The chance to add depth to the pitching staff, and possibly add a starter to the rotation, was just too good for Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels to pass up, even if it weakened an area of concern.
The Rangers struck a trade Tuesday with Boston for right-hander Anthony Ranaudo, a former Rangers draft choice, in exchange for left-handed reliever Robbie Ross.
Ranaudo will compete in spring training to be part of the rotation to open the season, and Daniels will spend the next two months trying to acquire a lefty for the bullpen.
“We like the value,” Daniels said. “We weren’t looking to move Robbie. We had an opportunity to develop a starter who, maybe this year or maybe down the line, will bring more value to us.”
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Ross is coming off a disappointing season after a breakthrough rookie campaign in 2012, but he was still thought to be a leading candidate to return to the Rangers’ bullpen. With the trade, the only lefty relievers on the spring roster are Alex Claudio and Michael Kirkman.
But Ross Detwiler could eventually drop into the bullpen. Though he was acquired from Washington to be a starter, he was a reliever last season with the Nationals, and the Rangers’ starting depth has been improved with the trades for Yovani Gallardo and Ranaudo.
The Rangers, though, will be searching for lefty help for the bullpen.
“It’s something I’m confident we’ll add to,” said Daniels, who was in the Dominican Republic for the Rangers’ annual January program. “I’m not optimistic we’re going to add a clear back-end lefty before spring training.
“As we’ve communicated to [Ranaudo], he’ll come to camp and have every opportunity to start. We’ll go from there. Obviously, we’ll do whatever is best for the team.”
The 6-foot-7 Ranaudo, 25, made his big-league debut last year, going 4-3 with a 4.83 ERA in seven starts. He was the International League Most Valuable Pitcher after leading the league in wins (14) and ERA (2.61) in 24 starts for Triple A Pawtucket.
The Rangers drafted him in the 11th round in 2007, but he chose to go to LSU rather than sign a professional contract. Daniels said the sides never came close to an agreement, and Ranaudo developed into the 39th overall pick in 2010.
Ranaudo added a slider last year and has a four-pitch mix. The Rangers also like that he is a strike-thrower and has a high aptitude as he continues his development.
“He’ll be in the competition for our fifth spot,” Daniels said. “If he isn’t in our rotation, he’ll most likely go down to Triple A. You can’t underestimate the value of starting depth. He’s in a position to continue to develop and become a reliable big-league starter.”
Ross, 25, was a starter early last season, but eventually pitched his way out of that role. He continued to struggle in the bullpen and was sent to Triple A Round Rock in June.
The free-agent market for lefty relievers has been thinned. Joe Beimel, who pitched last year for Seattle and was in Rangers camp in 2012, is available, and so is longtime Detroit reliever Phil Coke.
The Rangers expect that Neal Cotts, who pitched for them the past two seasons, will sign elsewhere.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760