Texas Rangers

Darvish still considering Rangers, but is it just wishful thinking?

Despite the need for pitching, this off-season and next, and Yu Darvish’s desire to play for the Rangers, a reunion continues to look unlikely.
Despite the need for pitching, this off-season and next, and Yu Darvish’s desire to play for the Rangers, a reunion continues to look unlikely. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

News, not particularly big news, was made Tuesday by the Texas Rangers, who avoided arbitration with outfielder Ryan Rua on a one-year deal with $870,000.

They also signed catcher Mike Ohlman to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Rua is one of four arbitration-eligible Rangers this season, along with infielder Jurickson Profar and relievers Keone Kela and Jake Diekman. General manager Jon Daniels has never been taken to an arbitration hearing, and the club hasn’t gone to a hearing since beating Lee Stevens in 1999.

This isn’t the kind of news that Rangers fans really want, no offense to Rua and Ohlman. Signing Yu Darvish would be news. Lorenzo Cain, too. But, based on what Daniels has said this off-season, expect more of the Rua- and Ohlman-type transactions the rest of the way.

Yippee.

Here’s a breakdown on how the Rangers stand today in the off-season:

1. Darvish remains a free agent, along with so many others who were expected to fly off the board. Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, J.D. Martinez, Jonathan Lucroy, Eric Hosmer, Cain, etc., etc.

And, according to a baseball source, the Rangers are one of five teams that Darvish is considering, along with the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins. The Astros might be out; they reportedly are pursuing right-hander Gerrit Cole.

If all things were equal, Darvish would sign with the Rangers first. He loves the area and loved his time with them. Of course, not all things are equal, so including them is likely just wishful thinking on his part.

Because, as has been stated often this off-season and just a few paragraphs ago, the Rangers aren’t going to be in on the big free agents. This isn’t an all-in season for them, as they again wait for their farm system to mature while gambling on lower-end free agents who could hit.

There is also the possibility that the Rangers are holding back this winter in anticipation of going crazy next off-season, which could be flooded with the game’s best players. Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Donaldson and Charlie Blackmon, to name a few, can be free agents if they don’t first sign extensions or decide to not opt out of their current contracts.

Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre and Cole Hamels could join them.

That class, though, is a little short on starting pitching past Kershaw. Hamels, Drew Pomeranz and David Price can be free agents, but are they better, or significantly better, than Darvish, Arrieta or Cobb?

Guess what? The Rangers are going to need starters once again.

Doug Fister and Matt Moore can be free agents, and the Rangers can make Hamels a free agent by paying him a $6 million buyout rather than exercising a $20 million club option. The Rangers also hold a club option on Martin Perez.

There are no guarantees that any free agent a year from now would sign with the Rangers. Darvish would be all but a guarantee if the Rangers would pony up some money. They could, and with another starting shortfall facing them a year from now, they should.

That might just be wishful thinking, though. 

Most major league starting pitchers have four effective pitches, but Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish has five quality pitches -- with better movement or command than most.

2. Nick Martinez is headed to Japan, and good for him. He’s going to get paid and get a chance to be a starting pitcher without looking over his shoulder to see who’s coming off the disabled list or who might be getting hot in the minors.

His exit, though, trims one from the list of pitchers the Rangers could consider for rotation depth. They need that with or without Darvish (or Arrieta or Cobb or the still available Andrew Cashner.)

And without Matt Bush, the wild card in the Rangers’ pitching plans.

Bush is preparing this off-season to be a starter and said a lot of the same things C.J. Wilson said in the winter of 2010, just without the same level of C.J.-ness. Like Wilson, Bush wants to start.

That’s half the battle. It might be more than half.

Just for the sake of having something to write, say Bush is one of the Rangers’ five best starters in spring training and wins a job with Perez not quite healthy from his broken right elbow.

That creates a rotation of Hamels, Moore, Fister, Bush and Mike Minor. The last two should raise a red flag.

It’s not that they can’t pitch. It’s that they haven’t started in, in Minor’s case, a long time and, in Bush’s case, ever. No matter what they say about how durable they are, the Rangers will need to carefully watch their innings.

A sixth starter, or a plus-one, will be needed. Is that Perez? Is that Bush or Minor once Perez is healthy? Or is it someone like Martinez, who served admirably last season in his role shuttling from Triple A Round Rock and back.

The Rangers also want a reliever who can cover multiple innings and dominate. They’ve seen Bush do it first-hand. They saw Minor do it last season with Kansas City. Maybe Alex Claudio becomes that reliever.

Of course, signing Darvish or another 200-inning starter takes care of all of that. 

3. The people have spoken, and they sure as heck don’t want artificial surface at the Rangers’ new ballpark. (Players haven’t spoken, but they don’t want a fake field either.)

Reaction on Twitter and other social media has spanned from nice requests for grass, to demands for grass, to cursing about the possibility of turf, to boycotting Globe Life Field should Rangers ownership go with artificial turf.

Here’s a question for which I honestly have no answer: What say do the people of Arlington, on the hook for $500 million of the $1.1-billion final tab for the ballpark, have in the decision?

After all, they approved the extension of the tax to finance the half-a-billion. Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams overwhelming was voted for a second term on the strength of his ability to get the ballpark financing approved.

It seems like the people’s voice should be heard when it comes to something that might not have been what they imagined could happen when they stepped into the voting booth.

The good news is that the Rangers are planning on having grass and know that grass can be grown despite the presence of a retractable roof. It was a huge factor in the design of the ballpark.

Unfortunately, they also admit that fake stuff is being considered.

The grass/turf decision won’t come down until late in 2019. This isn’t a front-burner item. But it will be, eventually, and the turf choice could end up costing the Rangers some at the gate, not to mention in trying to lure potential free agents.

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