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Jacob deGrom Brings Clarity to Rangers Rotation

Texas Rangers now have four veteran starters, all 30 or older, but all have a track record that can help in 2023.

The Texas Rangers have an ace and a starting rotation that has much more structure than it had when the 2022 season ended.

When the season ended, the Rangers had just one veteran starter under contract in Jon Gray. Now, the Rangers have four.

And with the Rangers’ signing of New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom to a five-year contract, the Rangers have a top-of-the-rotation starter like they’ve never had before.

deGrom is a two-time Cy Young winner, a four-time All-Star and a two-time National League strikeout leader. His career 2.52 earned run average is the third lowest in Major League baseball since the expansion era began in 1961 (minimum 200 starts). The only players with a better ERA are Los Angeles Dodgers Hall-of-Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) and current Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw (2.48). Kershaw will probably join Koufax in Cooperstown one day.

deGrom’s career numbers of 82-57 include four seasons of double-digit wins. But it’s his sub-3.00 ERA and his ability to strike out hitters (10.9 strikeouts per nine innings) that the Rangers are paying a premium for.

Yes, there are concerns about deGrom’s health (missed parts of the last two seasons to injuries) and his age (turns 35 in May). But the Rangers signed him to that contract to put him at the top of their rotation and let him deal, starting with Opening Day against Philadelphia on March 30.

They also did so to put their remaining starters in slots that are more consistent with their historical performance.

The Rangers have three veteran starters on the roster now — Martín Pérez, Gray and Jake Odorizzi.

Pérez slides into a No. 2 role and gives the Rangers the chance to throw the left-hander directly after the right-handed deGrom. He’s coming off the best overall season of his career, as he went 12-8 with a 2.89 ERA. Pérez could have hit free agency but instead signed a $19.65 million qualifying offer to stay with the Rangers for 2023. But he’s only signed through 2023. Pérez, 31, is younger than deGrom, but with another good season in 2023 he could hit the free-agent market and command more, whether it be in Arlington or somewhere else.

Gray is the No. 3 starter, and in that slot his historical performance and contract (in the middle of a four-year deal worth $56 million) is a good fit. Gray won double-digit games four straight seasons in Colorado (2016-19) but hasn’t done it since. He went 7-7 in 2022 with a 3.96 ERA. But that’s deceiving. He missed more than two months with various injuries, and in June and July he pitched like the pitcher he was from 2016-19. With good health, he can likely reach at least 10 wins.

Odorizzi, for now is the No. 4 starter. Like Pérez, he’s only signed through 2023. He was traded to the Rangers in November and Atlanta is picking up most of his $12.5 million salary. Odorizzi is 32 and entering his 12th MLB season. He can eat up innings, but he hasn’t won more than 10 games since he won 15 with Minnesota in 2019, which was his only All-Star season. Like Gray, he missed a good portion of 2022 with injuries. He split time with Houston and Atlanta, finishing the season 6-6 with a 4.40 ERA.

As for the fifth starter, for now that looks like the competition going into spring training. The Rangers have a group of young starters to choose from — Glenn Otto (won seven games as a rookie), Dane Dunning (season-ending hip surgery in September), Spencer Howard and Cole Ragans. All four logged time with the Rangers last season. If the Rangers don’t add another veteran starter, that’s the one spot that will be up for grabs.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard

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