainly two-pitch mix. Ogando would give the ‘pen a veritable hydra of power right-handed arms, lessening the need to rely on Joe Nathan.

Neftali Feliz never becomes a starter. Of course, just as easily as it could be Ogando moving back to the ‘pen, it could be Feliz simply staying there. The Rangers might not be able to get a full 200 innings out of Feliz this year in a starting capacity, and with the Angels now pushing all in, the Rangers might not want to worry about Feliz wearing down in the second half.

The Rangers keep them all. The Rangers don’t necessarily have to do anything. If they wanted to get creative, they could carry one less pitcher, making both Feldman and Lewis swingmen/long men that can soak up innings in front of Nathan, Mike Adams, Yoshinori Tateyama and Koji Uehara. In this way, they would be protected against Feliz wearing down in the second half but still have enough innings to squeeze value out of Lewis. Here again we come back to the point of having good depth. While it would make sense to trade Lewis if he can fetch a good return, it would also make sense to keep him in the bullpen. Last year, the Rangers needed 447 innings from their bullpen. Assuming the front four throw somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 innings a piece, there would be somewhere north of 200 innings of ball left to pitch. Now, depending on how Ron Washington manages the bullpen, Lewis and Feldman might not be able to soak up all of those innings, but they would get the majority of them. In addition, it keeps a solid backup plan in place in case Feliz needs his innings managed. It even gives them the option of running out a six-man rotation. After all, Darvish pitched frequently on five days rest instead of four in Japan.

If the Rangers do decide to trade Lewis, it essentially means that Darvish and Feliz will have replaced Wilson and Lewis. Does the Darvish/Feliz side of that equation have more potential? Absolutely. Darvish will be 25 this season, and Feliz will be just 24, which is a veritable fountain of youth compared to Wilson (31) and Lewis (32). But it also comes with a lot more risk. It’s not fair to just hand waive that and say that it should come out in the wash, because we haven’t seen either Darvish or Feliz throw a full season of Major League ball yet. That in and of itself is the best reason to keep Lewis in the fold.

Assuming the Rangers and Darvish agree on a deal, this night will go down as a landmark night for the franchise. While it’s a move that should bolster the Rangers rotation — a rotation that could see the same five guys locked in for the next three-four years — this is likely not the last move the Rangers will make this offseason. But if it all works out, the Rangers will have pulled off the rarest of feats — maintaining or improving the quality of their rotation while simultaneously getting younger. They will pay a steep price for the chance, and the moves are fraught with risk, but the Rangers have done their due diligence and have been more right than wrong the past few years, so it will be fascinating to see how this plays out.



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Paul Swydan is the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for Boston.com. He has written for The Boston Globe, ESPN MLB Insider and ESPN the Magazine, among others. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan.


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pete2286
Member
pete2286
4 years 7 months ago

I’m confused by the last scenario. Not with the scenario itself, but with why Lewis and Feldman would be the swingmen. Wouldn’t they choose Feliz and Ogando for this role? It would – especially in Feliz’s case – serve as a transition to the starting rotation which would be completed in 2012 when Lewis’ contract expires.

Sam
Guest
Sam
4 years 7 months ago

I agree with this idea. If the whole concern is that Feliz can’t throw a full season’s worth of innings, why not stretch him out over the course of the season?

Hunter
Guest
Hunter
4 years 7 months ago

Probably something to do with wanting to keep him on the set, regular schedule as a starter.

dannyrangers32
Member
dannyrangers32
4 years 7 months ago

hes too valuable to not get a bigger role.

Deadpool
Guest
Deadpool
4 years 7 months ago

I think the better solution would be to prep both Agando and Feliz for starting roles, but do it slower for Feliz. Have Alexei start the season in the rotation while Feliz goes to extended ST or something, then bring in Feliz later in the season while you move Agando into the pen.

Jacob
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Jacob
4 years 7 months ago

Feliz, yes. Ogando, no. Ogando did too well last year.

mike
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mike
4 years 7 months ago

Keep in mind, no one is sure yet how Nathan will fare as a closer. I have a feeling they’ll play it by ear as the season goes.

Matt
Guest
Matt
4 years 7 months ago

Seems like their wealth of pitching could be advantageous in negotiating with Darvish. They could also deal Ogando and try to get a Latos-lite package, use Feldman as depth and innings cap protection then replace Lewis next year with Perez or Ramirez… A deal like D’Arnaud and Nicolino or Norris may make sense for both sides. Rangers could use some C prospects (depending on how you feel about Alfaro C is a void in the Rangers system) and between Arencibia and Jiminez/Carlos Perez and all their SP prospects the Jays could afford a deal like this and lessen the sting of missing out on Darvish.. Last time AA dealt a C to Texas it didn’t work out so hot but an interesting thought at least..

FrankTheFunkasaurusRex
Guest
FrankTheFunkasaurusRex
4 years 7 months ago

d’Arnaud and Nicolino or Norris is almost as good as the Latos-package, but Ogando isn’t nearly as good as Latos

Matt
Guest
Matt
4 years 7 months ago

Arencibia is a stopgap for d’Arnaud…I don’t expect AA to be including him in discussions for a SP.

Rey22
Guest
Rey22
4 years 7 months ago

How do you justify telling Lewis to move into the bullpen after the aforementioned 400 good innings pitched in the last 2 years? Durability is worth something too. Doesn’t seem like something the Rangers would do. I bet Feliz ends up closing again when all is done.

Smallball
Guest
Smallball
4 years 7 months ago

Justify?

How ’bouts paying his salary, gives the Rangers the ability to tell him anything they want.

KDL
Guest
KDL
4 years 7 months ago

This a disingenuous response, no?
The Angels could tell Pujols to play catcher and bat ninth…but paying Albert’s salary hardly justifies the move.

IvanGrushenko
Guest
IvanGrushenko
4 years 7 months ago

It’s not disingenuous. Moving Pujols to catcher is bad for the team and therefore wouldn’t be done. Moving a starting pitcher to swingman is perfectly valid if it’s good for the team. It’s not relevant whether the player likes or doesn’t like it. He’s paid to shut up and do it. It’s relevant whether the team is better off or not.

doug K
Member
doug K
4 years 7 months ago

There is no reason to move anyone at this point. As the old adage goes – you can never have too much pitching. If everyone comes through the Spring in good shape Ogando or Neftali can pitch long/spot for a few months until the need arises.

How many teams in 2011 only used 5 SP even just through August? How many only needed 6? Very few. I think the Rangers understand this. Moving Lewis next winter when the kids are closer to being ready to be in the show makes a lot more sense. Getting Darvish now ensures that transition will be less painful and wont require the Rangers to do another Darvish move in 2012.

matchst1ck
Member
matchst1ck
4 years 7 months ago

Few points:

* Harrison is arb eligible this year. 3 years of team control remaining
* Colby is the only veteran in the group and given Ron Washington’s love of veterans less likely he gets moved
* Feliz will be in the rotation barring Ragnarok.

t ball
Member
t ball
4 years 7 months ago

Keeping them all seems likely to me. I’ve seen several blog posts and comments around the ‘net suggesting trading for a reliever. Why on earth do that when you already have good relievers and starter depth on hand? Move Ogando to the pen.

Brian Epstein
Guest
Brian Epstein
4 years 7 months ago

I don’t know. That would seem a counter productive move when considering the great strides that Alexei Ogando made overall as a SP in 2011. Wouldn’t it make more sense for a contender to stay the course with what worked so well in 2010?

t ball
Member
t ball
4 years 7 months ago

Maybe, but I don’t see the value in trading a good SP away and getting a reliever in return either.

t ball
Member
t ball
4 years 7 months ago

And it also kind of depends on how you view Ogando’s ability to develop a 3rd pitch and stay healthy with that delivery vs. the outlooks for the other starters.

You could trade Feldman for some salary relief, he’s the most expensive of their top 7 rotation candidates.

Uncle Randy
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Uncle Randy
4 years 7 months ago

Or they could trade Holland to San Diego for Rizzo/Alonso + another piece and call it a day.

Captain
Guest
Captain
4 years 7 months ago

But Uncle Randy, what makes you think Rizzo or Alonso are better than Moreland? Would be a marginal upgrade at best. Probably better to keep Holland and their young SP depth.

Matt
Guest
Matt
4 years 7 months ago

As a Ranger fan, its going to take quite an impressive piece to pry him away. Everybody here is quite fond of him and the notion is that he’s CY capable if he can get consistent.

Ron Paul
Guest
Ron Paul
4 years 7 months ago

I can’t really criticize this article, because MLB teams think about overkill when seeing 6 SP’s on their roster. However, I can criticize the idea that it could EVER be considered overkill. Teams can basically count on needing 25+ starts every year from pitchers outside their top-5 SP’s leaving spring training.

Examples are pointless, because nearly every team, every year has this. The Phils probably had the best 5-man rotation we’ve seen in awhile last offseason. They still need 21 starts from Worley and 15 starts from Kendrick as Oswalt and Blanton went down.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 7 months ago

Excellent point.

I don;t think trading away their 6th starter really brings back a valuable haul anyway.

