If there's any such thing as a perfect marriage in the free-agent marketplace, it's Jacob Arrieta and the Texas Rangers. That was true even before the news that Rangers left-hander Martin Perez will be sidelined around four months after undergoing surgery to repair a fracture of the radial head of his non-throwing elbow on Monday.
Wait, there's more. How about a Rangers reunion with right-hander Yu Darvish? He, too, would be a welcome addition.
Regardless, Perez's injury could send ripples through an already thin pitching market. Does that make the Rays more likely to deal Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi? In these situations, every little thing is connected.
Perez, 26, was coming off a second straight solid season -- 8-2 record, 3.71 ERA in last 11 starts -- and was penciled into Texas' rotation right behind ace Cole Hamels. For a team in a win-now mode, Perez's injury -- which occurred when he fell on his right elbow while corralling a bull on his ranch in Venezuela -- puts added focus on an already worrisome area. And the Rangers are definitely in a win-now mode.
The American League West features the team that just won the World Series (Astros) and perhaps the team that has won this first portion of the offseason (Angels). Meanwhile, the Mariners are also aggressively pursuing pitching, which seems likely to make it an extreme seller's market once the first domino falls. Perez's injury makes it more likely the Rangers will grab one of those dominos.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels was already searching for at least one more starter even after acquiring veterans Matt Moore, Doug Fister and Mike Minor. Those three will make just under $21 million in 2018, which probably will be the starting point in discussions for the top available free-agent starters.
In that way, Daniels has positioned himself to make one significant pitching signing. He's also sorting through his options in center field, but let's not confuse things.
The top four free-agent starters are all unsigned, and there's nothing your friendly baseball writer likes better than helping someone else spend their money.
Here's are six options -- four on the market, two via trade -- for the Rangers:
1. Darvish (free agent)
He made 122 starts for the Rangers over five seasons and averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings. When he's at his best, there's no one better and likely will land a five- or six-year contract worth close to $30 million per season. He still makes his home a few miles from Globe Life Park. He met with the Cubs this week and seems open to almost everything.
2. Arrieta (free agent)
Arrieta grew up in the Dallas suburb of Plano, played college baseball for TCU in Fort Worth and lives in Austin. Even though he's 31 years old, he has fewer than 1,200 career innings. In the last three seasons, all with the Cubs, he averaged 198 innings, 196 strikeouts and a 1.038 ERA. He's at his best when the lights are bright, sporting a 3.08 ERA in nine postseason starts.
3. Archer (Rays)
He's 29 years old with a 3.63 ERA, and he has four years and around $24 million remaining on a team-friendly contract. The Rays have been gauging interest in him to see what he'll bring in terms of Major League-ready prospects.
4. Alex Cobb (free agent)
He will not slip under the radar into some kind of secondary market as some had hoped. He's 30 years old with a 3.50 career ERA and 1.217 WHIP. At least a half dozen teams are seriously pursuing him.
5. Odorizzi (Rays)
Another big-time starter in Tampa Bay's rotation. He's just 27 and has a career 3.83 ERA. He's two seasons removed from free agency.
6. Lance Lynn (free agent)
He's a tenacious competitor who averaged 32 starts and 189 innings his last five seasons. He made 33 starts with a 3.43 ERA in 2017 in a return from Tommy John surgery.