It’s funny how two words can say so much. Like if I say, “bacon and eggs.” You get hungry for breakfast. You say, “peanut butter and jelly,” and I feel like I am in fifth grade when I ate a pb&j every day. You say, “beer and pretzels.” I say, “let me finish writing this column first.”
But if I say, “pitchers and catchers,” you can feel the warm sun on your face, hear the pop of the glove and know that baseball season is nigh upon us.
Even fans of teams that are not expected to be good are excited when they hear that pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training. No fans should be more excited about the start of this season than Rangers fans. This off-season has been unlike any in the 50 off-seasons since the team moved to Arlington. In fact, this off-season may be unique in the history of baseball.
At the end of last year Jon Gray was the only veteran pitcher who was sure to be in the rotation next season. But getting four starting pitchers in one off-season seemed an impossible task. Instead, Rangers President and General Manager Chris Young helped the Rangers acquire five. They signed Martin Perez, who had a great season for Texas last year, to a qualifying offer, thus keeping him from testing the free agent waters.
Next they got Jake Odorizzi from Atlanta for almost nothing. The Braves have an abundance of pitching; they needed room on the roster. Atlanta is even paying a good portion of Jake’s salary. Then things got really interesting.
One of the best pitchers in the game opted out of his contract with the New York Mets. Once free, Jacob DeGrom became the target of every team in the market for pitching. Armed with Ray Davis’s checkbook, Chris Young began his recruiting process. His goal was to convince DeGrom that the Rangers had a vision for getting back to the World Series. A vision that started to take shape last off season when they spent over a half a billion dollars on free agents.
A vision that included wooing a manager out of retirement. Not just any manager but Bruce Bochy, for whom Young played when both were in San Diego. “Boch” took the Padres to one World Series before leading the San Francisco Giants to three World Series championships.
All of it was enough to convince DeGrom that Texas would be his landing spot. He signed a five-year deal worth $185 million. He brings credibility to the Rangers like no free agent pitcher since Nolan Ryan. He also brings two Cy Young awards and four All Star Game appearances just to sweeten the pot.
Next up, a new pitching coach. How about a new/old pitching coach. Not that Mike Maddux is that old, he’s 61. Instead of old I might have said former. Mike was the pitching coach here previously under Ron Washington. Which, by the way, was the last time the Rangers were in the World Series. He has had success at every stop along the way, including Washington and St. Louis after leaving Texas.
If they had stopped there it would have been a fantastic off-season. But Young said at each introductory press conference, “You can never have enough pitching.”
So he went out and got more. Andrew Heaney is a left hander who bedeviled Rangers hitters for years when he pitched for the Angels. The Oklahoma City native was with the Dodgers last season where he posted a 3.10 earned run average and struck out 110 batters.
Young was not done yet. He went back to the hometown of the aforementioned Nolan Ryan and signed Nathan Eovaldi. The hard-throwing right hander from Alvin, Texas was part of a World Series winning team in Boston in 2018 and an American League All Star as recently as 2021.
So, there you have it. The Rangers signed, or acquired five starting pitchers in one off-season. That is an entire rotation. Add them to Jon Gray and a wealth of young pitching prospects like Dane Dunning, Glenn Otto and Taylor Hearn, and you might think that for the first time in a long time the Rangers will have enough pitching. Chris Young would still beg to differ. Still, the Rangers President and GM can take a bow after this off season.
Now, as for that beer and pretzels you mentioned…