It’s like taking the small cash buyout instead of the extra insurance, especially when you know you’re going to likely need the extra insurance.

Ron Paul
Guest
Ron Paul
4 years 7 months ago

While teams may get very lucky, and have their top-5 SP’s stay healthy to each make 30+ starts, it’s so unlikely that it seems ridiculous to trade your solid #6 away unless you really need help at another position or need to reduce payroll.

In Texas’ situation, you can’t count on their top-6 arms to stay healthy and pitch well.

-Darvish hasn’t pitched on 4-days rest before(they pitch once a week)
-Ogando wore down at the end of the year
-Feliz has pitched in the pen the past couple seasons
-Holland and Harrison are talented, but not really consistent

The one thing Texas does have is solid depth and prospects beyond their top-6 SP’s. This is the one factor that makes dealing one of the top-6 possible IMO.

MrKnowNothing
Guest
MrKnowNothing
4 years 7 months ago

why not toy with the idea of a 6 man rotation? with darvish not necessarily being used to the shorter rest period, and feliz maybe needing more off-day work on his stuff, maybe pencil in 6 man rotation and adjust down to 5 when someone inevitably gets injured.

BJ
Guest
BJ
4 years 7 months ago

This is exactly what I would suggest. With so many guys who should be on inning counts giving them an extra day off makes a ton of sense.

Za
Guest
Za
4 years 7 months ago

agreed – with Darvish used to longer rest and Ogando and Feliz not ready to pitch 200-215 innings, a 6 man rotation seems like it could be the way to go. surely the Texas summer heat could factor into that proposition too.

Chris from Bothell
Guest
Chris from Bothell
4 years 7 months ago

Wouldn’t you want to be pitching your best guys more often? 6-man rotation means you’re using Darvish (and your ace, and other presumably good pitchers) less.

Will
Guest
Will
4 years 7 months ago

Paul, you are very disconnected with the Rangers. Lewis pitched all season with a bad hip. He’s a favorite of both the manager and the president. He ain’t going anywhere.

NAWF
Guest
NAWF
4 years 7 months ago

Old School Wash would never agree to a 6-man rotation. His brain would explode.

joser
Guest
joser
4 years 7 months ago

I don’t think Nolan Ryan is particularly fond of coddling pitchers or asking starters to work less, either.

Fred
Guest
Fred
4 years 7 months ago

Does anyone know what the other bids for Yu Darvish were?

joser
Guest
joser
4 years 7 months ago

Someone at MLB does, because they collated the bids and passed the highest one on to the Ham Fighters. So the information could leak out, but it will always be no better-sourced than a rumor. (And you’re bound to see all sorts of smoke from the teams that had losing bids, since there’s plenty of reasons for them to claim they bid something other than they did)

Pete
Guest
Pete
4 years 7 months ago

from ESPN article on Darvish:

“Wilson wasn’t an ace.”

What say we to this, Fangraphers who are aware of such things as 5.9 WARs and small postseason sample sizes?

Gary
Guest
Gary
4 years 7 months ago

Keep all your starters, someone will get injured or be ineffective. Problem solved.

delv
Guest
delv
4 years 7 months ago

“one *fewer pitcher”

;)

Steve
Guest
Steve
4 years 7 months ago

Most likely scenario is moving Ogando to the pen. Second most likely is the Rangers trade Harrison in a package for either a better SP (Gio, Garza, etc) or a bat. They certainly won’t trade Lewis.

Matt
Guest
Matt
4 years 7 months ago

I expect the Rangers to do what they did at the end of last season with Feldman. Give a starter a start off every couple weeks and let Feldman/Lewis jump in there. It will reduce total innings on the young arms and keep Feliz and Ogando fresh in to the end of the year.

Will
Guest
Will
4 years 7 months ago

Obviously written by someone not very close to the Rangers.

ZERO chance Colby Lewis gets traded. And look for Colby to pitch opening day. Darvish will start later in that homestand (attendence boost),

Will
Guest
Will
4 years 7 months ago

And lets not forget Lewis was the Rangers best pitcher in each of the last two post-seasons. Doesn’t mean much to the stat guys, but hold holds tremendous value to 2 of the 3 (Wash and Nolan) decision makers in Arlington.

IvanGrushenko
Guest
IvanGrushenko
4 years 7 months ago

I’m trying to figure out how “Big in Japan” fits in here

adohaj
Guest
adohaj
4 years 7 months ago

So the rangers paid 51.7 million for negotiating rights? Then the rangers will have to give him at $50 million contract. This doesn’t seem worth the money. Or am I misunderstanding things

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