Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb are free-agent right-handers the Texas Rangers like, and Zack Greinke and Chris Archer are righties the Rangers like who could be had in the right trade.
Each would find himself at the front of the rotation for 2018, either as the No. 1 starter or a No. 2 behind Cole Hamels. And it’s still possible that the Rangers try to add another starter to a rotation that, as of Friday night, they are ready to take to spring training.
They added potentially the final piece of their 2018 rotation by acquiring Matt Moore and $750,000 of international slot money from the San Francisco Giants for minor-league pitchers Sam Wolff and Israel Cruz.
If this is the rotation that reports Feb. 14 to Surprise, Ariz., it’s a good thing they will be traveling west. Moore would be one of four left-handers in a rotation that general manager Jon Daniels said he has no qualms putting it up against the rest of the American League.
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“With this acquisition, we can certainly go to camp with a rotation we feel good about,” Daniels said during a late-night conference call. “We feel each of the deals we’ve made, signed or acquired, are values relative to what these players can do with us.
“I’ve been pretty consistent all along in saying that I didn’t expect us to be playing at the top of the market.”
Moore comes to the Rangers off the worst season of his career. His 15 losses in 2017 tied for the National League lead, and his 5.52 ERA was the worst among NL qualifiers by more than a half-run.
Rangers fans would remember from Game 1 of the 2011 AL Division Series, when the 22-year-old Moore blanked the Rangers over seven two-hit innings in his second major-league start. He was an All-Star for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013 but lasted only two starts in 2014 before having Tommy John surgery.
The Rangers liked him enough in 2016 that they attempted to get him at the trade deadline. They also like his contract: $9 million for 2018 and a $10 million club option for 2019.
“You’re looking at a 28-year-old starter that, despite not having his best year last year, is coming off nearly 400 innings the last two years,” Daniels said. “He’s got a four-pitch mix, and he’s had some success in both leagues.
“Last year clearly was not his best year, but we believe there are really some reasons he’s primed for a bounce-back. ... I had a chance to talk to him tonight and was really encouraged about where his mind-set and his off-season program. He sounds really driven to bounce back.”
The Rangers sent right-handers Sam Wolff, who reached Triple A Round Rock in 2017 before having season-ending surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon, and Israel Cruz, who pitched for the AZL Rangers in rookie ball.
They signed lefty Mike Minor and Doug Fister, the rotation’s lone right-hander, before the winter meetings. Moore, Minor and Fister join Hamels and Martin Perez in the rotation, though the Rangers have some flexibility with Minor.
He was a reliever last season and hasn’t made a start in the majors since 2014. The Rangers could add a starter and keep him working as a reliever, or move righty reliever Matt Bush into the rotation.
“Our plan very clearly is to go to camp and get Mike prepared as a starter,” Daniels said. “As we talked about when he signed, both he and us are aware that could change based either on the club and how it’s shaping out or if he has any issues getting stretched out.”
But with two months to go until spring training, the Rangers might be done shopping for starters.