Rangers have non-tender decisions looming
Pitchers Tepesch, Scheppers among candidates to become free agents
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' outlook for pitcher Nick Tepesch and Tanner Scheppers should become clearer on Wednesday night when club faces the non-tender deadline.
The Rangers have to tender contracts to all players currently not signed for next season before 10:59 p.m. CT on Wednesday. Players who are "non-tendered" will become free agents. The majority of players who are non-tendered are arbitration-eligible and are looking at getting a significant raise to a level higher than the club is willing to pay. Other candidates are those who have a limited future with the club and are taking up a valuable 40-man roster place.
Tepesch and Scheppers are two of nine Rangers who are eligible for arbitration, with the others being pitchers Shawn Tolleson, Jake Diekman and Tom Wilhelmsen; catchers Robinson Chirinos and Chris Gimenez; and infielders Jurickson Profar and Mitch Moreland. Tepesch and Scheppers have the most uncertain future of the nine.
Tepesch did not pitch in 2015 while dealing with nerve irritation in his right arm. He ended up having surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, which entailed removing a rib bone that was causing the irritation. He is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
Tepesch made 39 starts and three relief appearances for the Rangers in 2013-14, going 9-17 with a 4.56 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. Although the numbers aren't overly impressive, the 1.37 WHIP is right there with Martin Perez (1.36) and Colby Lewis (1.37) over that three-year period.
Tepesch was in the Rangers' Opening Day rotation in 2013 and was tied for third in games started in 2014. He has fallen behind Chi Chi Gonzalez, Nick Martinez and Anthony Ranaudo on the starting-pitching depth chart. But the Rangers still need starting-pitching depth after including top prospects Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher in the July 31 trade to the Phillies for Cole Hamels.
Scheppers was the Rangers' top setup reliever in 2013, going 6-2 with a 1.88 ERA in 76 games. After being moved to the rotation in 2014, he missed most of the season with right elbow inflammation. Scheppers went back to the bullpen in 2015 and went 4-1 with a 5.63 ERA in 42 games. He spent time at Triple-A and on the disabled list with a bone bruise in his left knee.
Scheppers was activated in September but pitched in just four games and was not added to the postseason roster. He is still one of the hardest throwers on the team, with a fastball that averaged 94.8 mph last season, although that was down from 96.3 in 2013.
Staying on the 40-man roster for the entire offseason would be a major victory for Gimenez. His list of transactions over the past five years includes being placed on outright waivers four times and going into big league camp three times on a Minor League contract. He has been with five different organizations. But the Rangers were 25-7 in his 32 starts over the final two months of the season, and right now, he is the No. 2 catcher behind Chirinos on a club in need of catching depth.
Profar has not played in the big leagues since 2013 because of shoulder issues. But the Rangers are still confident in him, and he hit .267 with a .352 on-base percentage and a .453 slugging percentage in 20 games as a designated hitter in the 2015 Arizona Fall League.