Rangers sign RHP Mahle to 2-year deal

December 15th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers needed rotation depth, and on Thursday, they made their first attempt to flesh it out when they announced the signing of right-hander to a two-year, $22 million deal.

Mahle is set to earn $5.5 million in 2024 and $16.5 million in 2025, per source.

The 29-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery in May, which means a midsummer return in 2024 is likely the best-case scenario. His right elbow issues cut short a promising '23 campaign with the Twins, as he had posted a 3.16 ERA with 28 strikeouts to five walks over his first five starts.

Less than a year earlier, at the 2022 Trade Deadline, Minnesota gave up three Minor Leaguers -- two of which being Spencer Steer and Christian Encarnacion-Strand -- to pry Mahle away from the Reds. Mahle dealt with shoulder issues upon joining the Twins, and between that ailment in '22 and his elbow trouble in '23, he made just nine total starts for Minnesota.

Due to his continued rehab, Mahle doesn’t help Texas in the immediate future.

The Rangers’ Opening Day rotation currently lines up with Nathan Eovaldi, Max Scherzer, Jon Gray, Dane Dunning and Andrew Heaney. Mahle should join the rotation shortly before ace Jacob deGrom, who underwent his own UCL surgery last June.

It remains to be seen how smoothly Mahle’s return from Tommy John will go, but prior to his injury troubles, his career appeared to be on an upward trajectory. Picked by the Reds in the seventh round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of Westminster (Calif.) High School, Mahle first made it to Cincinnati in '17. After some early ups and downs, he firmly established himself in the Reds’ rotation from '20-'21, going 15-8 with a 3.72 ERA (127 ERA+) across 43 games (42 starts). His 210 strikeouts in '21 ranked ninth in the NL.

Yet Mahle’s 180 innings in 2021 represent the only time he has thrown even 130 innings in a Major League season. Overall, he owns a career ERA of 4.30 and an above-average ERA+ of 105 across 635 2/3 innings with the Reds and Twins.

If nothing else, Mahle adds much-needed depth and experience to the Rangers rotation. In 2023, deGrom, Eovaldi, Gray and Scherzer all spent time on the injured list. Only two starters -- Dunning and Gray -- exceeded 150 innings in ‘23. Martín Pérez and Cody Bradford each split time in the bullpen and rotation. 

The 6-foot-3 Mahle has consistently ranked in the 75th percentile or better among Major League pitchers in extension and fastball spin rate, helping his heater get whiffs at the top of the zone. He consistently throws the pitch more than 50% of the time, and it averaged 92.6 mph during his brief 2023 season, down from a high of 94.0 mph in 2021. Mahle rounds out his pitch arsenal with a slider, splitter and cutter.