ARLINGTON -- The Rangers entered the offseason with one clear goal above all: to improve the starting rotation. General manager Chris Young and the rest of the front office answered the call with swiftness, signing two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom before baseball’s annual Winter Meetings even took place.
“We feel like we have a very, very good rotation and we’re competitive, really, with any rotation in the American League,” Young said on Thursday. “I think we want to make sure we meet each person in terms of what their specific skill set is, and structural rotation that complements that skill set in a way that maximizes their full potential. Obviously, there's a health and medical component that we want to be aware of, and manage workloads and keep these guys healthy.
“On the field, it'll be an important aspect of our success as a team next year. We feel very confident in our medical group and the ability to do that, but ultimately the quality of our pitchers, it’s significantly different from where we've been the last couple of years. [It's] really exciting for our fans to get to come to the ballpark night in and night out and watch a team take the field that's going to have a chance to win every night.”
The health and medical components Young mentions can’t be ignored. The Rangers' rotation has improved a lot in the last month, but it's worth noting that four of the five had IL stints of various lengths last season, while Pérez was basically an innings machine for Texas in a career year.
• deGrom: 64 1/3 IP in 2022 (126 ERA+)
• Gray: 127 1/3 IP (99 ERA+)
• Pérez: 196 1/3 IP (136 ERA+)
• Heaney: 72 2/3 IP (136 ERA+)
• Odorizzi: 106 1/3 IP (90 ERA+)
Texas went high-risk, high-reward with deGrom and Heaney at the top of the rotation -- and even in the middle with Odorizzi’s recent injury history and career 3.99 ERA -- trading the potential success for what may be a lack of innings at times throughout the year.
“I think what we do as a profession lends itself to having issues with injuries, and I think that that's always something that you have [in mind],” Heaney said at his introductory press conference. “You have a great medical staff, a great training staff, and you work extremely hard in the offseason and during the year to prevent that, right?
“I mean, it's really just mainly injury prevention. I know personally, for me, I know I'm approaching it the right way.”
Young acknowledged the risk associated with signing deGrom at the pitcher’s introductory press conference but added that there’s risk in all signings in this industry, regardless of previous injury history.
For what it’s worth, deGrom seems to believe his injury struggles are behind him, and the Rangers were obviously confident enough in his health to make the signing after meetings with the training staff and Dr. Keith Meister, the team's physician.
“The goal is to go out there and take the ball every fifth day for the Texas Rangers and put us in the best position I can to win those games,” deGrom said. “The goal is to go out there and make 30-plus starts every year. Once I came back [in 2022], I felt great. Again, the goal is to make 30-plus starts for the next five-plus years here. I truly believe I will be able to do that.”