Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
The Texas Rangers come into Fenway Park on Monday April 7 for three games against the suddenly struggling Boston Red Sox, losers of three straight. The Rangers finished up a series against the Tampa Bay Rays in which they lost the first two games but managed to salvage the finale, 3-0 behind Yu Darvish. The big issues with Texas are their two big offseason acquisitions and their decimated starting rotation.
Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder were the two big additions. The loss of stalwarts Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis to injury have pushed Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross into the rotation (until their return), both of whom the Red Sox will be seeing in this series. Martin Perez is in his second season in the Rangers starting rotation.
In the case of Prince Fielder, this was a huge move for the Rangers organization when they acquired him from the Detroit Tigers for Ian Kinsler. Both players were in the middle of huge contracts, but after the numbers are crunched, the Rangers will assume an additional $76 million in payroll through the 2020 season. The primary reason for the trade from the Rangers standpoint (though a gamble in terms of payroll) was that they were trying to free up a spot for top prospect Jurickson Profar, who is currently on the disabled list with a torn shoulder muscle that could keep him out until the All-Star break.
Choo was one of the top free agent hitters on the market last offseason inking a $130 million deal over seven years. It is somewhat backloaded so in 2019 and 2020, they will be shelling out $45 million for only Fielder and Choo. Certainly, Choo and Fielder are tremendous offensive weapons, but unless Texas can get that final out of the World Series as they were unable to do against the Cardinals in 2011, these contracts could end up being albatrosses that hamstring the payroll flexibility of the team for years to come.
BSI: Journeymen Donnie Murphy and Josh Wilson are filling in for the injured Jurickson Profar at second base while he recovers from his shoulder injury. It appears Profar has started fielding drills coming back from his injury. Are the Rangers going to pull the trigger on a deal for a more established second baseman prior to the Red Sox trip to Texas next month?
NW: I expect it to continue to be Murphy and Wilson for the foreseeable future unless one of them gets injured, which seems to be a theme for the Texas Rangers this year. Both Murphy and Wilson had good springs, and they have both played well the first week of the season. I would expect Boston to still see that platoon when they visit Texas [in May].
BSI: The revamped Rangers rotation includes some names which might not be very familiar to Red Sox fans. Are Tanner Scheppers, Martin Perez, and Robbie Ross long term solutions for the club? What can we expect to see from them in this series? Considering Scheppers first start, does he have any pressure on him to perform well to cement his place
in the rotation?
NW: I don’t expect Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers to remain in the rotation when Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis return from the DL. Martin Perez is the real deal though. Perez was 10-6 in 20 starts last season and pitched very well against Philly in his first start this season. I expect Scheppers to look much better than he did in his first start, where he gave up 7 runs in just 4 innings. In my opinion he needs a big game Monday to prove he belongs in the rotation. I expect more of the same from Perez and Ross. 5-6 innings pitched, 2-3 runs allowed. Ross seems to get a lot of strikeouts and Perez is a ground ball pitcher. Also, Ross, a left hander, pitches better against right handed batters which is strange, so don’t be surprised if The Red Sox play more lefties when Ross takes the hill.
BSI: The playoff appearances in recent years for the Rangers have made them one of the sport’s elite teams, yet their payroll only stands at $136 million, eighth in the majors. Is there a concern among the fanbase about limited payroll flexibility going forward considering the enormous contracts of Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder over the next seven years?
NW: Personally I am very concerned with the amount of money the Rangers took on this season. Both Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo are great players, but I believe that the Rangers have hamstrung themselves a bit, especially with the amount of money they owe Fielder. Also, Fielder is a downgrade defensively to Mitch Moreland, so that is a concern as well. In the short term it should work out well, but 3-5 years down the road I think it will be a big problem.
BSI: From his time in Boston, Red Sox fans might remember that Adrian Beltre does not like his head touched. So naturally his teammates seem to make a point of trying to do it. Has he gotten over this yet?
NW: Beltre is funny about his head. He had a walk-off hit Tuesday night against the Phillies and had to run away from his teammates to keep his head from being touched, holding his helmet on all the while. Elvis Andrus, who is sort of the Rangers class clown, seems to get a head touch in almost every game much to Beltre’s chagrin. I never understood why he hates it so much, but it is still in full effect.
Thanks to Ben Dieter from Nolan’s Writin’. Ben also writes for The Ranger Report.
Monday: Tanner Scheppers (0-0, 15.18) vs. John Lackey (1-0, 3.00) 7:05 start
Tuesday Martin Perez (0-0, 3.18) vs. Felix Doubront (1-0, 5.06) 6:05 start
Wednesday Robbie Ross (0-0, 3.60) vs. Jake Peavy (0-0, 3.00) 4:05 start