With rotation shored up, Rangers on the rise

Anthony Rendon, are you paying attention? Do you think that you made a bad career decision?

The Angels have third baseman Rendon, but the team that might have the best chance of beating the Astros in the American League West in 2020 is the Texas Rangers.


Because the Rangers are building a rotation this offseason, and their latest addition is Corey Kluber, the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner the Rangers got from Cleveland in a trade on Sunday.

So, I wonder if Rendon, after deciding to leave the Nationals, actually looked at how teams in the AL West were building for 2020 before deciding to sign with the Angels?

The Angels don't have the pitching to compete. The Rangers' rotation is the most improved in the division.

Kluber, 33, is the third starter the Rangers have added. Also new this offseason are Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson.

The three join a rotation that is led by the resurging Lance Lynn and lefty Mike Minor. Both Lynn and Minor were consistent last season, Lynn finishing fifth in the AL Cy Young voting, Minor eighth.

Minor had a 3.59 ERA last season. Lynn was at 3.67.

At the Winter Meetings in San Diego, Rangers manager Chris Woodward said that adding proven starters will make all the difference in competitiveness and development.

Meanwhile, prospects Kolby Allard, Joe Palumbo and Brock Burke are waiting in the wings.

Kluber is coming off a 2018 season that was lost because of injury. He won the AL Cy Young in 2014 and 2017, and he was a 20-game winner for Cleveland in 2018.

The Rangers' last 20-game winner was Rick Helling in 1998.

"Before last year, Corey was one of the elite pitchers for an extended stretch,'' Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told reporters Sunday. "Last year was a lost year, but we think the reasons for it don't necessarily give us pause. In some ways, the time off may have been a good thing.''

Kluber missed most of the last season with a broken bone in his right arm. He didn't need surgery and Daniels is confident he's going to pitch as the front-of-the-rotation starter that he is.

About Lyles and Gibson, Woodward said, "Those guys have track records. They've done well, but both those guys have a lot more than they have done.''

Gibson, 32, had consecutive seasons with a 5.07 ERA with Minnesota in 2016 and 2017, but he found his rhythm with a 3.62 for the Twins in 2018 and that's the version of Gibson the Rangers are hoping to get.

And even though Gibson in 2019 gave up plenty of hits (176 in 160 innings pitched), he averaged nine strikeouts per nine innings.

In 2019, his final season with the Twins, Gibson struggled with e-coli. He signed a three-year deal with the Rangers because he liked the team's plan and the way the team treated one of their former pitchers, Jake Diekman, who had similar health issues.

The Rangers have been wanting Lyles ever since they faced him last season while he was pitching for Milwaukee. He started the season with Pittsburgh, but was traded to the Brewers. He was a big reason they were in the National League wild card game.

Lyles made 11 starts for Milwaukee, going 7-1 with a 2.45 ERA.

"Lyles started elevating his fastball,'' Woodward said at the Winter Meetings. "He uses his four-seamer more. He was a two-seam guy. He started mixing those pitches. He threw a tighter breaking ball.

"I think Jordan is just scratching the surface on finding out how good he can be. And that's intriguing to me. We can make him sustainably good.''

The Astros, AL West champions with 107 victories last season, are looking to replace Gerrit Cole in a rotation that now has Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander and that's about it.

Seattle is rebuilding and hard to judge. Oakland is shooting for its third consecutive 97-win season. "We are feeling really good about the direction of the team,'' Athletics manager Bob Melvin said.

The Angels have AL MVP Mike Trout (.438 on-base percentage) and Rendon, a postseason hero in helping Washington wins its first World Series since 1924, but their rotation is questionable at best.

The Rangers wanted to sign Rendon to play third base as they move into a new ballpark next season. With Rendon going to Anaheim, the Rangers are still looking for a third baseman, preferably a right-handed power bat.

But the Texas organization feels confident that a more solid rotation will help them improve on their third-place finish in the AL West in 2019.

"We have a legitimate rotation,'' Woodward said.

Apparently, Rendon didn't hear the Rangers' plans or take notice when he was shopping for a contending team in the AL West.

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