The annual non-tender deadline arrived Friday night, and with it came a clearer picture of how the Texas Rangers plan to fill the two remaining vacancies for the 2018 starting rotation.
It appears they will be doing so via free agency or trades. Or by converting a reliever.
Right-handers A.J. Griffin and Nick Martinez, thought to be internal candidates for one spot, were not tendered 2018 contracts and are now free agents. So, too, are former first-rounder Chi Chi Gonzalez, another right-handed starter, and infielder Hanser Alberto, both of whom missed last season.
Gonzalez is recovering from Tommy John surgery and is likely to miss the 2018 campaign.
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That leaves no clear-cut internal options, with left-hander Yohander Mendez ticketed to open the season at Triple A Round Rock and with righty Clayton Blackburn as the only other starter on the 40-man roster who has pitched above Double A.
Then, there’s reliever Matt Bush, who has expressed interest in starting and will prepare as a starter this off-season. However, no decision has been made on the right-hander’s future.
General manager Jon Daniels said that the Rangers won’t rule out bringing back Griffin and Martinez, but it seems as if the Rangers could be moving on.
“Both Nick and A.J. have helped this team the last few years, and we thank them for their work,” Daniels said. “This decision was about a combination of managing the roster, managing the payroll and keeping our options open. We are not ruling out bringing either player back, but understand they have options as well.”
The Rangers’ No. 1 option this off-season is Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese star who was officially posted earlier Friday. He is in Los Angeles, where is agent, Nez Balelo, is headquartered, and the Rangers are hopeful they can meet with them in the coming days.
A baseball source said that the Rangers have extended offers to multiple lower-tier free agents but have not engaged with right-hander Andrew Cashner, their best starter in 2017. He lost out to left-hander Alex Claudio as the Rangers Pitcher of the Year.
By signing Doug Fister earlier in the week to a one-year deal worth only $4 million, the Rangers created some flexibility to possibly reach toward the upper tier of free agents headed by right-handers Yu Darvish, former Cubs ace Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn.