Mac Engel

Matt Moore at center of Rangers' messy reclamation projects

With plenty of empty seats at Globe Life Park, Rangers starter Matt Moore delivers in the first inning Monday against the Tigers. Moore gave up five runs on nine hits in 52/3 innings as his ERA climbed to 7.71 this season.
With plenty of empty seats at Globe Life Park, Rangers starter Matt Moore delivers in the first inning Monday against the Tigers. Moore gave up five runs on nine hits in 52/3 innings as his ERA climbed to 7.71 this season. AP

Rangers GM/President Jon Daniels has a deep passion for dumpster diving, but he doesn't need to add to his pile of discount arms with Matt Harvey.

The former New York Mets "ace" is set to be a free agent soon enough, but the Rangers have no interest; their boat already runneth over in reclamation projects.

Bartolo Colon is the stud of the entire Rangers' staff, and one of the best stories in baseball this season. Not only does he defy age with every start, but also every word your parents ever said to you about the importance of eating healthy.

Bartolo is JD's lone success story for 2018.

JD's reclamation from 2016, reliever Matt Bush, was recently kicked back to the minors. Free agent addition Tim Lincecum is in the minors, and the earliest he can be activated is May 28 before he makes his first MLB appearance since 2016.

Which brings us to the team's starting pitcher on Monday, Matt Moore, who remains in Year Two of his rebuilding phase.

Against the Detroit Tigers on Monday night before better than a dozen people at the Ballpark, Moore lasted 5 2/3 innings; he gave up five runs on nine hits. Monday's start was one of his best this season; it's only the third time in eight starts he pitched five or more innings.

Moore is living, breathing proof that while Tommy John surgery may be a necessity for pitchers, not all recoveries are the same.

Moore was one of the many "If" players the team acquired in the off-season in hopes that "if they perform" the team will be competitive. They're not, and one of the many reasons is Moore is simply no longer the pitcher he was before surgery.

As evidenced by the team's secure hold of dead last in the AL West, and ample available seats for home games, that plan has predictably whiffed.

Please spare me the load of excuses about injuries.

The team's pitching staff is a mess, in part because they didn't just trade for Moore but counted on him to be something that is gone.

In exchange for a pair of minor league pitchers, the Rangers acquired Moore and $750,000 in international slot money from the San Francisco Giants. They used that money to sign Cuban outfielder Juan Pablo Martinez.

Thus far, International Slot money is the highlight of the Moore deal.

The Tommy John surgery Moore had in April of 2014 changed Moore in a way few ever plan. We are in May of 2018; that is plenty of time to fit into the window of normal, or even extended, recovery time. He should be the same.

Before the surgery, Moore was a left-handed pitcher who could get hitters out because he could get away with mistakes. Throwing a ball 97 mph helps.

Today, per Rangers manager Jeff Banister, Moore can dial it up and reach 94; 94 on the gun is more than enough to register outs, if a pitcher can locate what he wants, when he wants.

Other than one start with Texas, Moore has not done that. At Tampa on April 17, Matt Moore was a closer version of the Matt Moore he knew before the surgery. Against his old team, he allowed no earned runs in seven innings.

That start was an aberration, and instead what the Rangers see is a pitcher who looks almost identical to the guy who struggled for the Giants last season when he posted a 5.52 ERA in 31 starts.

He's simply leaving too many pitches up in the strike zone at hittable speeds, and hitters are recognizing what's coming out of his hands.

Could the Rangers simply designate Moore for assignment?

They could, but considering his salary is $9 million that's a lot of cash to eat for a team that is suddenly budget conscious. And, what's the point?

The Rangers are not exactly loaded with options at the minor league level worthy of replacing Moore in the rotation.

Moore is struggling, but he does possess one of the greatest virtues in baseball - he throws it left-handed. He's only 29. He is a good guy who is liked and respected by his teammates and coaches.

He simply has not figured out life after Tommy John, and he's just another reason why the 2018 Texas Rangers are a hot mess.

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