How Texas Rangers clear the deck for Jacob deGrom

MLB Free Agency is here, and there’s a real chance Jacob deGrom won’t pitch for the Mets in 2023. New York will do anything to keep the right-handed pitcher, but if another team comes in and blows the ace away with an offer, who knows what will happen.

At this point, the two teams most closely associated with the deGrom that isn’t the Mets are the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves. Of these two, Rangers certainly appear to be the more motivated.

The Braves would certainly be a tempting prospect for deGrom because they’re a good team with a great young core. Atlanta also has five capable pitchers scheduled to fill their rotation beginning in 2023. These include Kyle Wright, Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Spencer Strider and Mike Soroka.

Soroka is the biggest wild card because injuries have limited him to just 13.2 big league innings since 2020. However, I think if the Braves were serious about chasing deGrom, they wouldn’t have already signed Morton for a $20 million contract extension.

As for the Rangers, however, they need a lot of help. General Manager Chris Young’s moves for this winter are already making room (physically and financially) for one of the open market’s elite hurlers.

Texas’ rotation currently looks like this (according to Roster Resource):

  • Jon Gray
  • Jake Odorizzi
  • Dane reminder
  • Glen Otto
  • Cole Ragans

Odorizzi is also new. The Rangers traded Kolby Allard for the veteran innings-eater and cash from Atlanta earlier this week. Texas also extended a qualifying offer to Martin Perez. There’s a chance he’ll take up the offer and both sides have discussed a multi-year deal after he posted 3.8 fWAR and 2.89 ERA in 196.1 innings.

At the very least, Rangers probably like Grey, Odorizzi and Perez occupying second, third and fourth spots in the rotation (in any order). Unless they can haul in two starting pitchers to fit into the rotation, perhaps a soon-to-be 28-year-old Dunning will take that fifth spot.

But at the top? You’d think they’re keeping it open for either deGrom or Carlos Rodon. And who knows, maybe both. They might be willing and able to do this because they did it last winter.

The Rangers spent half a billion dollars on freehand for Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Gray. Excluding arbitration and pre-arbitration salaries, Texas has committed just $89 million for its 2023 payroll. They could easily afford the record payday deGrom is reportedly aiming for. And if they really want it, maybe things will get really crazy and Rangers will throw $65-70 million a year at two senior arms.

Competing in the American League West with the Houston Astros and the Seattle Mariners will be difficult for the foreseeable future. But as the Philadelphia Phillies just demonstrated, all a team needs is one ticket to the postseason dance, and anything can happen.

Rangers want it, especially after bringing manager Bruce Bochy out of retirement to lead this team. They will try to stack the deck. We can already see how Young’s current rotation decisions can pave the way to a deal with deGrom.

Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.

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