ARLINGTON -- Everybody knew the Rangers would be sellers leading up to the Deadline -- and they didn't disappoint, making one last move within the final hour.
Phillies get: RHP Kyle Gibson; RHP Ian Kennedy; RHP Hans Crouse; cash considerations
President of baseball operations Jon Daniels said the club did not want to part ways with Crouse, who was the second-highest ranked pitching prospect in the Rangers’ system, but they believe they would have been unable to get the deal done with Howard in the mix without Crouse being included.
“One of the things that we discussed as a goal here was kind of to consolidate that talent if possible into guys that were either closer,” Daniels explained, “or probably, more importantly, [those] we felt had a little more potential impact in what their abilities might let them allow them to do in time. That's really what it came down to."
Gibson, who won't be a free agent until 2023, has broken out this year, posting a 2.87 ERA across 19 starts. Kennedy, in the midst of a one-year deal with Texas, has posted a 2.51 ERA across 32 outings, all in relief. Both veteran pitchers had little value on the fully rebuilding Rangers squad.
In return, the Rangers received right-handed pitcher Howard, along with pitching prospects Gowdy and Gessner.
Howard, a second-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, entered the '21 season as Philadelphia’s top-ranked prospect, per MLB Pipeline, and has posted a 5.72 ERA through 11 games this season. He’s allowed just three runs across six Triple-A starts this year.
Though Howard has struggled during his first full season in the big leagues, Daniels said they viewed this deal as a “buying opportunity.”
“Howard is a pitcher that we've liked for quite some time,” Daniels said. “He’s one of the top young right-handed starters in the game. He's hit a little bit of a speed bump in the big leagues, and he’s working through that. Quite frankly, we looked at that as an opportunity to get him. I think if he was having immediate success, he probably wouldn't have been available. So we're excited about that opportunity and excited to have him come here and work with our pitching coaches and continue to advance his career.”
The deal helps out the Rangers in both the long and short term as the club replenishes its pitching depth throughout the organization.
Howard has spent time in the big leagues and with Triple-A this season, and he will likely slot into the Rangers' rotation with Gibson out. It works perfectly for both parties as Howard needs to get consistent innings at the big league level and Texas needs another reliable starter in its rotation.
Gibson has been an ace for the Rangers this season, but they are light on reliable starters behind him. With Mike Foltynewicz and Jordan Lyles both struggling at times throughout the season, and Dane Dunning and Kolby Allard both getting their first extended shots at a rotation spot this year, there’s no doubt Howard will make an appearance in Arlington soon.
Daniels said Howard will go through a full medical review after he gets to Arlington due to a blister on his throwing hand, but he should be good to pitch in the coming weeks.
“He has some of the characteristics that you'd like to see in pitchers that can succeed and have that type of upside,” Daniels said. “But I think ultimately, we're going to want to let him pitch and kind of figure that out. We think he can be a true starter and carry innings, pitch with a power repertoire, and it'll be very successful for us.”
Gowdy will be assigned to High-A Hickory, while Gessner will head off to Surprise, Ariz., to join the Arizona Complex League Rangers.
Gowdy has spent all season at High-A Jersey Shore, going 4-5 with a 4.43 ERA over 14 games and 12 starts. Gessner has been with the Florida Complex League Phillies, but has only pitched in three games this season.
So where does this leave the Rangers through the rest of this season and into the winter? Daniels said that all things considered, between the two deals the Rangers made this week and the Draft, he feels like the talent within the organization was elevated, especially in the long term.
Texas is still a year or two away from contention. That much is clear. But the organization has fully leaned into the rebuild and has made a clear commitment from top to bottom.
“If you look at most successful organizations, as they start their window to win, they have a stockpiled Minor League system,” said general manager Chris Young. “I think that that's what we're building right here. We've infused a lot of talent into our Minor League system over the past few weeks. I think we've accomplished that, again, with our moves here at the Deadline. I'm excited about what we've done.”